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Europe

British expats react to David Cameron’s ‘non’ to the EU

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2011-12-11

FRANCE 24 canvasses the opinions of British expatriates living and working in France following the UK’s rejection of a treaty that will bring closer integration in the EU.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday said the UK would not sign a new treaty aimed at tightening fiscal rules across the euro zone.

Is it a determined drift towards greater isolation from Europe, or is the UK right to protect its own interests beyond those of its continental neighbours?

FRANCE 24 spoke to some Britons living and working in France.

Peter Hawkins, freelance writer, Marseille

It’s not an irreversible decision, and it’s definitely more about British domestic policy than about the EU. Britain has always been the awkward partner in Europe, and I think Europe actually benefits from having an awkward partner.

From what I’m hearing I think the French are unfazed, unsurprised and unbothered. It’s just the way that it has been reported in the UK that makes Britons feel that their country is a central player on the European scene. It isn’t. Britain is on the fringes of Europe and it always has been.

Jonathan Holburn, entrepreneur, Paris

I am shocked and disappointed. This riles me incredibly. The UK is the one country in the EU that is the least committed to the euro, a currency whose survival is crucial to Britain’s economic health.

And if we’re not in Europe, where are we? Tied to the US? The euro may have been badly implemented, but Europe is committed to sorting this mess out. We should be pulling out all the stops to help our neighbours, because it is in our interests.

It’s embarrassing that this news confirms the sad truth that it is the eurosceptic little Englanders who are running the ship, and that the UK is just fiddling around on the outskirts of Europe.

Gavin Doughty, banker with HSBC, Paris

David Cameron was protecting British interests and I believe he did the right thing. In principal, keeping out and protecting the British banking sector from having to contribute a damaging transaction tax is a good idea.

I disagree with many aspects of the banking industry, but a transaction tax, which would have been imposed if the UK signed the new treaty, is a bad idea.

My French colleagues actually appreciate the way the British stand up to people the way Cameron has. And I believe they wish their own leaders would do the same. I think Nicolas Sarkozy is in a corner and Angela Merkel has him exactly where she wants him.

Britain is different from France and Germany, we have an island mentality and the French understand that.

Iain Black, barman at the Bombadier pub, Paris

The euro isn’t our currency, so why should we be expected to save it? It’s as simple as that. The overwhelming majority of income from the proposed transaction tax would come from London. Why should the City pay for the survival of the euro?

As for Cameron, I don’t really believe the reasons he gave. I think he was pandering to the right-wing British press, who love him for it, while protecting his rich friends, who will stay rich with the UK keeping its distance from Europe's problems.

As for the French, I honestly believe that they wish they were in the same position as the UK, with the power to say “no, we will not bail you out this time.”

John Airson, tourism executive, Paris

I feel that this decision - which let’s face it was inevitable - is just as much motivated by nostalgia for a time gone by, as it is in a getting-off the speeding train/economic-protectionism ploy.

I think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if more countries attempted to go down the road of economic-independence. This is what most people are crying out for after the recent series of domino-effect economic crises.

I think the French secretly envy the British for taking this path. They trust their politicians about as much as they understand the rules of cricket.

Date created : 2011-12-10

  • FRANCE - ECONOMY

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