George Osborne has revealed the aim of Britain’s EU renegotiation: to move our relationship back towards a trading partnership. The Chancellor has told the Daily Telegraph he would like to see a paired down relationship focusing on economic matters:
‘I prefer to talk about it as a single market of free trade. It’s free trade with the rules that enable the free trade to be a real success. That’s the way I think we should think about it.
‘Britain has other interests at a European level. For example, the climate change talks that are happening in Paris at the end of this year. The security work that we do with the French.
‘But for Britain, I always felt that the central attraction of European Union membership was the economic one. And that’s why it’s so important to fix the economic aspects of our relationship if we are going to convince people and convince ourselves that it is right for Britain to remain in the EU.’
One consistent theme in Osborne’s interview is the role for France in securing a new deal for Britain. After talks with the French ministers, the Chancellor believes ‘there is a deal to be done’ but it’s not going to be ‘easy’ or ‘straightforward’:
‘It’s really important that we engage with France … One of the challenges with France is it’s such a close partner on a lot of defence and intelligence and security issues, but it hasn’t always been a close partner on issues of economic reform.’
The security part of the relationship between Britain and France is a touchy topic at the moment, given the increasingly problematic migrant crisis in Calais. But David Cameron has no bad words to say about France’s role in the border crisis. He told the press in Singapore:
‘We’re working very closely with the French. The Home Secretary met yesterday with the French interior minister. We’ve invested money in the fencing around Calais, we’re also putting fencing around the entrance to the tunnel at Coquelles.
‘I don’t think as I’ve said, there is no point in trying to point fingers of blame. It’s about working with the French and putting in place these additional security measures, adding in the investment when needed — Britain will always come forward with this.’
Although this entente cordiale might seem to be one of geographical necessity, it seems the Tories are hoping the French will be a key ally in winning back powers from Brussels — particularly given that Angela Merkel has given messages so far. We’ll find out in the autumn whether she is on the same page as Cameron