Sarkozy to offer Britain chance to reverse Brexit

Copies of Brexit - How Britain Left Europe on a stand at the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north-west England this week. Former British finance minister George Osborne has told Bloomberg that the economy will suffer if the country purs
Copies of Brexit - How Britain Left Europe on a stand at the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north-west England this week. Former British finance minister George Osborne has told Bloomberg that the economy will suffer if the country pursues a "hard" break with the EU.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

French presidential candidate says he will negotiate new EU treaty if he wins polls

PARIS • French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has said he would offer Britain a chance to reverse its Brexit vote by negotiating a new treaty for the European Union (EU) with Germany if he wins the election next year.

Mr Sarkozy said the new treaty would focus on reforming the Schengen passport-free zone, restricting the European Commission's prerogatives to a dozen, integrating the euro zone further and halting membership talks with Turkey, reported the Financial Times yesterday.

Mr Sarkozy said if he is elected, he would fly to Britain with a draft of a new EU treaty once he had secured the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I would tell the British, you've gone out, but we have a new treaty on the table so you have an opportunity to vote again," the former French president told business leaders in Paris.

"But this time not on the old Europe, on the new Europe. Do you want to stay? If yes, so much the better. Because I can't accept to lose Europe's second-largest economy while we are negotiating with Turkey over its EU membership. And if it's no, then it's a real no. You're in or you're out."

CHANCE TO VOTE AGAIN

I would tell the British, you've gone out, but we have a new treaty on the table so you have an opportunity to vote again. But this time not on the old Europe, on the new Europe. Do you want to stay? If yes, so much the better. Because I can't accept to lose Europe's second-largest economy while we are negotiating with Turkey over its EU membership. And if it's no, then it's a real no. You're in or you're out.

'' MR NICOLAS SARKOZY, French presidential candidate.

Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU and new Prime Minister Theresa May has so far repeated that the formal divorce notification will not be sent before the end of the year.

Some aides have suggested that her plan is to invoke Article 50 early next year.

After the shock referendum, Mr Sarkozy, a member of France's conservative Les Republicains party, had said he wanted a new EU treaty and the suspension of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.

Mr Sarkozy announced his candidacy for the April 2017 presidential election in August, hoping to return as France's head of state after being unseated in 2012 by the now deeply unpopular Francois Hollande.

Meanwhile, former British finance minister George Osborne has said the economy will suffer if the country pursues a "hard" break with the EU.

In his first television interview since losing office after the Brexit referendum, Mr Osborne told Bloomberg that Mrs May should seek to maintain "the closest possible economic and financial relationship" with the bloc.

"My broad view is we should be ending up with a, to use the jargon, softer Brexit," Mr Osborne said in Washington on Tuesday. "The economic consequences of a harder Brexit will be more severe."

Mr Osborne was fired by Mrs May after a campaign to stay in the EU in which he warned that backing Brexit would mean a self-inflicted recession and require more government austerity. The economy has so far fared better than many had expected and Mrs May has signalled that she will back an easing of fiscal policy.

"It is too early to say what the economic consequences of Brexit are going to be," Mr Osborne said. "It's going to be the decisions that we take now which are also going to have a big impact on our long-term economic prospects."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Sarkozy to offer Britain chance to reverse Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe