President Hollande visits the UK

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Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

London, 10 July 2012

THE PRESIDENT – I thank David Cameron for inviting me to the United Kingdom today. I wanted to come. I could have waited for the Olympic Games, but I wanted to take part in an initiation event beforehand. I’ll be coming back on 30 July to watch a number of events. This obviously wasn’t one. It’s a pleasure to be here and, moreover, to be able to meet the Queen in a few moments.

My relationship with David Cameron is based on a shared determination: to put our two countries on the path of growth and recovery. We have many joint projects allowing us to help achieve this, on the industrial cooperation front first of all. We talked together about what we could do, particularly vis-à-vis energy – when I say what “we” could do together, [I mean] what our companies will be able to do together – and especially here, as regards civil nuclear and renewable energy, where British companies, like French companies, have exceptional know-how.

We’ve also embarked on the path of defence cooperation. We’re the two major countries in Europe with a defence potential and also a strategic nuclear force. This makes us interdependent and, at the same time, responsible. So we’re going to go on exchanging our information and technology to improve still further our defence effort, without spending more. And on the question of future instruments we can use, we’re resolved to develop a joint UAV programme, and the French Defence Minister will be visiting London soon, on 24 July, to sign at least two agreements on this.

I also want to involve the British in the preparation of our own Defence White Paper, i.e. our budget programming which will follow the White Paper, and I’ll be asking David Cameron to appoint a high-ranking official to be involved in a number of discussions.

There are also opportunities for us to cooperate in the space sector, because here again we can develop cutting-edge technology. I told the French community gathered at the [French] Ambassador’s Residence that I’m confident about the economic and trade relations between our two countries. We’re partners, we trade, which allows us to have investment from French companies in Britain and British investment in France.

I want us to be able to develop still further this relationship which benefits both our countries. We of course talked about the European priorities. First of all, going beyond our sometimes different approaches, a few days ago at the European Council we were in total agreement on growth and the pact agreed by the 27 on a wider mobilization of structural funds, increasing the capital of the European Investment Bank and creating project bonds – we’ll see how we can make best use of them.

We are conscious that the essential restoration of our public accounts to a sound footing must be accompanied by a growth policy if we want to honour our own commitments

Euro Area/EU

We also talked about the Euro Area’s financial stability. Admittedly, Britain isn’t a member of the Euro Area. But she is fully concerned. Actually, I thank the British Prime Minister for his support in respect of the mobilization of our instruments. This is in fact what we decided to start doing at the last Euro Area Council which followed the European Council.

As regards the way ahead for the European Union, we aren’t in the same situation. Britain doesn’t intend joining the Euro Area! France is seeking mutually-supportive integration in the Euro Area. But at the same time we can perfectly understand the respective positions of Britain and France. Britain doesn’t intend preventing, putting a brake on – quite the opposite even – what the Euro Area countries have to do, and France, in the Euro Area, doesn’t intend forcing anyone at all to come and join us. So we have to devise a several-speed Europe, everyone moving at their own pace, with due regard for the other countries. And this is how we’ll build a respectful, strong relationship. Hence my presence here. And I want to conclude by saying that France and Britain see wholly eye to eye on three major international issues.

Syria

Syria – David Cameron spoke about this issue –, where we are exerting pressure on the Syrian regime to instigate a political transition. We’re in favour of strengthening the sanctions; we’re working with the Russians and Chinese to persuade them that nothing would be worse than the chaos, even for their own interests.

Iran/nuclear proliferation/Sahel/counter-terrorism

We, France and Britain, are working very closely together on the Iran issue to prevent nuclear proliferation – and this morning we had an extremely useful discussion on this –, on the Sahel issue and the fight against terrorism. This is why I wanted to come here, to London, in response to the Prime Minister’s invitation, to say that the Franco-British relationship is essential, not simply for Europe but also for the world.

UK/French businesses/taxation

Q. – [The red carpet’s been rolled out for you today.] Have you forgiven the Prime Minister for his comments about rolling out the red carpet to French firms escaping high taxes?

THE PRESIDENT – I didn’t feel at all offended by the touch of humour, I like humour a lot and especially British humour! So I was very happy to be offered a [red] carpet for the next few months and next few years. And I don’t think this will have consequences, either for capital movements or our relations.

Presidential election/Cameron/Hollande

Q. – A question for you both, gentlemen. We’ve just been talking about the red carpet, but you, Mr Cameron, didn’t think it useful to meet M. Hollande when he came in February. So don’t you have any regrets on these two points? And you, M. Hollande, have you really come here without bearing any grudges?

THE PRESIDENT – If I were to bear a grudge against all the heads of state and government who didn’t have meetings with me during the campaign, I wouldn’t be on speaking terms with anyone at all! But there are rules and I understand them perfectly. In an election campaign, there are political sensitivities which create ties of solidarity; and then there are relations between states, governments, a prime minister and a head of state, which mean that David Cameron and I now know each other and I’m extremely happy to work with him in the way I’ve said.

(…)

France/UK/tax

I think Britain needs a dynamic, prosperous France, and the reverse is equally true. We’ve really got a Europe which has to get back on its feet, has to improve its performance, take its economy forward, and raise its competitiveness level. Everyone is doing this with the means at their disposal, their resources and their sensitivities. By the way, whatever people may say, taxation isn’t the area where there is the greatest difference between us. When I look at the highest income-tax rate in Britain, it’s 45%. Today in France it’s only 41%. That hasn’t, incidentally, induced Britons to come to our country – except for second homes which, I’d add, we don’t want to tax more highly – but I think we have tax and economic policies which allow us to honour the pledges we made in our respective campaigns, and to be equally competitive. We need economies which work, because that’s what will enable us to have more jobs, with us each using the means we feel most appropriate.

Moreover, in Britain and in France, we are determined to reduce our deficits. And we’re going to do so. Here too, each with our own strategy. But the objective is the same.

(…)

Q. – (…) And Mr President, could I ask you, you must have followed the banking scandal here involving Barclays in London. Do you think that our banking regulation is fit for purpose?

(…)

THE PRESIDENT – Banking regulation – this is an objective we can share. There are at this very moment in Britain a number of revelations which justify our being vigilant in our respective countries, and even bringing the law down when it comes to some of the behaviours of certain banks.

That said, Britain and France have different positions. We’re in the Euro Area and the Euro Area has decided to organize banking supervision, which the European Central Bank, the Euro Area’s central bank, will be in charge of. Moreover, David Cameron, at the last European Council – and I thank him for this – pointed out that he shared the banking regulation objectives, but that, not being in the Euro Area, he had to organize the regulation or supervision differently in his country.

So, as far as France is concerned, we’re in favour of this banking union which must be another tier in European Economic and Monetary Union and will allow this banking supervision and better regulation of banks and also enable us to recapitalize banks expressing the need for it – I’m thinking in particular of the Spanish banks. We have – this illustrates what we were saying – different positions because we aren’t in the same situation. Since France is in the Euro Area, she wants to strengthen Euro Area banking rules.

I’ll give another example, and this also applies within the Euro Area: some countries have decided to implement a financial transaction tax. The decision won’t commit all the Euro Area countries and won’t in any way commit the countries outside the Euro Area – it’s called enhanced cooperation. And I think it’s good for there to be this possibility in Europe of being able to organize ourselves as we see fit, without this meaning anyone feeling left out or impugned. (…)./.

Visit by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the United Kingdom – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic

Paris, 9 July 2012

President Hollande will visit the United Kingdom on 10 July.

He will have a meeting at Windsor Castle with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and a meeting and working lunch with Prime Minister David Cameron followed by a joint press conference.

The Head of State will also meet the French community at the Ambassador’s residence.

During the visit, President Hollande will express his determination to strengthen bilateral cooperation with the UK, particularly on defence and energy.

He will discuss the implementation of the European Council’s decisions in support of growth and financial stability.

Current international issues will also be discussed, particularly the crisis in Syria, the situation in the Sahel and the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Published on 16/07/2012

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