President says EU deal with UK is possible and necessary
European Council – Statement to the press by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on his arrival
Brussels, 18 February 2016
Q. – Do you think an agreement is possible with the United Kingdom this evening?
THE PRESIDENT – An agreement is possible, but if certain conditions exist. An agreement is possible because it’s necessary. The United Kingdom must remain in the European Union: that’s what I want. But at the same time, the EU must be able to move forward. No country must have a right of veto, no country must escape common rules or common authorities. So that’s my approach: to allow the UK to stay in the EU, but in the framework of the fundamental principles of the EU, because otherwise another country will ask for other exemptions.
So I’m ready to look at compromises. I think there have already been a number of steps forward, but I think we must continue the approach of moving Europe forward, not stopping it.
Q. – Aren’t you afraid other member states might follow the British example and demand exclusive options?
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, countries may also ask for special rules, so while we’re talking about the UK we must be thinking about all the other countries. It’s the European Union that’s at stake, not simply one country in the European Union.
As I’ve told you, I’d like the United Kingdom to remain in the EU, but above all I’d like Europe to be able to move forward and be stronger, and nobody – no head of government or head of state – to prevent it. Everyone must acknowledge the situation, and France can put forward a number of demands today, including on the agricultural crisis, economic issues and growth. But you can’t prevent Europe from moving forward. That’s my approach.
Q. – Is this play-acting, or is everyone here trying to show they’re more intransigent?
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t want us to be playing roles or raising the spectre of crises, dramas or tragedy. It’s serious enough for us to take the problems seriously and find solutions.
The solution I propose is that the British situation should be looked at repeatedly and that a number of compromises must be made. And what matters to me today above all is Europe’s future: Europe’s future in relation to the presence of the UK, Europe’s future in relation to refugees, Europe’s future in relation to growth, Europe’s future in relation to the fight against unemployment, and I’m also thinking about Europe’s future in terms of agriculture. So Europe must deliver this evening.