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Sarkozy vows to offer UK exit from Brexit if he wins French poll

14:35, Thursday, 29 September, 2016
Sarkozy vows to offer UK exit from Brexit if he wins French poll
     Nicolas Sarkozy would offer Britain a chance to reverse its Brexit vote by negotiating a new treaty for the bloc with Germany immediately after winning back the French presidency next year, he said on Tuesday.

Speaking to business leaders in Paris, the former French president said that if elected, he would fly to Berlin with a draft of new EU treaty the day after the second ballot of the presidential election to secure the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel. On May 8, the day after, he would travel to London.

“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,” Mr Sarkozy said. “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 Sarkozy’s proposal may encounter big hurdles, namely Berlin’s reluctance to overhaul the EU institutions and Ms Merkel’s own electoral constraints with federal polls in September 2017. But the idea highlights how fluid the negotiating positions of the EU’s two largest members remain on Brexit ahead of crucial elections.

Theresa May, the UK prime minister, has indicated she will not trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty, which would set the clock ticking on a two-year negotiating period to complete exit talks, this year. But she has stopped short of saying when she would do so. Last week, Downing Street denied claims made by Boris Johnson, foreign minister, that Mrs May had committed to activating the article early next year.

Under pressure from France’s resurgent far right National Front party, Mr Sarkozy, who is vying for the centre-right presidential nomination in November, has promised a grand overhaul of the EU if he returns to power. On Tuesday, he said the new treaty would focus on reforming the Schengen passport-free zone, restricting the European Commission’s prerogatives to a dozen, integrating the eurozone further and halting membership talks with Turkey.

“Maybe it’s time to tell Turkey that its place is in Asia,” Mr Sarkozy said. “I am a staunch European, I would never accept to leave the euro, but Europe doesn’t function, at all. “

A new treaty is the only solution to break anti-EU forces similar to the National Front that are gaining strength across the continent, Mr Sarkozy said.

“Everybody in Europe is annoyed when France and Germany strike deals, but when they don’t, everybody frets,” he said. “And don’t tell me this treaty would be complicated to negotiate. I have a lot of experience negotiating treaties. The worst would be to do nothing.”

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