Cameron and Hollande fail to strike Brexit deal

British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to strike a "Brexit" deal with French President Francois Hollande on Monday after European Union chief Donald Tusk warned the issue of Britain's future in the EU posed a "real" risk for the 28-nation bloc.

Cameron and Hollande fail to strike Brexit deal
Photo: AFP

A French official said after the discussions in Paris that there was a “political willingness” to find an agreement, but “more work is needed, particularly on economic governance”, before a key EU summit this week.

Tusk – on a lightning tour to discuss “Brexit,” as Britain's possible exit from the EU has been dubbed – warned the bloc was at a “critical moment”.

“It is high time we started listening to each other's arguments more than to our own,” he said during a visit to Romania.

“It is natural in negotiations that positions harden, as we get closer to crunch time. But the risk of break-up is real because this process is indeed very fragile.”

Tusk, president of the European Council, warned the 28 EU leaders to handle the negotiations on Thursday and Friday “with care” because “what is broken cannot be mended”.

Britain, which does not use the euro, wants a deal that will protect it from ever having to pay into a fund to protect the eurozone.

It also wants any issues that affect all member states to be discussed by all member states and not just the 19 nations that use the euro.

France, which along with Germany is a key decision-maker in the bloc, reportedly fears this could amount to Britain having a veto over the plans of eurozone countries.

Cameron hopes to secure a deal in Brussels that could pave the way for an “in-out” referendum to be held in Britain as early as June.

In London earlier, his spokeswoman said: “We have made progress (on renegotiation) but there's details to be pinned down.

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” she added.

Cameron wants the EU to recognize a series of principles including that countries outside the eurozone like Britain should not face discrimination or disadvantage.

'Far-reaching reforms'

His spokeswoman said Britain was seeking “significant and far-reaching reforms”.

“There are still details to be pinned down and what matters is that we get the substance right,” she added.

The British prime minister also spoke Monday to Tusk, who was first in the queue in Paris for a meeting with Hollande before Cameron arrived.

Asked if he thought a deal could be pushed through this week, Tusk told reporters: “I hope so.”

In a reminder that whatever deal he strikes is unlikely to satisfy some factions in Britain, the anti-EU UK Independence Party accused Cameron of being a “chicken” after he pulled out of a meeting where its leader Nigel Farage would have been present.

Cameron had been expected to attend a meeting of presidents from each of the European Parliament's groups during a visit to Brussels on Tuesday.

Instead, Cameron will only be holding a series of bilateral meetings, including with European Parliament president Martin Schulz and three MEPs involved in the negotiations.

“The prime minister is chicken,” Farage said.

The meetings are important because even if the bloc's leaders agree changes in areas including child benefit payments to EU migrants in Britain, as Cameron wants, the European Parliament must still approve the changes.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.