Tempers fray at eurozone crisis summit

By politics.co.uk staff

Nicolas Sarkozy hit out at David Cameron on Sunday as the eurozone crisis deepened divisions on the continent.

The French president told Mr Cameron he had missed a "good opportunity to shut up" in the brief diplomatic collapse in Brussels.

Mr Cameron had repeatedly criticised the 17 eurozone countries for their handling of the crisis and insisted that the ten non-eurozone EU members be present in a further summit, to be held on Wednesday.

"We are sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do," Mr Sarkozy told the UK prime minister. "You say you hate the euro and now you want to interfere in our meetings."

Mr Cameron succeeded in winning agreement that the non-euro countries would attend, arguing that the crisis had a "chilling effect" on all EU member states.

Talks exploring options for ending the sovereign debt crisis faced by eurozone countries are of "mind-boggling technical complexity", according to Mr Sarkozy.

Hopes that banks can be recapitalised and Europe's bailout fund increased further could be realised by midweek, but tensions are running high and it is far from clear that an overall deal will be reached.

The measures may even prompt a change to the EU treaty, which could trigger a referendum in Britain after the government passed legislation guaranteeing a 'referendum lock'.

"If there is a treaty change, that gives Britain an opportunity," Mr Cameron said.

"Treaty change can only happen if it is agreed by all the 27 member states of the European Union.

"Any treaty change – as the last treaty change did – is an opportunity for Britain to advance our national interest.

"The last limited treaty change which brought about the European stability mechanism gave us the opportunity to get out of the euro bailout fund that the last government opted into."

Mr Cameron's use of the word "limited" has been taken to mean that such adjustments would not require a referendum.