British press fears French plot to make Cameron EU fall guy

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Britain's newspapers said Prime Minister David Cameron was in a tight spot at the EU summit on Friday, with some saying he was being set up as the fall guy and pointing the finger at France.

Cameron is being pushed by eurosceptics in his Conservative Party to extract a repatriation of powers from Brussels as a bargaining price while French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel try to press through a deal to save the eurozone.

"French accused of setting Britain up as 'fall guy' in attempt to ringfence eurozone", The Guardian said on its front page, adding that Paris tried to "isolate" Cameron.

The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed French diplomat as saying Cameron was "playing politics with the eurozone's future, a club he is not a member of", adding that Britain was "like a man who wants to go to a wife-swapping party without taking his own wife".

Meanwhile a European Union official said the French were trying to "poison" the summit.

"The French animosity to the British is extraordinary. They are presenting Cameron as a wrecker," the official was quoted as saying.

The Daily Express, urging the prime minister to seize back powers from the EU, said Cameron appeared "terrified" that Merkel and Sarkozy would "call his bluff" by doing a deal among the eurozone countries alone.

"But it does not appear to have occurred to him that he could call their bluff by daring them to do just that."

The Daily Mirror said Cameron "must recognise that threatening to veto a deal to strengthen the euro wouldn't be in Britain's interests when a strong single currency is good for our country too.

"Mr Cameron foolishly painted himself into this corner, and we deserve better than a weak PM dancing to silly Eurosceptic tunes."

The Guardian newspaper said that while Cameron and Merkel thought they were both playing clever national politics, they were both playing poor European politics.

"Merkel has the wrong diagnosis," it said. "The eurozone crisis is a banking, not a fiscal deficit one."

And while British eurosceptics could "pull Britain further away from the core Europe that is being created, ... they can not simultaneously exert more influence over it."

The Sun rolled out World War II comparisons, with mock-up pictures of Cameron as prime ministers "lame duck" Neville Chamberlain and "bulldog spirit" Winston Churchill.

Cameron should tell Brussels to "get its nose out" of the City of London financial hub, and spark a "bonfire of EU employment and immigration regulations", it said.

"In 1940 the battleground was the beaches. Today, it is the conference table. Fight for Britain, prime minister. The country is on your side."

The Independent, saying Cameron was "isolated", had a cartoon of him in wartime fatigues, waving the white flag as a zeppelin with Merkel's face approaches.

The Times said that the EU faces a "choice of evils" between Greece leaving the euro or the rest of the eurozone taking responsibility for its budget.

"The euro has proved to be the greatest error of economic policy since the gold standard", it said.

"EU leaders can stop searching for a non-existent third option."

© 2011 AFP

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