France offers Britain "red carpet" out of EU

PARIS Wed Jan 23, 2013 8:07am GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - France believes Britain has many advantages to offer the European Union but if it chose to leave the bloc, Paris would not stand in its way, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is due later to give Britons a straight referendum choice on whether to stay in the European Union or leave, provided he wins an election in 2015.

Speaking on French radio, Fabius said Britain had "positive points" to offer Europe, but added that he had told a recent meeting with British businessmen: "If Britain wants to leave Europe we will roll out the red carpet for you."

The comment is a jibe on much-reported remarks by Cameron last year in which he offered to "roll out the red carpet" to French firms wishing to avoid high French corporate taxes by re-basing to Britain.

Fabius repeated France's view that there could be no "Europe a la carte" in which a country picked which rules applied to it.

"Imagine we are a football club. You join the football club - but once you are in, you cannot say ‘Let's play rugby'," he added.

(Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Brian Love)

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