VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann says he has a “hard time” with Prime Minister David Cameron, who tends to give a different message at home than to fellow leaders in Europe.
The undiplomatic comments to newspaper Der Standard come amid a debate in Britain about the merits of its membership in the European Union as London becomes increasingly out of step with other EU members.
While heaping praise on other European leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, the Social Democrat said relations with Cameron were more testy.
“Why I have a hard time with David Cameron, also in a personal relationship and when it comes to trust, (is) because I get the feeling with him that ... he speaks differently in his own country than he does in the European Council,” Faymann was quoted as saying.
He was referring to informal and confidential talks at summits by European leaders at which he said they could openly express positions without fear of having others spin their comments for political advantage later.
“Everyone forgoes these polemics as a rule. And there are really very few exceptions where someone or other tries to play the victor afterwards,” Faymann said in the interview released ahead of publication on Saturday.
He did not give details of when this may have happened, or over what issues.
Cameron faces pressure from within his Conservative Party to call a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU, a demand backed by opinion polls which show a majority of Britons would, if given the chance, vote to leave the 27-nation bloc.
But business leaders in Britain have said they strongly oppose the prospect of radically downgrading ties with its biggest trading partner, while international partners from the United States to Germany and Ireland have made it clear they oppose a British EU exit.
The subject of Britain’s relationship with Europe has also led to perceptions of discord with the United States, with Cameron’s spokesman saying on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama had told the prime minister that he supported his drive to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership.
Relations between the two allies came under the spotlight this week after a senior U.S. official made a rare and forceful foray into what is an emotive domestic debate, saying Washington wanted Britain to stay in the EU.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Williams