David Cameron is to come under pressure from France to back greater European integration in a bid to save the euro.
French prime minister Francois Fillon said he would use a meeting with Mr Cameron to try to enlist his support for further harmonisation of “economic, fiscal and social policies”.
His call will be met with disdain from many eurosceptic Tory MPs, but Mr Fillon warned that Britain would suffer “catastrophe and a disaster” if the European single currency failed.
The Prime Minister faced a revolt on Tuesday from Tory backbenchers angry that legislation designed to prevent further powers being ceded to Brussels without a referendum did not go far enough.
His focus for the Downing Street meeting with Mr Fillon – and for a separate visit from European Council president Herman Van Rompuy – was intended to be trade and growth.
But Mr Fillon indicated he would be taking the opportunity to push the case for further EU integration, saying that Europe was now at “an historic turning point”.
In an interview with The Times, he said: “In order to consolidate the euro we will need gradually to harmonise our economic, fiscal and social policies, hence we are going to go towards greater integration.
“We are going to need to put in place an economic system of governance for the eurozone. Great Britain is not part of the eurozone; at the same time the decision we will take will have great importance to Britain.”
While acknowledging Britain had its “own dynamics and history”, he added: “The question is: is the UK ready to accept or encourage greater integration of the eurozone or is the UK distrustful of that and will it create obstacles and make it more difficult to happen?”
Downing Street said Mr Cameron would be seeking to explore how the European Union could better support growth and jobs when he met Mr Fillon and Mr Van Rompuy.