Ex-French PM Rocard, pro-EU but an early backer of Brexit, dies

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 02, 2016 2:38 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - Former French Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who two years ago urged Britons to leave the European Union before they destroyed it, died on Saturday at the age of 85, nine days after Britain voted to follow his advice.

Rocard, a Socialist who served as prime minister under President Francois Mitterrand from 1988 to 1991, became an ardent European federalist, spending 15 years in the European Parliament until he resigned in 2009.

In 2014 he wrote a bitter criticism of Britain's role in the EU bloc which resonates strongly after Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23.

"Get out of Europe before you wreck it," Rocard wrote then in the headline of an opinion piece published by Britain's Guardian newspaper and France's Le Monde.

"You do not like Europe," he told Britons.

"You never shared the true meaning of the project... always putting the national interest first - you reintroduced these ideas and made them contagious," he wrote.

"A great figure of the Republic and the Left has just disappeared," President Francois Hollande said in a statement.

Among Rocard's achievements were the creation of a minimum welfare benefit and reform of the financing of the welfare system through creation of a broad levy on income and savings.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Balmforth)