» Monday, October 25, 2004

Asylum and Immigration/Europe

Put to him that, despite what the Prime Minister had said in his press conference this morning, the shift to QMV would effectively mean that we would be giving up our power of veto, the PMOS said we wanted to ensure that Europe could not force any policy on us with which we did not agree. Under measures contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam, we were able to opt in to any European policy we were in favour of, whether it was asylum shopping or dealing with the problem of child pornography. In such cases, co-operation with our European partners clearly made sense. Conversely, we would not opt in to any policies which we believed were not beneficial, such as border police. Pressed as to whether the Prime Minister had been telling the truth this morning when he had stated that we were not giving up our power of veto, the PMOS said yes. As the Prime Minister had underlined, we were not giving up the veto over what affected us in this country. Asked if that meant we were willing to see a two-speed Europe in certain areas, the PMOS pointed out that this was already happening, for example with the Schengen Agreement. What mattered in the end was that we co-operated where it made sense to do so. Questioned as to whether Britain retained the ability to prevent the EU bringing forward policies on immigration and asylum, the PMOS said that if the EU decided to introduce an EU border police force for example, we had the right to decide not to be part of it. Asked if Britain could stop the policy being made in the first place because of the power of veto, the PMOS agreed that we could stop an all-EU border police policy. Asked if we would still be able to do so after April 2005, the PMOS said that we could refuse to be part of any such policy – in which case it would not be called – or be – an all-EU border police service. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that it was important for people to understand that we did not have to agree to any EU policy with which we did not want to agree. On the other hand, where it made sense to co-operate with our EU partners, we would do so. For example, we had reached an agreement with France to bring forward joint measures which had resulted in the closure of Sangatte.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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