» Monday, June 6, 2005

EU Constitution

Asked if te UK would postpone the referendum on the EU Constitution, the PMOS said that he would not say anything to pre-empt the Foreign Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons this afternoon. The Prime Minister had said that if there were a constitution to vote on then there would be a referendum in this country. The position at the moment following the French and Dutch votes was an issue to be discussed at the European Council. Given that, it did not make sense to proceed at this point, but that did not mean that we were withdrawing the possibility of the British people voting if there was a constitution to vote on. Asked if Downing Street had signed off on the Foreign Secretary’s statement, the PMOS said that the Foreign Secretary’s statement was prepared in the usual way. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister were in full agreement as to the way forward. Asked if the Prime Minister wanted to see a way forward that rescued the Constitution, the PMOS that the Prime Minister’s view remained as he had stated immediately after the French vote. He believed that the Constitution was a perfectly sensible attempt to try to resolve the issues posed by enlargement. The fact of the matter however was that we had had the French and Dutch vote no and we have to recognise that and have a period of reflection. Equally however, what the Prime Minister believed was that Europe as a whole needed to think about the issues behind those votes. Part of that was how the European economy reformed in such a way to address many of the concerns that he believed were behind the votes, in other words how Europe responded to globalisation. In response to the suggestion that the French were concerned about the Prime Minister’s reforming agenda, PMOS said that the issue was how Europe responded to globalisation. Globalisation was not going to go away and the challenge posed by globalisation was not going to go away. Therefore what we needed was a proper, sensible and rational debate about how Europe would meet the challenge of globalisation.

Asked what Parliamentary timetable had been scheduled to take place before 16 June, the PMOS said that was a hypothetical. The business managers would handle the business in the usual way, but we were where we were. The Foreign Secretary was taking the first opportunity he had to update Parliament on his thinking following the French and Dutch votes. That was both the right and sensible thing to do. It was not pre-empting 16 June it was setting out why we believed that this was a time for reflection. It was reinforcing the need for Europe to discuss the matter, starting on 16 June.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that postponing the British referendum was sending a clear signal ahead of the EU Council, the PMOS said both President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder were entitled to express their view, as were any of the other leaders of the 25 countries. The place to discuss this issue was at the European Council on 16 June. We needed to discuss the implications of the vote in the wider European sense. Therefore this was why we had said from the beginning that we had to pause, reflect and go to the meeting seriously to discuss what the implications were. This was what we would do. What were we doing was reflecting the fact that we were in uncertain times. In uncertain times you should not give a knee jerk response. You should try to think your way through the implications.

Asked why we were making a statement today if 16 June was the key date, the PMOS said that in an uncertain period you did not proceed unless you got certainty and therefore we needed to recognise that we were in an uncertain period and it was not sensible to proceed until there was greater certainty about the direction we were going. Asked whether it would proceed á la carte, as the Prime Minister had said there were good things in the Constitution, the PMOS said people should not get into over-speculating on particular words. What he was saying was that there was an issue about how a Europe of 25 worked which had not been there when Europe was a 15. This was about how you addressed those issues. He believed the Constitution was a sensible attempt to do so, but we had to recognise that the French and the Dutch voters had said what they said.

Asked what lessons needs to be learned, as part of the motivation for voting seemed to be disenfranchisement at an undemocratic looking Europe and whether the Prime Minister would be looking at this during the presidency, the PMOS said that rather than getting drawn into particular measures and so on what was more sensible was that we had a genuine period of reflection and that we came to a view and that we took that to the European Council. Where the Prime Minister has put his thought and emphasis was on economic reform and liberalising services in order to regenerate the European economy. We had to recognise that was part of what was behind where we were.

In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was not running away from the issue what he was doing was what leaders should do, which was recognising when reality changed. The reality was that we had had the French and Dutch vote no. The right things to do were to pause and reflect on the reasons for that. The Prime Minister was fully engaged with this issue, not just because of his EU presidency, but because he believed it was the right for Europe to think through what lay behind these decisions. The questions had been asked and the important thing was to devote the upcoming period to producing a rational answer to the question. We were not pretending that we had some off the shelf solution, but there was a discussion to be had within Europe and our sense was that there was a growing view in Europe that that should happen. The Commission had indicated that they believed our approach was sensible. We genuinely recognised, just as others could not impose their views on us, that we could not impose our view on the rest of Europe. Therefore there did have to be a proper debate and discussion. We had to engage in that discussion, not just by asserting our position, but by explaining our position properly. We would do that. What we had was an approach, it was up to us to explain that approach and debate it with our colleagues in Europe. You were not going to find an overnight solution to the problems identified in these two votes. What you had to have was a proper debate that worked towards a solution, not a knee jerk response.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Post a public comment

(You must give an email address, but it will not be displayed to the public.)
(You may give your website, and it will be displayed to the public.)


This is not a way of contacting the Prime Minister. If you would like to contact the Prime Minister, go to the 10 Downing Street official site.

Privacy note: Shortly after posting, your name and comment will be displayed on the site. This means that people searching for your name on the Internet will be able to find and read your comment.

Downing Street Says...

The unofficial site which lets you comment on the UK Prime Minister's official briefings. About us...


June 2005
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« May   Jul »

Supported by


Disruptive Proactivity

Recent Briefings



Syndicate (RSS/XML)



Contact Sam Smith.

This site is powered by WordPress. Theme by Jag Singh