» Monday, June 11, 2007

EU Constitution

Asked if it was our position that there was no outcome that would ever require a referendum, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister has said that he believed in an amended treaty without the elements of a constitution. This was the approach that he had agreed with Prime Minister Balkenende, this was the approach he had put to Chancellor Merkel, and this is the approach that he shared with President Sarkozy. That was the ballpark in which Europe as a whole now seemed to be talking, and that was what the aim was.

Put that the logical conclusion was that we would never sign up to something that would require a referendum, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister believed that it was not just a matter of our position, you had to take into account that there had been referenda in the Netherlands and in France on the constitutional treaty that had failed. We had to get out of the mindset that we were in some way on our own on this issue. We were not. There was a willingness amongst Europe as a whole to move to a situation where the practical problems that the expansion of Europe had caused the institutions of Europe, were addressed in a practical way – without getting into the constitutional aspects of it.

Put that 17 countries in Europe had already ratified the Constitution, and asked hadn’t they got a right to say that they were in majority, the PMOS replied that that was not how Europe operated. If countries such as the Netherlands or France said "no", then you had to take account of that.

Asked if the question of an opt-out or retaining our own say on home affairs and justice was a red line issue for us, the PMOS replied that we had always said that we would not in any way surrender our ability to decide our own justice and home affairs legislation. That remained the case. On detail, we were a long way out and there was a lot of hard negotiations to come.

Put that we could not negotiate a veto, the PMOS replied that the fundamental point was that this country would retain the ability to decide its own justice and home affairs legislation.

Asked whether we would rather no new amended treaty than an amendment that went too far, the PMOS replied that changes were necessary to allow Europe to work. The Prime Minister had said that he wanted a situation where Europe could move on to addressing practical issues such as energy, climate change, and the single market for example, which allowed the EU to work to the benefit of all members. Equally, the outcome had to be acceptable to the rightful concerns of all people, including in this country. Put that otherwise immense damage could be done to the first objective, the PMOS replied that he was not going to supply the Telegraph with a headline.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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