» Friday, June 15, 2007


Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s description of the revived EU Constitution, the PMS replied that it was clear that there would be serious negotiations between now and the EU Summit next week. We welcomed that there was now a consensus around the UK view that this should be an amending treaty. And whilst we would not usually get into discussing internal working documents, because of the way it has been misrepresented in some of this morning’s papers, it was helpful to set out that this document was a description rather than a prescription. It set out the views of member states, including our own, and other member states who did not necessarily share our view. But it was not, as perhaps has been reported, a prescription as to what should happen. It was a reflection of people’s views.

Asked where it was reported as a "prescription", the PMS replied that this was her characterisation of the way that the story had been reported. Put to her that most people had reported that it was Angela Merkel writing a letter summarising the views around the table so far, the PMS replied that she certainly did not recognise that characterisation of the way the story had been written in some newspapers. Asked which papers she meant, the PMS replied that she was not going to name names, but there were certainly aspects of some reports that we considered to be completely untrue.

Asked that given we were saying that this was clearly an amending treaty, could say that there was absolutely no cause for a referendum, the PMS replied that we were saying that there was consensus around the fact that this should be an amending treaty. We had said that this should be an amending treaty without the characteristics of the Constitutional Treaty. And no previous amending treaties have required a referendum.

Asked repeatedly why we couldn’t rule out a referendum now, the PMS replied that this treaty should be an amending treaty, previous amending treaties have not required a referendum, and we did not believe that this treaty should have the characteristics of a constitution.

Asked if the Prime Minister would reconsider this standpoint if for instance there was a large showing of public dismay at what was happening in some polls that may be coming out soon, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had already made his view very clear on these issues.

Asked if we were therefore not absolutely ruling out a referendum, the PMS repeated that as the Prime Minister had said before, we did not believe referenda were required for amending treaties, and that was the sort of treaty we were working towards.

Asked what negotiations would take place before the Summit, and would the Prime Minister be meeting anyone face to face, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was scheduled to meet with the French President next week. There was also the General Affairs Council this weekend that Foreign Ministers would attend.

Put that there was consensus round the table that this was definitely not the kind of thing that people wanted put to a public vote, but there was not necessarily consensus around the table about what the content of the amended treaty should be, the PMS repeated that there were still negotiations to be had, but we had made our position clear.

Asked if there was a possibility that this could come back as the Constitution just renamed as an amended treaty with a few things taken out, the PMS replied that we had been clear this treaty should not have the characteristics of the Constitutional Treaty. Looking at some of the details that have already been set out for example, there was no suggestion of EU symbols in an amending treaty. Asked for a list of differences from the Constitutional Treaty, the PMS replied that she did not have a list to hand and pointed the journalist to the original draft of the Constitutional Treaty that was rejected to see exactly what was set out.

Asked if there was any parts of this amendment that the Prime Minister was particularly against, the PMS replied that without getting into the detail of negotiations, there were four key points that we have been very clear on:

  • We would not accept anything in a new treaty which required us to change our labour and social legislation.
  • We would not accept anything in a new treaty which would allow us to be overruled on our common law system or on our police and judicial processes.
  • We will insist on maintaining our ability to conduct our own independent foreign and defence policy, including of course our UN Security Council seat.
  • We will not accept anything in a new treaty which would force us to change the scope, cost or financial structure of our social security system.

This had been our position from the start and remained the case.

Asked if it was not important to have a clear and objective definition of what was an amended treaty and what would go beyond that, as surely the Government had a vested interest in defining any agreement as it did not want a referendum, the PMS replied that the position on these details had been made clear through our negotiations.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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