» Tuesday, June 19, 2007

EU Council

Asked if the agreement between France and Spain changed our position, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that the best person to ask about that was President Sarkozy, which was why the Prime Minister and Chancellor were asking him tonight. In terms of our basic negotiating position, the answer was: no.

Asked if it was right that the Germans would publish their draft today, the PMOS said that they would go through the normal processes, but as always, people should recognise that these would be decisions which would only be taken at the summit. In terms of the basic approach, the Prime Minister outlined our red lines yesterday very clearly.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s reaction was to Gordon Brown’s comments on television this morning that he would have a referendum if needs be, the PMOS said that that was a slight misquotation of what the Chancellor had said. What he said was that he did not envisage a situation arising where we would be in that kind of territory.

Put that the Chancellor actually said the words, the PMOS said that what he had said beforehand, and what the journalist had left out was that he did not envisage us being in that situation. As we had made clear yesterday, we would not agree to a deal that crossed the red lines, therefore, we did not believe a referendum would be necessary.

Asked if the red lines were crossed at all in the constitutional treaty, the PMOS replied that as the Prime Minister had made clear at the Liaison Committee yesterday, he did not believe that they were, but he recognised that there was a lot of opinion in this country that said something different. That was why he believed that we needed to remove those elements that appeared to be constitutional and have an amending treaty. That as why we had lowered the ambition for this so that we could have a practical, pragmatic agreement which allowed a Europe of 27 to work.

Asked if the Prime Minister could bind his successor on a matter of the referendum, the PMOS said that in terms of the future, it was the future, and as people knew, he did not address hypothetical questions. In the end, it was Parliament that decided, as was always the case.

Put that there was only a week to go, and that was that, the PMOS said that the Independent might say that with as much relish as it wanted, but the facts were the facts; he was still Prime Minister, and he would be the one who would represent the Government and go with their position.

Asked what was the Government’s view on legal personality, the PMOS said that this was the second day running that the journalist had invited him to get into the detail of the negotiating position, and he was not going to comment. The Prime Minister had set out very clearly that he would agree to nothing which changed our ability to set our own roles in the criminal justice system, and that would be the case. The details of the negotiation would be for the summit.

Put that the German presidency was quite clear that what was agreed this weekend should be a template for the treaty, and items that were in should be in the treaty, and items that were out would not get in, and also, in Brussels, the institutions and many nation states wanted the foreign policy person to chair the Foreign Ministers’ meetings, to set the agenda and have a bigger role in policy making, the PMOS said that the aim was to get a broad agreement from Friday. In terms of the Foreign Minister, the position of the person who represented the EU was one which we believed should be inter-Governmental, and that person should be answerable to the Council as representatives of the Governments. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there should be nothing which in any way diminished our ability to set our own foreign policy or defence policy, and to keep our seat at the UN. Those were the basic principles.

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

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