» Friday, June 22, 2007

EU Summit

Asked how he would characterise the meetings with the Prime Minister Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said all this was about getting through the business, underlining our red lines on the four issues, as he had said yesterday. He was not going to get into the process of giving a running commentary on progress, or lack of progress. As always with Chancellor Merkel, it was businesslike, it was constructive but in terms of progress, we would need to see where we go to.

Asked about the Financial Times splash on competition today, the PMOS said the competition issue was not a UK- specific issue. This was an issue raised by several people around the table last night and the best way to summarise the discussion was that there would be a need for clarity on this issue, as indeed on other issues which other people raised around the table, but the important thing was that people should not think of this as an UK- specific issue.

Put that the Prime Minister had said for several years that Europe had been going in our favour very much in terms of competition issues, but he seemed to indicate that others felt it should be going another way, the PMOS said the reality was in Europe that there had been a debate on these matters, but the important point again was illustrated last night that we were no longer isolated on these matters. Quite the reverse, there were many countries in Europe, not least the accession counties, but other countries as well that shared our particular view on competition matters.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would keep in close contact with the Chancellor, who clearly would be dealing with the details of anything which was or was not agreed at this summit, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister kept in close contact with colleagues during summits. He had done so in the past, he did it for instance during the Budget discussions in Brussels, and that would be his practice here, but the Prime Minister had come to this Summit with a Government position, and it was the Government position which would influence the way in which he shaped negotiations. Put that this was a unique situation, as the Prime Minister would only to be in office for a few more days and the Chancellor would have to take this through Parliament, the PMOS said the situation was actually, in the sense of what the Prime Minister’s job was today, no different from what it was during the Budget discussions. He was representing the Government, in doing so he kept in close contact with colleagues.

Asked what the Government was going to do about competition issues in the draft text, the PMOS said it was never helpful to give a line by line commentary on draft texts. The reason they were called draft texts was because they were draft, therefore that was a perfectly good reason.

Asked whether the PMOS had more information about the "mood music" of things so far, the PMOS said the best way to express this was to say that overnight people have become clearer in their minds that we were not putting down our four red lines as a negotiating ploy, but that we were trying to give an honest assessment of what it is that we need to distinguish this amending treaty from the original constitutional treaty. There was a recognition that that was the spirit in which we had approached these negotiations, but what that did not guarantee was a successful outcome. It did mean that people recognised that we were not playing games, we were not putting down things which we could then pull away. This was our position because this was a realistic assessment of how we believed you could distinguish between the elements of a constitutional treaty and an amending treaty. Now therefore there was greater realism. This was a tough negotiation and we will have to see where we got to.

Asked whether there was a general acceptance this morning around the table, from other countries that they wanted a deal, the PMOS said that if they wanted a deal they would have to respect Britain’s red lines. The PMOS said it was premature to talk about a deal, but from our perspective there would not be a deal unless the four red lines were met, and that was just a simple fact of life. And therefore for the other countries, that is also a reality that they had to deal with.

Asked whether there had been any farewell talks, the PMOS said no, frankly this was an important summit and something on which people were very, very focused and trying to get it right. We had come here with a tough, difficult, but right position for Britain, and the Prime Minister was determined to try and get that, in the interests of Britain but also, he believed, in the interests of Europe. That was where his focus was.

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

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