» Monday, June 25, 2007

EU Treaty

Asked what the view today was on the referendum on the EU treaty, the PMOS replied that for those who missed the 0500 press conference on Saturday, as the Prime Minister said, we had set out to achieve four red lines, and we achieved them. Did we achieve an amending treaty? Answer: yes. The PMOS said that the Prime Minister would set out in detail this afternoon why he believed the new treaty met our red lines.

Asked how we would respond to President Sarkozy’s suggestion that the protocol on EU competition was not as legally binding, and the removal of the commitment to undisputed competition in the preamble would create "a new jurisprudence", the PMOS replied that he had not seen what President Sarkozy had said. What was important, however, was what was the view of those charged in the Commission with overseeing competition policy, and more importantly, their legal advisors. They were in no doubt whatsoever that nothing had changed, except in slightly tightening the legal position on competition, and it was their view that counted.

Asked what we made of the Irish Prime Minister’s views that this was a constitution by any other name, the PMOS said that the reality was that each country would translate the treaty in their own context. In Ireland’s case, they were duty bound legally to have a referendum on such matters. Therefore, it was not surprising. What would be interesting to watch, however, was what would happen in those countries which did not have to have referendum on what they chose to do.

Put that the Irish Prime Minister was only duty bound if it was a constitution, and he had said yesterday that it was so similar to a constitution that they would have a referendum, the PMOS replied that he did not want to speak for Ireland. However, the legal bar in terms of having a referendum was much lower in any other EU country.

Put that the Irish Prime Minister had said that it was 90% a constitution, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister would set out very clearly this afternoon why it was different from the constitution. In terms of our four areas, did it in any way affect our ability to have our own foreign policy? No. Did it in any way force us to adopt measures in the Justice and Home Affairs areas that we did not want to? No. Did it in any way force us to adopt tax on benefit matters that we did not want to? No. In terms of our red lines, they were met, and therefore, what we should focus on was the reality of what it meant for the UK, rather than what other people said about it in different countries.

Put that the Foreign Secretary had acknowledged that there had been a "transfer of power to Brussels" on the treaty, and did the Prime Minister agree, the PMOS said that he had not seen the precise comments. In terms of QMV, we would only co-operate in those areas where it made sense for us to do so. That had been the position. If people looked at the number of QMV measures in this treaty compared to previous treaties, it was either about the same, or slightly lower. It was only in areas where it made sense for us to do so, such as co-operating on asylum and immigration. That made sense in terms of the national interests of this country.

Asked if it had been humiliating for the Prime Minister to have to go back and renegotiate the EU treaty as a result of angry phone calls from the Chancellor, the PMOS replied that tempting as it might be to correct some of the reports on Saturday morning, it was better not to get into the process of it, therefore, he would not.

Asked if the PMOS was therefore correcting incorrect information, the PMOS said that he was not going to get into it all.

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

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