» Monday, June 21, 2004

European Constitution

Asked what part the Prime Minister would play in the ‘yes’ campaign for the referendum, the PMOS pointed out that the Treaty had only been signed on Friday night. Once the formalities had been dealt with we would be able to address other questions. Asked if the campaign would be backed by the Government as a whole, the PMOS cautioned journalists against jumping too far ahead of the game. It was important to take things one step at a time. Put to him that the Chancellor had told the World At One today that the Prime Minister would lead the campaign, the PMOS said it was obvious that the Prime Minister would lead it. However, it would be premature to try to nail down the details at this stage. Asked if the campaign would be cross-party, the PMOS said yes. However, he was unable to provide further details at this time. Asked if the campaign would be state-funded, the PMOS said that an announcement would be made by the appropriate authorities in due course. Asked if a ‘no’ campaign would be state-funded, the PMOS urged journalists to exercise a little patience. Put to him that it was a matter of principle, the PMOS said that it wasn’t; it was a matter of process. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that there were rules governing the holding of referendums. They would be announced in the appropriate way at the appropriate time. Asked to clarify the rules, the PMOS said that they would be set out in due course. Asked if he was saying that he didn’t know what they were or that he did know but was not prepared to say, the PMOS said that he was simply making the point that they would be announced in the proper way as part of a general announcement about the referendum.

Questioned about the campaign launched today by a number of Euro-sceptic backbenchers, the PMOS said that as a Civil Servant he was unable to comment on party political issues. That said, Prime Minister recognised that some people would have doubts and concerns about the Treaty. However, he hoped that people would deal with it on the basis of fact in terms of what had actually been agreed, rather than on what people feared had been agreed.

Asked if the Prime Minister was planning a series of speeches to dispel the myths surrounding the Treaty, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would deal with the issue as he saw fit in the weeks and months ahead. There would be plenty of opportunity to debate this matter – and nowhere better than in the House of Commons where both sides of the argument would be able to express their views.

Asked if Downing Street had been aware that the Chancellor was being interviewed on the World At One today, the PMOS said that interview bids were always co-ordinated carefully, as you would expect. Asked if that was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, the PMOS said that he had answered the question in the way he had chosen to answer to it. Put to him that it sounded like a ‘no’, the PMOS said he thought that such a conclusion was clearly the product of a gross over-interpretation of what he had said.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. Classic. I am going to use that one myself…chosen to answer the question in the way he had chosen to answerr it…Who said Sir Humphrey was dead?

    Comment by DEGREEK — 22 Jun 2004 on 7:35 pm | Link

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