Cameron says no to plans for EU-wide treaty change

By:
9 Dec 11

Prime Minister David Cameron has vetoed European Union-wide treaty change to address the eurozone crisis, explaining that the deal on offer ‘isn’t in Britain’s interests’.

Speaking after overnight talks in Brussels between EU leaders, Cameron said his rejection of a new treaty was ‘a tough decision, but the right one’, because the deal on offer didn’t provide ‘adequate safeguards’ for Britain.

He said: ‘I said before coming to Brussels that if I couldn’t get adequate safeguards for Britain in a new European treaty, then I wouldn’t agree to it.  What is on offer isn’t in Britain’s interests, so I didn’t agree to it.’ 

‘Of course we want the eurozone countries to come together and to solve their problems. But we should only allow that to happen inside the European Union treaties if there are proper protections for the single market and for other key British interests.

‘Without those safeguards it is better not to have a treaty within a treaty but to have those countries make their arrangements separately,’ he added.

The veto means the 17 eurozone countries will now conclude an agreement outside the main EU treaties on a new ‘fiscal compact’, involving automatic measures to reduce excessive budget deficits. The deal is expected to be agreed by March 2012.

Six other countries, Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, will also be involved in agreeing the deal, while the Czech Republic and Sweden do not yet have a mandate from their parliaments to participate. Hungary has also indicated it could join the deal.

Cameron said he wished these countries well, explaining that ‘we want the eurozone to sort out its problems, to achieve that stability and growth that all of Europe – Britain included – needs’. 

But, he downplayed the threat that any new fiscal agreement might pose to Britain’s interests in the EU in areas such as free trade and open markets.

‘Britain’s interests in the European Union – keeping markets open, free trade, selling our goods and services with rules over which we have a major say – all those things are protected.  They don’t change,’ he said.

And he reiterated his opposition to the UK joining the euro. ‘The decisions taken here tonight all flow from one thing: the fact that there is a single currency in Europe – the euro. Britain is out of it, and will remain out of it.’ 

Following the night’s talks, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, said: ‘Britain this morning is more isolated than at any point in the 35 years of British membership of Europe.’

Describing Cameron’s decision as a ‘sign of weakness, not of strength’, he added: ‘It is not in Britain's national interest for decisions to be taken without us even at the table and it's a direct result of David Cameron spending more time negotiating with his own backbenchers than with our European partners.’

 

 

 

  • Nick Mann

    Nick Mann is a journalist for Public Finance and Public Finance International.

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