Friday 23 March 2018

Cameron rows back on demand for EU treaty change in summit talks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with French President Francois Hollande in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with French President Francois Hollande in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Sarah Collins

British Prime Minister David Cameron appears to have rowed back on his demand for EU treaty change as a way to claw back powers from Brussels.

After finding little willingness at the EU summit to revise the bloc's core values or trigger a referendum in Ireland, Mr Cameron is now leaning towards Irish-style guarantees that could be tacked on to future treaties.

"The prime minister was very clear he's not looking for treaty change," Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters following a two-day meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. "He would be quite happy to follow the line that Denmark and that Ireland applied over the years."

To secure an Irish Yes vote in the Lisbon rerun in 2009, EU leaders gave Ireland guarantees on abortion, tax and military neutrality.

Denmark was offered a similar protocol allowing it to opt out of the euro following its rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

Treaty change would be very difficult for Mr Cameron to sell in Europe, given the requirement for a referendum in Ireland.

"What matters is that change is legally binding and irreversible, and if treaty change is necessary - and I believe it is - there should be a way to deliver that treaty change," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron is under pressure to deliver on a four-point plan to renegotiate Britain's place in Europe or risk triggering a British exit.

The plan has foundered on a UK demand for four-year benefit curbs for EU workers that lawyers and diplomats say is discriminatory and goes against Europe's basic freedoms.

Mr Cameron also wants to reduce EU bureaucracy, bolster the power of national parliaments, and ensure the UK is not disadvantaged by further integration in the 19-member eurozone.

EU leaders showed a willingness to work on solutions between now and February to allow Mr Cameron to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum, which he has signalled will be held next year.

At the summit, EU leaders also agreed to speed up their work on stemming the flow of refugees into Europe, including offering financial support to Turkey to encourage it to keep people on its territory.

Ireland is set to shell out €20m over two years.

Irish Independent

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