19th May 2022

Big three clash over EU charter of rights

The UK clashed with Germany and France over a charter guaranteeing citizens' rights during a meeting on the Constitution in Brussels on Monday (17 May).

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw came to the foreign ministers' meeting with a strong message - that London would not compromise on its red lines - one of which concerned the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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  • Joschka Fischer - accused the UK of "salami tactics" (Photo: Irish EU Presidency)

Mr Straw called for more safeguards on the Charter, which enshrines the right to strike and is included in the draft EU Constitution, to ensure that new legal rights are not created in the UK.

His comments were met with a frosty reception by both France and Germany.

German foreign minister Joschka Fischer accused London of "salami tactics" - trying to slice up the Constitution - saying that last year it had already won significant concessions on the issue.

He was backed up by France's Michel Barnier.

According to diplomats present at the meeting, Paris and Berlin were the only two member states that reacted to the UK's demands on the Charter.

"They were very, very angry", a diplomat remarked.

German MEP Klaus Hänsch, who represents the European Parliament in the negotiations, reflected some of this anger.

"There is already a text explaining how the Charter is put into place", he said referring to the fact that the Charter itself already contains explanatory text limiting its scope.

France and Germany's reaction was being interpreted by officials present at the meeting as general annoyance at being backed into a corner because the UK has decided to have a referendum on the Constitution.

Some doubts were later expressed by ministers over whether it would be possible to wrap all the negotiations up by 18 June - however the Irish EU Presidency were quick to counter speculation over the timetable.

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