Saturday

31st Oct 2020

Four concessions needed to avoid EU treaty referendum, says Blair

British prime minister Tony Blair has said that if London manages to get its way in four areas during the upcoming summit on a new treaty for the EU then there will be no need for the country to have referendum on the resulting document.

At his final appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee, on Monday afternoon (18 June), Mr Blair set out his political stall before the crucial gathering of EU leaders beginning Thursday evening in Brussels by saying that he would refuse to compromise on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, on foreign policy, on judicial and police issues and on tax.

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  • This week's summit will be the last summit for Tony Blair as UK prime minister (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

He indicated that if the rest of the member states wanted to see an overall agreement at the summit on creating a new look treaty after the original was rejected two years ago, then they would have to accept Britain's demands.

"First, we will not accept a treaty that allows the charter of fundamental rights to change UK law in any way.

"Second, we will not agree to something that replaces the role of British foreign policy and our foreign minister.

"Thirdly, we will not agree to give up our ability to control our common law and judicial and police system.

"And fourthly, we will not agree to anything that moves to qualified majority voting something that can have a big say in our own tax and benefit system. We must have the right in those circumstances to determine it by unanimity," he said according to British newspapers.

The prime minister went on to add: "If we achieve those four objectives I defy people to say what it is that is supposed to be so fundamental that could require a referendum."

The summit will be Mr Blair's last big appearance before he steps down from power less than a week later to make way for finance minister Gordon Brown, seen as his more euro-critical successor.

The referendum issue is the defining backdrop to the summit talks with leaders in France, the Netherlands and above all Britain hoping to avoid having to put any new document to the people to decide on.

This has led to talks on essentially maintaining the substance of the rejected constitution but presenting it differently so that it will only go through parliamentary ratification.

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