Cameron under pressure as Czechs sign EU treaty

Author: By Geoff Meade, Press Association

Mr Klaus completed the process today by formally signing the treaty – ushering
the EU’s new “rule book” into force at the end of a tortuous
ratification process.

Earlier Mr Cameron urged Mr Klaus to keep on blocking ratification, but found
himself isolated when the Czech leader put aside his own dislike of the
treaty and his objections to a court ruling and signed.

Mr Cameron will set out his plans tomorrow.

Mr Cameron’s hopes that Mr Klaus would hold out against the treaty long enough
for an incoming Tory government next year to stage a UK referendum were
dashed when the Czech president relented and signed much quicker than
expected.

Czech officials said he did so despite misgivings about a Czech constitutional
court ruling against a claim that the treaty was a recipe for a superstate
and incompatible with the Czech constitution.

Mr Klaus almost immediately bowed to mounting pressure to give up his efforts
to delay the treaty further.

But with Tory Eurosceptics still demanding a referendum, Mr Cameron insisted
he had done his best and was still fighting.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said this morning that the
Czech president should seek no further delays.

And Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “It’s now a matter for President Klaus.
I hope that Europe can now set aside issues of constitutional debate.”

He said the EU has undergone “years of institutional debate” and said it was
now important that it moved on to tackling other issues: “Co-operation with
our European partners is going to be absolutely vital to the prosperity of
British people.”

But Mr Cameron made clear there will be further political battles ahead over
Europe under a Tory government:

Asked on London’s LBC Radio whether he had let voters down over the promise of
a referendum, he replied: “No, I haven’t and I won’t.

“I believe we should have a referendum and we’ve campaigned for it, we’ve
fought for it, we’ve put it up front and centre at election campaign after
election campaign, we’ve challenged the Prime Minister about his broken
promise in the Commons, we’ve tried to persuade other European countries not
to sign the treaty because we think the British people should be allowed a
referendum.

“But if the treaty is signed, if it is implemented, if it is put in place by
all 27 countries, then clearly the situation will have changed and we’ll
have to address that changed situation. It won’t be a treaty any more, it
will be part of European law.

“Now, that looks like that is going to happen, I’m very disappointed about
that.”

He added: “I suspect now the time is running out and we will have to say
‘Right, OK. a new set of circumstances exists and we’ll have to address
ourselves to them’ and I’ll be doing that probably later this week.”

Europe Minister Chris Bryant said Mr Cameron would now have to abandon his
“cast iron guarantee” that a Conservative government would hold a referendum
on the treaty.

He said: “I think that yet again David Cameron is trying to fudge the issue,
he is trying to fib to the British people. Any guarantees that he offers
this week will not be worth the press release paper they are written on.”

Liberal Democrat spokesman Edward Davey said: “David Cameron will be terrified
of betraying the Eurosceptic wing of his party, but he must come clean on
where he now stands.

“This dithering and evasion shows he is now the heir to Brown more than the
heir to Blair.

“If he can’t make his position clear on an issue as crucial as Europe, he is
not fit for government.”

The Prime Minister said in a statement: “I welcome President Klaus’s decision
to sign the Lisbon Treaty, thereby completing the process of ratification in
the Czech Republic.

“President Klaus’s decision marks an important and historic step for all of
Europe.

“Today is a day when Europe looks forward, when it sets aside years of debate
on its institutions and moves to take strong and collective action on the
issues that matter most to European citizens: security; climate change;
jobs; and growth.”

Foreign Secretary David Miliband accused Mr Cameron of taking a “false and
dangerous” stance on the treaty that risked Britain’s national interests.

“So much for David Cameron’s cast-iron guarantee to hold a referendum on the
Lisbon Treaty,” he said.

“As British Foreign Secretary, I would welcome Mr Cameron’s U-turn because
this treaty is good for Britain and for the British people.

“But he is still not being honest with people.

“I gather that he is about to give another cast-iron guarantee that he can’t
and won’t honour, this time on the repatriation of key competencies from the
EU that affect British people such as social policy.

“In practice, the EU Social Chapter has delivered important rights for British
workers, such as paid leave, anti-discrimination laws and maternity leave.

“The fact is, you can’t simply opt out of treaty obligations because to do so
you need the agreement of the 26 other member states.

“The concessions David Cameron would have to offer would be costly and weaken
Britain considerably. And if in the end the Tories failed to get such an
agreement but remained committed to such repatriations, a Conservative
Britain would have to withdraw from the EU.

“David Cameron’s position on Europe is false and dangerous. He is willing to
risk Britain’s standing and the rights of British people because he is still
not prepared to stand up to the right of his own party.”

But Lorraine Mullally, director of Open Europe, campaigning for radical EU
change, said: “The Conservatives must not now follow Labour and the Lib Dems
and ditch the promise to consult the people.

“The public are crying out for a vote on the EU, and after the pantomime put
on by Labour and the Lib Dems on the referendum issue, continuing to deny
people a say is simply not a credible option.”

She added: “If there is not going to be a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, the
Conservatives must promise a referendum on an EU reform package.

“We can then have a constructive debate about what goes in that reform package
– be it opt-outs from social and employment legislation, a repatriation of
regional policy, or a complete renegotiation of the EU budget.

“A ‘manifesto mandate’ for these things is simply not enough – people want to
have the long overdue say, and the Conservatives are in a position to offer
it to them.”

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: “Cameron could, of course,
answer his critics by offering us a referendum on our relationship with the
EU.

“He won’t because he is part of the elite and he is frightened that the people
of Great Britain would chose freedom.

“Instead he will delusionally promise to fight further treaties with
constitutional implications – there won’t be any and he knows it, the Lisbon
Treaty sees to that.

“He will promise to fight to repatriate certain powers, but he knows that to
succeed he would have to persuade all 26 other leaders. It won’t happen.

“He will promise anything to keep his own party onside, but knows he will be
unable to deliver a thing.”

It is now expected that a special meeting of the European Council will be
called by current president Sweden within a couple of weeks to discuss the
appointment of a permanent president and high representative for foreign
affairs, as well as a new European Commission.

Mr Brown’s spokesman said the Prime Minister had not yet heard from Tony Blair
whether he intends to throw his hat into the ring for the presidency in the
light of Mr Klaus’s signature.

“If Mr Blair decides that he wishes to be a candidate for the role as it is
delineated following ratification, the Prime Minister will be very
supportive of his candidacy,” said the spokesman.

Mr Brown has not thrown his weight behind any candidate for the high
representative job, but has made clear that Foreign Secretary David Miliband
will not be putting himself forward for the role, said the spokesman.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said a referendum in some form remained “essential” and
any failure to promise one would undermine British democracy.

“A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty might no longer be the most logical option:
it’s hardly for us to tell the Belgians or the Slovenes what institutions
they should work under,” he wrote on his blog.

“But a referendum on European integration – ideally on the broad repatriation
of powers – is essential.”

He went on: “David Cameron says he will set out his policy tomorrow. But this
is much bigger than any one party.

“Indeed, it is bigger than Europe. What is at stake is the standing of our
representative institutions.

“Out of 646 MPs at Westminster, 638 promised us a referendum. What would it
say about British democracy if we didn’t get one?”

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