Commission President José Manuel Barroso has urged the UK to give its backing on the Reform Treaty, in time for the next Summit on 18-19 October, but avoided a clear positioning on the UK referendum question.
Speaking to UK Liberal Democrats in Brighton on 17 September 2007, Barroso argued the need for institutional reform in order to ensure “a Europe of results” being able to deliver. “I strongly believe that the Reform Treaty is good for Europe, and good for Britain,” he said.
In recent weeks, British Conservatives have increased pressure on the Labour government to hold a referendum on the new Treaty, arguing that it was “the Constitution in disguise”. The Liberal Democrat camp, however, does not support calls for a public consultation.
The Commission president underlined that the Treaty “including the hard-fought UK red lines” was not the same as the Constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. However, Barroso did not explicitly speak out against a UK referendum, saying that “the how of ratification” was a matter for “each member state to decide”.
Meanwhile, the Parliament is pushing for its own red lines. The three MEPs representing the European assembly at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) have urged that unresolved political issues be tackled, such as the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, on which the UK and Poland have demanded an opt-out. The MEPs also want to see the Charter included in the text, but are also concerned about references to EU citizenship in the text and UK opt-outs cooperation on justice matters.
Referring to UK “resistance”, Socialist MEP Enrique Barón Crespo said: “We do not want exceptions from the Charter to become irreversible and create two categories of Europeans.” Liberal MEP Andrew Duff stated: “There are still some serious political problems to be resolved, notably on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UK opt-outs on justice and home affairs and the Schengen border system.”
Duff also mentioned the “Polish problem on Council decision-making” as an issue that needed to be resolved. Poland seeks to include the so-called Ioannina compromise, which allows a member state to block a decision for up to two years, in the Treaty text.
MEPs also expressed worries that early elections, to be held in Poland on 21 October could put an agreement by EU leaders at risk. Barón Crespo urged: “The Polish people need to solve the existing dichotomy between a pro-European population and a government that is not pro-European.”