Saturday, June 23, 2007

Treaty 'hands swathes of power to Brussels'

Tony Blair emerged from tense negotiations today claiming to have secured a new European treaty which protects Britain’s interests but which opponents say hands vast swathes of power to Brussels.

The Prime Minister won a legal exemption from a new Charter of Fundamental Rights, one of four "red lines" fought over during days of acrimonious negotiations.

But he surrendered Britain’s right to veto EU decisions in more than 40 other areas of policy including energy, tourism, space policy, transport, civil protection and migration.

The visibly-tired Prime Minister said the most important thing about the deal was that it allowed European nations to focus on the issues that concerned their citizens: "The truth is we’ve been arguing now for many years about the constitutional question.

"This deal gives us a chance to move on. It was important to get out of this bind into which we’d got with the constitutional treaty: to go back to making simple changes in our rules that allow us to operate more effectively now we are in a large European Union."

The outgoing Prime Minister, who hands over to Gordon Brown on Wednesday, said his work on Europe was a key part of his legacy.

He told reporters as the negotiations came to an end shortly before 4am (GMT): "My position throughout the course of my time as Prime Minister has been to get out of this endless destructive negativity and realise that actually Britain has a lot to offer Europe and Europe has a lot to offer Britain."

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