David Cameron’s package of EU reforms cannot be made legally binding before the British public vote on it, the president of the European Parliament has said.
Martin Schulz said the European Parliament could amend any deal done at today’s summit and would not necessarily even rubber-stamp it at all.
“No government can go to a parliament and ask for a guarantee about the result,” the German politician said.
“This is a democracy. Once the frame is agreed, we will start the legislative process. This is not a veto.”
The president’s statement means that Britain may not get the deal agreed by Mr Cameron if it ultimately votes to stay in the EU.
Mr Schulz, from the parliament’s centre-left Socialist grouping, however pledged that MEPs would be “constructive”, “fair”, and bring clarity to the deal.
The warning is a blow for Mr Cameron, who had explicitly earlier this month that the EU deal would be legally binding.
“If it is agreed, it will be agreed as a legally binding treaty deposited at the United Nations,” he said on 6 February.
“It would only be reversible if all 28 countries, including Britain, agreed to reverse it.”
The agreement Mr Cameron refers to however appears to include the welfare deal being passed by the European Parliament – which would come after the EU referendum.
The president also warned that the European Parliament would demand that there was no treaty change as a result of the deal.
The plebiscite is currently expected in June, though officially it will be held any time before the end of 2017.
British eurosceptic campaigners seized on Mr Schulz’s comments.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
“The President of the European Parliament is simply confirming what Leave.EU has said all along: David Cameron's deal is not binding without a new treaty that the European Court in Strasbourg has to adhere to,” Liz Bilney, chief executive of Leave.EU said.
The PM today faces crunch talks in Brussels where he will have to get the 28 EU heads of government to agree to the draft package, which was drawn up by European Council president Donald Tusk.
Mr Cameron faces several hurdles – including significant opposition from eastern European countries like Poland whose citizens could lose out under the plan.
Other, smaller, countries – like Malta and Luxembourg – have said they will not tolerate a deal applied unevenly across other countries, adding a further constraint to negotiations.
Supportive countries like Ireland, France, and Germany are expected to try and broker a deal between Britain and those critical of the plan.
Despite the hoops Mr Cameron has to jump through to secure the changes, they have so far impressed few in the UK. Eurosceptic MPs in Mr Cameron’s own party described the plans as “thin gruel” and “watered down”, while polls show the public believe the deal is overwhelmingly “bad for Britain”.
The latest ComRes poll for ITV News showed a narrowing of the referendum race – with the lead for the “remain” camp down from 18 points in January to just eight this week.Reuse content