Amsterdam summit: Blair forced to sacrifice powers on immigration

Tony Blair will today proclaim success in maintaining control over Britain's borders. But the Prime Minister will play down his failure to prevent the rest of Europe adopting major new powers over immigration and asylum.

To the new Labour government, as to the Conservatives, the battle to keep control over Britain borders has been one of the most crucial in the European debate.

Mr Blair can rightly argue that he has succeeded where his predecessors failed in securing legally binding guarantees that Britain's will not have to surrender its frontier checks, as part of the implementation of "border free Europe."

The deal will be presented to today as one sign that Labour's new "co- operative" approach to EU negotiation is paying off. However, weighed against his own original negotiating priorities, Mr Blair has had to pay a price for his success, and it is a price which could be a heavy one for his government to pay in the not so distant future.

Like the Conservatives, Labour originally demanded far more in the immigration debate than the right to maintain national frontier controls.

Britain was determined to stop other member states going ahead with their own plans to pool powers in areas of immigration and asylum. The main reason for the opposition was the knowledge that, as so often in the past, Britain was likely to be dragged in to the same common policies in the future.

In particular, the Government wanted to stop the new integration taking place within the so-called "first pillar", which is the hard-core of EU decision-making, and allows the European Commission, parliament and Court of Justice widespread powers.

Though Britain would have its "opt out" in these areas, the Government was strongly opposed to such a new swathe of integration and threatened to veto the move.

If other countries were determined to push ahead by pooling sovereignty in these areas Britain would have preferred it to happen only as a loose inter governmental arrangement.

However, creating an area of "freedom justice and security" was a main priority for other member states. Along with lifting internal borders the other Europeans want to put in place a common ring fence around the EU's external borders and harmonise their common internal security.

The other countries have won agreement to do this, and Britain has made no threat to veto, knowing this would be out of tune with its new Euro- friendly policy.

As a result, the new Amsterdam Treaty, to be finalised today, will lead to the far-reaching transfer to the European Union's first pillar institutions of vast powers over policies on immigration, visas, rights of third country nationals, asylum policy and reception of refugees.

Judicial co-operation on civil matters is also to become integrated. Meanwhile police cooperation is to be boosted under cooperation procedures, but may well move to the first pillar later.

Furthermore, after a transfer period of five years, decisions taken on many of the questions involved will be qualified majority vote.

Of all the elements of the new treaty the transfer of power to Brussels in these areas is by far the most significant. The new integration is not just a matter of institutional readjustment, or setting priorities for the future, it involves practical steps to formulate policy on some of the most sensitive issues.

The Government knows that if the EU's new common policies on immigration and asylum, combined with their attempts to secure greater police and justice cooperation, prove successful, Britain will probably inevitably be drawn in.

The deal over borders

What Europe will today grant to Britain on borders.

Britain is to receive a "legally binding" guarantee that it can maintain its frontier checks. There can be no threat, now or in the future, to Britain's sovereign control over its border. The guarantee will be firm enough to rule out any chance of any country challenging Britain's rights over borders in the European Court of Justice.

In addition, Britain maintains the right to make its own immigration and asylum policy and to enforce its own police and customs checks.

The Government has also won the right to "opt in" to European policies on immigration, asylum and police co-operation, should it wish to do so.

The agreement is therefore not officially described by a government spokesman as an "opt-out" but a right to "opt in."

What new power-sharing Europe's partners have agreed among themselves.

Other member states, except Ireland (which is with Britain on this) and Denmark (which also wants to keep sovereignty in this area) other member states intend to give up their sole sovereignity over immigration and asylum and allow Europe's institutions oversee a single policy.

Within a period of five years, the other member states intend to end all frontier checks between member states to create what they are calling an "area of freedom justice and security". This process has already been started by some member states under the so-called Schengen agreement.

At the same time, the countries will agree common rules on which third- country nationals should be accepted into their states as immigrants or refu-gees. They will agree on standards for treating immigrants and asylum- seekers and on "burden- sharing", whereby each state accepts it must take a fair number. The European Commission will take on new powers to issue proposals and laws in this area, and the European Court of Justice will oversee implementation.

After five years, the joint decisions will be taken by qualified majority vote, under the terms of the draft treaty text, to be finalised today.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

£250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

Technical Support Engineer - Central London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Central London...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil