Brussels bets on Blair win to seal reform

European Union heads of government are planning a special summit on 23 May to put an emerging deal on a new European constitution to Tony Blair, on the assumption that Labour will win the British general election.

Plans for the summit, which is likely to be held in Maastricht, crystallised in the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in the Dutch coastal resort of Noordwijk yesterday.

The plans reflect the fact that Britain's partners have given up negotiating with the Conservatives on the future of Europe.

The Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring summed up their exasperation with Britain yesterday. "They are not in a position to demand anything because they are against everything" he said.

Among themselves, the 14 are slowly narrowing down a series of possible trade-offs on wide-ranging reforms to the Maastricht Treaty.

They are anxious to pin down Mr Blair at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to salvage stalled treaty-review talks and produce a new pact when they meet in Amsterdam three weeks later.

One diplomatic source said that the Tories, who have been blocking progress on all but the most marginal reform ideas, have been "written off" as serious partners since the election campaign kicked off.

The idea of a special summit with a new Labour Prime Minister - if he wins - is to give him a first-hand account of the nature of the deal which is being put together, the official said.

"Tony Blair will have to be shown the books," he said.

The Labour leader will be asked to address proposals which remain deadlocked after Noordwijk, but on which foreign ministers believe deals can be done over the coming weeks.

Labour has already indicated that it would maintain the Conservatives' opposition to the scrapping of national borders and to a future merger between the EU and Europe's defence body, the Western European Union.

Both issues pose difficulties for other member states, so Mr Blair does not risk isolation. He also has a good chance of securing an opt-out from moves to create a passport-free travel zone for EU citizens.

Deals on these issues could be facilitated if, as suggested, Labour withdraws the Government's demands for treaty changes to outlaw fish quota hopping and the use of safety and health provisions to legislate for conditions in the workplace.

EU diplomats believe that on virtually every other issue Labour are willing to negotiate. These include:

The Social Chapter opt-out. Labour have made it clear they will sign up to the Social Chapter but they will also be asked to agree to a legally binding chapter in the new treaty on employment. The latest Dutch proposals have been rejected out of hand by the Conservatives because they would give the European Commission a role in co-ordinating and initiating measures to tackle job creation. Britain could be ordered to take steps deemed necessary by Brussels to meet annual unemployment targets and would enjoy no right of veto.

Qualified Majority Voting. Labour are likely to back moves to scrap the national veto in a handful of areas, such as legislation on the environment or industry, but not on taxation or constitutional questions, which is not being proposed. Mr Blair will, however, strenuously resist proposals to extend majority voting to co-operation on judicial matters, immigration or foreign policy.

Size and powers of the European Commission. Britain would lose one of its two European Commissioners if proposals to cut the size of the 20 member executive to 15 win acceptance. This would mean that either Sir Leon Brittan or Neil Kinnock, Britain's two commissioners, would lose their seats.

France looks likely to be defeated over its demands for a Commission with a maximum of 10 members, but there is still the possibility of a two-tier structure in which some Commissioners would be given more influence than others. Mr Blair would have to decide whether to sacrifice one British commissioner, and whether to exact a price, in terms of more voting strength for Britain in the Council of Ministers. Labour will have to decide whether to back strengthening the powers of the European Commission president, which is on the cards.

Votes in the Council of Ministers. A British Labour government could be expected to line up with the other big nations in demanding a fairer re-weighting of votes in the law-making Council.

Taking population into account would seriously tilt the balance in favour of the bigger member states but is considered essential by France ahead of EU expansion to the East. The latest indications are that most governments will opt to postpone a decision on the Council votes until enlargement has taken place in the early years of the next millennium.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
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 - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam