Asked about the Europe meetings and the cancellation of the meeting of economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN), the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there had been a debate as to whether there should be an ECOFIN before the Eurozone summit, or if it should come at a later point. He now understood that the Presidency had decided not to have an ECOFIN tomorrow, although it was possible that it would meet at a later stage. They would use the conclusions of the previous ECOFIN meeting to inform the Leaders’ discussions.
Asked if there was a reason for the cancellation of ECOFIN, the PMS said that there would be further discussions and meetings on this issue, but that the number and order of meetings was less important than getting a comprehensive solution.
Asked if there would be a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers at the summit, the PMS said he wasn’t aware of one, but that it was a possibility that the finance ministers could prepare and inform the Eurozone summit.
Asked what the Prime Minister (PM) wanted to come out of the summit, the PMS said that the Government wanted a comprehensive solution to deal with the Eurozone’s difficulties.
Asked about the likelihood of a solution at the meeting, the PMS said that it was not good practice to make prediction ahead of meetings. He said that progress had been made over the weekend but there was more to do on these difficult issues, and the Government would be doing everything it could to support the process and press for a solution.
Asked if the PM would remain in the country if the summit went on until Thursday, the PMS said that the plan was still to leave for Australia after the meetings on Wednesday.
Asked for more details on the Foreign office work on the repatriation of powers, the PMS said that the journalist should direct his question to the Foreign Office.
Asked what the PM could offer to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis, the PMS said that fundamentally these were issues for the Eurozone, but that the PM had been clear about what was necessary. Asked for further details, the PMS said that Eurozone countries needed to put in place credible fiscal plans for reducing their debts. We also needed to see a comprehensive package with three elements; bank recapitalisation, a firewall or bailout fund, and a credible resolution to Greece’s debt problems.
Asked if the PM spoke for the Government or the Conservative Party on Europe, the PMS said that the PM had been very clear in his statement to the House the day before. The PM had said that there were three things that members of his party had fought for at the last election: stopping the passage of further powers to the EU, instituting a referendum lock and bringing back powers to Westminster. The PM was explicit that all three issues remained Conservative Party policy.
Asked to clarify what happened to the two PPS’s, if they had resigned or been sacked, the PMS said that the position had been made clear to them in advance of the vote. Voting against the Government and the three line whip would be incompatible with remaining in place as a member of the Government.
Asked if the PM had spoken to them personally, the PMS said that he didn’t think he had today.