The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) summarised the Cabinet’s discussion on Europe. He said that there was a good conversation on what had happened the previous week and next steps. Clearly there were differences of view in the Coalition, but there was also a lot of common ground, particularly around the need to push ahead with the single market and for the Eurozone to address the debt crisis. He added that the Government would be engaging constructively in the discussion happening across Europe to implement the agreement.
Asked if the Liberal Democrats could have had more of a role in the negotiations, the PMS said that they agreed the negotiating strategy but that there was only one seat in the room.
Asked at what stage the Prime Minister (PM) consulted the DPM before he used the veto, the PMS said there was an agreed negotiating strategy that the PM had spoken about in PMQs, which included the possibility of an agreement below the level of 27.
Asked if the use of EU institutions was discussed at Cabinet, the PMS said there was some discussion, but that it didn’t move things on from what the PM had said in his statement to Parliament.
Asked if the PM had any concerns that he wasn’t adequately briefed, the PMS said that he did not.
Asked for the PM’s view on President Sarkozy’s opinion that there were now two Europes, the PMS said that the PM set out his views in detail in his statement.
Asked if the Cabinet discussed the mechanics of future negotiations, the PMS said that there was some discussion of the process as there would be future discussions on this issue.
Asked if the Liberal Democrats would have a greater role in the discussions in the future, the PMS said they already had a role. There was an agreed negotiating strategy. The Liberal Democrats were part of the diplomatic efforts - the DPM had spoken to some of his counterparts ahead of the Council.
Asked if it was true that Kim Darroch only had 48 hours notice of our position, the PMS said that the Franco/German proposals didn’t arrive until Wednesday afternoon and that, although we knew the issues which would be under discussion, things didn’t converge until just before the summit. There wasn’t a firm proposal on the table until the day before.
Asked how the DPM was kept informed if things were changing so last minute, the PMS said that the agreed negotiating strategy included the different possible outcomes, some of which the PM went through at PMQs the day before. These options included an outcome with agreement below the level of 27.
Asked if the PM would go back to the negotiating table if other European countries changed their minds, the PMS said that the PM talked about this in his statement yesterday. Other countries had expressed their preference to see this agreement brought into European Law, and the PM had said his position hadn’t changed. The PMS added that our demands were reasonable and we were seeking to provide clarity on the single market and financial services.
National Security Council
Asked for more details on the National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Afghanistan, the PMS said that he would give a read out after the meeting. This was an opportunity for Ministers to take stock of progress. We had an objective to protect our national security and help the Afghans take control of theirs. The NSC was the forum for discussing those issues and today they were having an in depth discussion about how things were progressing with our Ambassador in Afghanistan.
Asked if they would be looking at options, the PMS said that there was a clear, internationally agreed strategy for drawing down troops. You would expect Ministers to review the progress and take stock from time to time.
Asked about the Times poll on a referendum in Scotland the PMS said that the Government’s position had not changed.