Thinktank: Cameron needs to push for revision of Lisbon treaty before EU vote

David Cameron

David Cameron will have to persuade fellow European Union leaders to agree to a major revision of the Lisbon treaty to underpin his key changes before an EU membership referendum is held, the leading pro-reform thinktank Open Europe has said.

In a challenge to No 10, which is hoping to include the changes in a postdated protocol to be added at the time of the next treaty revision, Open Europe said the prime minister would be in a difficult position “without some concrete changes”.

Open Europe, whose former director Mats Persson has moved to Downing Street to advise Cameron on EU renegotiations, issued the warning as it released its own 11-point plan for reform.

The thinktank echoed the prime minister’s unofficial shopping list, which includes demands for:

  • EU migrants to be banned from claiming in-work benefits for four years.
  • Protections for non-eurozone countries to ensure they cannot be outvoted in the EU’s single market by eurozone countries.
  • National parliaments to be given the right to club together to block EU legislation.
  • Britain to be given an opt-out from the EU’s historic commitment to create an “ever closer union” of the peoples of Europe.

Open Europe went further and called for a return of national vetoes on matters relating to justice and home affairs. This has not been on the prime minister’s list because Britain has recently opted out of a series of measures in this area.

Stephen Booth, Open Europe’s co-director, said Cameron could not rely on a postdated protocol and would have to secure full-scale treaty change to underpin his plans for protections in the single market and for restrictions on access to benefits before the referendum.

Downing Street hopes to follow the example of Denmark, which secured a protocol to address the concerns of voters after they rejected the Maastricht treaty in a referendum in 1992. The treaty was passed in a second referendum in Denmark after the protocol was agreed by EU leaders and then attached to the treaty establishing the European Community.

Booth said: “We are of the view that if you wanted to do all the things we are talking about here, and really reaching this new settlement, that will require treaty change at some point. The option of a postdated treaty change [via a protocol] is something that can also be considered, the postdated Danish type solution.

“However, having said that, David Cameron will be in a very difficult position if he goes into the referendum campaign without some concrete changes in his hands that he can put to the electorate. Issues around migrants’ welfare are something that have to be resolved by the time of the referendum.”

Booth added: “The single market areas, the migrants’ benefits areas – these are things that there has to be movement on before the referendum. It has to be legally pretty watertight before the referendum – changes in legislation or to the treaty. If you had a protocol that agreed the migrants’ benefits issue – that would be fine as long as it is in force. But some of the protocol options, the Danish solution, set the groundwork for future treaties that became the established Danish position.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 8th June 2015 22.38 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010