British EU power settlement 'ruled out for the foreseeable future'
David Cameron has been warned that there might be no chance for him to demand the return of powers from the European Union to Britain in the foreseeable future.
The Prime Minister has been told by other European leaders and senior EU officials that the eurozone can fix itself under Europe's existing Lisbon Treaty.
Using the current EU treaty to shore up Europe's single currency would rule out any opportunity for Mr Cameron to ask for a new settlement bringing powers back to Britain in return for his support for deeper eurozone integration.
In the next fortnight, he is expected to deliver a speech on Europe with a promise to renegotiate Britain's EU membership and then to offer voters a referendum on the new terms in 2015.
But Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council or summits of EU leaders, today said that the question would not arise until late 2014 and, even then, there was no consensus that treaty change would be needed in the first place.
"The only possibility of having treaty changes, according to all who are in favour, is after European elections in 2014," he said.
"At this stage of the debate we don't need as much treaty change as people think, actually we can deliver on deepening of economic and monetary union within the treaties. For those ideas for where treaty change is needed there is simply no consensus. So the possibility of having treaty changes in the near future, or present, are not very high."
Even if the EU agrees to consider treaty change in late 2014 then negotiations would take at least 18 months pushing any new settlement between the UK and EU back into 2016, well after the next British general election.
Mr Van Rompuy's comments, made in Dublin as Ireland takes over the EU's six month rotating presidency, were echoed by Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister, who also ruled out any treaty change at British request.
"I don't see a situation where you are going to be reopening the treaties for change in the near future," he said.
"It may well be that treaty change might come for a variety of reasons further down the road. But as of now I don't see an issue of opening a treaty change for any individual country because you open the floodgates."
"We would see it as being disastrous were a country like Britain to leave the union. Clearly the British government will form their own view."
The comments from the EU's most senior official and a national European leader contradict Mr Cameron's claim that deeper integration in the eurozone will need treaty change giving Britain leverage to ask for powers to "repatriated" from Brussels to Westminster.
"The countries of the euro, they've got to change to make their currency work - the need to integrate more, they need to make changes to all their systems more," he said on Sunday.
"What that means is they are changing the nature of the organisation to which we belong. And so we are perfectly entitled, and not just entitled but actually enabled because they need changes to ask for changes ourselves."
Bruno Waterfield, Telegraph online here
Last Updated (Tuesday, 15 January 2013 11:15)