British deal on Europe ‘legally binding ’, says Tusk

Assertion comes amid fears European Court of Justice could strike down accord

The new settlement deal for Britain agreed ahead of a June referendum on Britain's EU membership is "legally binding and irreversible" and "cannot be annulled by the European Court of Justice", the president of the European Council Donald Tusk said on Wednesday.

Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, the man who negotiated the deal on behalf of the 28 member states also confirmed that "if the majority votes to leave, that is what will happen".

"The European Union will respect the opinion of the British people. If the majority votes to leave that is what will happen.

"It will change Europe forever. It will be a change for the worse," he said, as he updated MEPs on the outcome of the February 18th and 19th EU summit.


His assertion the British deal is legally binding emerged as controversy raged between the Remain and Leave campaigns in Britain about whether the European Court of Justice could strike down the British agreement reached on Friday in Brussels.

Potential challenge

Downing Street refuted claims by leading “Leave” campaigner

Michael Gove

that the ECJ could challenge British prime minister David Cameron’s deal.

Mr Tusk's view was echoed by Manfred Weber, the German head of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), who said there would be no "follow-up negotiation" if Britain chose to leave the European Union.

“The agreement on the table is the agreement. This is the agreement the EPP will support.

British people

“There will be no follow-up negotiations. This debate is now up to the British people.”

As Mr Tusk urged the European Parliament to pass the secondary legislation that will be needed to implement the deal if Britain chooses to remain in the EU on June 23rd, there were signs the socialist bloc in the parliament could block elements of the deal.

Gianni Pittella, the head of the parliament's second-largest political group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) warned that he had concerns over the "social dimension" of the settlement for Britain, particularly the emergency brake.

“Imagine two young people, Europeans, same job, same work – there is a danger one would have less rights than the other. That is discrimination. I hope this will be very much denied by the commission in the proposals after the referendum.”

Remain vote

While Conservative MEP Ashley Fox confirmed that he would back his party leader in endorsing a Remain vote in the referendum, he declined to clarify whether the Conservative Party's 20 MEPs, including Syed Kamall who leads the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) in the European Parliament, would row behind Mr Cameron.

As the DUP's Diane Dodds denounced the agreement secured by Mr Cameron as a "charade" and called on the people of Northern Ireland to vote to leave the EU, Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness intervened to ask if the Northern Irish MEP acknowledged the work done by the EU in the Northern Irish peace process.

“As a neighbour of yours on the island of Ireland, we do have to have a say and our voices have to be heard,” Ms McGuinness said.

Peace funds

Ms Dodds says that she did acknowledge the role the European Parliament and EU institutions had played in making peace funds available, though she cited a report by Open Europe which claimed that for every £1

Northern Ireland

had received in EU, it cost £1.58.

“What we need in Northern Ireland is a genuine and honest debate and not scaremongering tactics . . . that threaten us with all kinds of things in Northern Ireland if we don’t toe the European line.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent