UK’s Europe minister sets out EU renegotiation plans

David Lidington briefs Ministers in Dublin ahead of Kenny-Cameron talks in London

British minister for Europe David Lidington: set out Britain’s preliminary plans for renegotiation of EU membership. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

British minister for Europe David Lidington: set out Britain’s preliminary plans for renegotiation of EU membership. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

 

Britain’s Europe minister, David Lidington, travelled to Dublin on Tuesday for discussions on Britain’s planned renegotiation of EU membership, ahead of a bilateral meeting between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron scheduled for June 18th in London.

Mr Lidington set out Britain’s preliminary plans for renegotiation during meetings with Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in Dublin, the first official meetings at ministerial level between the two countries since the Conservative Party’s election victory.

New agenda

Among the issues raised by Ms Fitzgerald during the meeting was Ireland’s concerns about British plans to replace the UK human rights act with a Bill of rights, and its implications for the Belfast Agreement. The issue of migration and free movement of people – a key focus for Britain as it seeks to renegotiate its relationship with Brussels – was also raised during the meeting between the Minister for Justice and Mr Lidington, who, along with chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne and foreign secretary Philip Hammond, will play a key role in Britain’s renegotiation talks in the coming months.

Speaking following the meeting with his British counterpart, Mr Murphy said that Ireland would follow its own national interests in discussions with the EU, but acknowledged that Ireland and Britain shared similar views in many aspects of EU policy, such as trade, financial regulation and the digital economy.

“We’re resolute on maintaining the principle of free movement of people, for example. It’s a core pillar of the European Union, but like any other specific proposal that might be put on the table we wait to see what the proposals are,” Mr Murphy said.

It is understood that British officials are pushing for British renegotiation to be put on the official agenda of the next leaders’ summit, on June 25th and 26th, which is already expected to deal with a number of pressing issues including euro zone governance, migration and, possibly, developments in Greece.

Following his meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday evening at Chequers, Mr Cameron continues his diplomatic offensive on Thursday and Friday with visits to a number of European capitals.

Reforms

Mark RutteEwa KopaczAngela Merkel

Britain’s hopes of securing reforms through a renegotiation of EU treaties were dealt a blow this week with the emergence of a document purporting to show France and Germany’s plans for further euro zone integration without the need for treaty change.

French daily Le Monde reported that a document discussed on the margins of last week’s Eastern Partnership summit envisages further euro zone integration to be “developed in the framework of the current treaties in the years ahead”.

The Conservative Party had hoped that Britain’s requests for reforms of the EU could have piggy-backed on a reopening of the EU treaties.

A European Commission spokesman said the contribution of France and Germany to the debate on further euro zone integration was “useful and relevant”.