No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 11 Dec 2007
Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Cabinet, Lisbon, EC Meeting - Brussels and China Visit.
Morning Press Briefing from Tuesday 11 December 2007
The Prime Minister's Spokesman began by giving the assembled press a brief rundown of what was discussed at Cabinet. First of all there was a discussion on Europe, ahead of the EC meeting on Friday and there was also a discussion on where we were with Iraq and Afghanistan, following the visits to Afghanistan by the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister yesterday, ahead of the Prime Minister's statement to the House on Afghanistan tomorrow.
Asked who would be attending the EU Summit in Lisbon, the PMS said that he could confirm that the Prime Minister would be attending on Thursday. Due to the timing of the Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister would be unable to attend the actual signing ceremony, but he would attend some of the lunch with other leaders and he would sign the Treaty while he was there. The PMS added that the Prime Minister would be having a meeting with Prime Minister Socrates of Portugal and the PMS anticipated that there would also be meetings with other leaders ahead of the Council meeting on Friday.
Asked if the lack of the Prime Minister's presence at the signing ceremony would send out a certain signal, the PMS explained to journalists who had not been present for recent lobby briefings, that we had been round this course many times, but he was happy to go round it again, if that's what people wanted. As had been said before, there had been some uncertainty about the exact date as to when the Treaty would be signed. The PMS explained that the Liaison Committee had been agreed for the 13th December and we had done everything we could to accommodate the Prime Minister's travel plans to Lisbon. The Liaison Committee very kindly agreed to bring forward the timing of their hearing from 10am to 9am, as was announced last week, so that the Prime Minister could be in Lisbon for as much of the day as possible.
Asked if anyone would be signing on behalf of the Prime Minister, the PMS said that as he understood it, the signing ceremony would be attended by Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers, so David Miliband would be there. Both Foreign Ministers and Heads of Government would sign the treaty, so the Prime Minister would be signing it later on when he got there. Asked if David Miliband would be signing the Treaty at the ceremony, or whether the Prime Minister would be signing it later, the PMS said that he was not sure what the exact arrangements were for exactly when pen goes to paper, but both would be signing the treaty. That was the arrangement for this particular treaty.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be signing the treaty in public, the PMS said that no one should be in any doubt as to whether or not the Prime Minister would have signed the treaty.
Put that the scheduling had been a complete mess-up, the PMS said he wouldn't characterise it in that way. As he had said, there was a lot of uncertainty about exactly when the treaty would be signed. There had been some suggestion that it might have been signed at the EU Africa Summit at some point, but obviously attendance of that was conditional on the actions of Mr Mugabe, who was not the most predictable of people. There was also some possibility that it could have been signed at Brussels; so there were a number of balls that had to be juggled simultaneously, as well as having to arrange a time for the Liaison Committee. The most important thing, regardless of who signed it, who was at what ceremony, when or how it happened, was that this was a treaty negotiated by the Prime Minister and he thought it was a good treaty for Britain. We had secured our red lines and it would help streamline the functions of an enlarged Union. It was something the Prime Minister stood fully behind and took full responsibility for.
EC Meeting, Brussels
Asked if there were any key issues on the agenda for Brussels, the PMS replied that the key issue for the Government was that for the last couple of years there had been an introspective period in Europe and once the treaty had been signed the important thing was to move on to the issues that really mattered to individuals and businesses and also to Europe's standing in the world. The main focus was likely to be how to take forward the globalisation agenda within Europe and how Europe could best respond to that. The PMS added that it was anticipated that there would be some discussion on the live foreign policy issues at the moment, particularly Kosovo and Iran.
Asked for more details on the Prime Minister's visit to China in January, the PMS said that in terms of visits, everything was kept under review. The Prime Minister had said that he would visit China and India in January and more details would become available soon.