Still Little Progress on Constitutional Treaty
Byline: Jon Smith and Geoff Meade
Prime Minister Tony Blair last night held out little hope that EU leaders could come to a swift conclusion on Europe's controversial constitutional treaty.
He predicted the Brussels summit of leaders of the 15 existing and ten future members of the EU 'may well' not reach agreement on complex arrangements designed to ensure the future smooth working of the organisation.
Mr Blair, speaking just as the marathon negotiations were getting under way, stressed: 'It is important for us, but it's important to get the right agreement, notsimply any agreement.'
He went on: 'The reason why it's important to try to get an agreement -it may well not be possible -but the reason it's important to try is that Europe is to expand to 25 countries.
'It's going to be the biggest economic market in the world and Britain's vital interests are concerned with making sure Europe works effectively.'
Mr Blair made clear the main stumbling block in the talks ahead was not Britain's 'red lines' but the row between Spain and Poland over voting strengths in EU decision-making.
Both countries are anxious to keep the generous voting deal they were given three years ago, but now the French and Germans fear Madrid and Warsaw have more power than their size merits. Mr Blair said: 'I think it's important we find an arrangement that satisfies the basic interests of all the countries engaged in the negotiation.
'We can live with what we agreed a few years ago, but what's important is to see if we can get an agreement that satisfies the interests of all countries, but it is going to be tough. …