EU Referendum

MEPs warn PM they may block deal after referendum: Parliament could ‘wreak havoc’ by refusing to rubber stamp agreement following the vote

  • German socialist Martin Schulz issued blunt warning to David Cameron 
  • Elements of reform package need EU parliament’s approval after vote
  • These include curbs to migrant benefits and child benefit restrictions
  • For the latest news on the EU referendum visit

David Cameron’s claim that his EU deal will be legally binding was torpedoed yesterday after the president of the European Parliament told him there was ‘no guarantee’ MEPs would not block it after the referendum.

German socialist Martin Schulz issued the blunt warning to the Prime Minister when he travelled to Brussels to plead with MEPs not to wreck the proposed deal.

Mr Schulz said the parliament could not be expected to rubber stamp the agreement, even if it is backed by British voters in a referendum.

Torpedo: German socialist Martin Schulz (right) issued the blunt warning to Prime Minister David Cameron (left, pictured yesterday) when he travelled to Brussels to plead with MEPs not to wreck the proposed deal

And one MEP even warned the parliament would ‘wreak havoc’ with the deal.

Key elements of the reform package, including curbs to migrant benefits and restrictions on child benefit being sent abroad, need the approval of the EU parliament after the referendum.

Downing Street last night said it remained optimistic that MEPs would ultimately fall in line with their national governments in supporting the deal.

A spokesman said the leaders of the three largest groups in the parliament had ‘made clear their support’ in private.

But aides voiced frustration at the parliament’s refusal to give a public guarantee, which risks undermining Mr Cameron’s claim that the deal is legally watertight.

The row came as European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said a British exit from the EU was not an option and that bureaucrats in Brussels were not even entertaining the idea.

Talks: Mr Schulz (right), and members of the European Parliament delegated to negotiate on UK deal, welcome Mr Cameron (left) at the European Union Parliament in Brussels yesterday

‘If I would say now that we have a plan B, this would indicate a kind of willingness of the Commission to envisage seriously that Britain could leave the European Union,’ he said.

‘We don’t have a plan B, we have a plan A. Britain will stay in the European Union as a constructive and active member of the Union.’

On a difficult day for Mr Cameron in Brussels, MEPs rebuffed his pleas for them to pass a renegotiation deal without making any changes after it is agreed by EU leaders later this week.

Mr Cameron asked the heads of the four biggest groups in the European Parliament to support a declaration that would welcome the deal and include a pledge to do as much as they could get make sure it was passed by MEPs.

Downing Street believes a public promise – similar to ‘The Vow’ made by the main Westminster party leaders in the days before the Scottish independence referendum – would reassure British voters.

But Mr Schulz yesterday said that it would not be possible to ‘pre-empt the result’ in the European Parliament.

‘I can’t give a guarantee for the outcome of future legislation,’ he said. ‘Nevertheless it is quite understandable that the Prime Minister asked the European Parliament to co-operate as intensively as possible, that was the assurance I gave to the Prime Minister, that we will do the utmost to find a fair deal.’

Asked whether an agreement struck at the European Council summit on Thursday and Friday would be ‘legally binding’ and the European Parliament would enact the necessary changes, Mr Schulz said that once a deal is struck ‘there will be a very constructive debate’ among MEPs.

‘But to be quite clear: no government can go to a parliament and say, “this is our proposal, can you give a guarantee about the result?” This is, in democracy, not possible,’ he added.

One European Parliament official yesterday warned that the 751 MEPs can be ‘unpredictable’ and it could become like ‘monkeys with guns’ when they come to introduce the legislation for Mr Cameron’s package of measures.

Hungarian MEP Gyorgy Schopflin warned there was a ‘distinct possibility’ they could cause problems for the deal.

Asked if MEPs could ‘wreak havoc’ with it, he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: ‘I think that’s a distinct possibility. That depends on the shape and concept of the deal – we won’t know this until the early hours of Friday morning.

‘But I think the European Parliament will obviously look at it very closely and there will be some groups – I suspect the Greens – who will be very hostile indeed, unless it is pointing towards more integration, which I don’t see happening.’

We don’t have a plan B, we have a plan A. Britain will stay in the European Union as a constructive and active member of the Union
Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president

A British source said last night the MEPs just wanted their ‘moment in the sun’ by threatening to wreck the deal and that Mr Cameron was trying to placate them: ‘You’ve got to pay homage. Just play the game. Show them the reverence they think they deserve.’

Mr Cameron’s day in Brussels did not start well when he was more than half an hour late for a meeting with Mr Schulz.

Officials at the parliament had also mistakenly flown the Union flag outside the building upside down.

The gaffe is particularly embarrassing as the flag is traditionally flown the wrong way up by ships as a distress signal.

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