DAVID Cameron has pledged that he will do “everything possible” to stop signatories of a new treaty from using the EU’s institutions go behind the UK’s back to do their business.
The Prime Minister has admitted that there were “legal difficulties” but insisted any new treaty should be about fiscal union and not the single market.
However, he also faced fresh Labour criticism claiming that he had failed to safeguard the UK’s interests by walking away from negotiations at last month’s EU summit.
Mr Cameron denied that he was unprepared for the summit at which he refused to sign the UK up to any new treaty.
He said he had met German Chancellor Angela Merkel three weeks before the summit to set out the UK’s position, which had been agreed “across Government”.
Mr Cameron said: “Part of the problem is that the legal position is unclear.
“One of the strengths of there not being a treaty within the European Union is that the new thing, whatever it is, can’t do things that are the property of the European Union.
“You cannot have a treaty outside the European Union that starts doing what should be done within the European Union and that goes back to the issue of safeguards.”
He added: “Let me be very clear that they shouldn’t do things outside the European Union that are the property of the European Union. Why are we in the organisation? Why are we there in the first place?
“We are there because we are a trading nation and we want access to the single market and a full say about the rules of the single market, and what we cannot have is the single market being discussed outside of the European Union and we will do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Mr Cameron insisted that the safeguards the UK sought last month were “moderate, reasonable and relevant”, and had been talked through with Ms Merkel.
But he said the French and German proposals were handed over “very late in the day”.
In comments which put him at odds with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Mr Cameron added: “We absolutely envisaged either a situation where we had a treaty change at 27 (number of countries in EU) with safeguards, or Britain saying no to a European treaty.
“In those circumstances we were absolutely clear that it was very likely that other European countries in the euro, and some outside, would go ahead and sign a treaty outside the European Union and that is what it looks like is going to happen.
“As I say, we don’t know how many countries will sign up to that treaty but Britain won’t be one of them.”
Pressed on what safeguards he had secured for the UK, Mr Cameron said: “What I stopped was that if you have a treaty within the framework of the European Union that didn’t have safeguards on the single market and on financial services, Britain would have been in a worse position.
“I am not making some great claim to have achieved a safeguard but what I did do was stop a treaty without safeguards. Is that clear enough?”
But shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander criticised the Prime Minister’s decision, saying: “David Cameron has admitted that he secured no safeguards for the UK when he walked away from talks at last month’s EU summit.
“Giving up on negotiations has compromised British interests, not safeguarded them, and means that the UK will struggle to have a voice in talks that could have a profound effect on jobs and growth in Britain.”