European Union leaders reached an agreement at the Portugal summit early today on a new EU treaty.

The Reform Treaty will replace the EU Constitution, which was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands. Ireland will hold a referendum on the new treaty next year.

Three years ago, Britain agreed to accept majority voting in police and judicial co-operation, and the judicial oversight by the European court of justice that comes with it.

But over the past year, they have had second thoughts and demanded an opt out in the new treaty. Last week the Government decided to follow the British example and opt out, earning strong criticism from Opposition parties.

The Taoiseach says that without the political influence and voting weight of Britain, Ireland could not have ensured full protection for its common law system.

He said he did not think the problem would arise very often in the field of police and judicial co-operation, and the Government is adding a declaration to the treaty saying it intends to co-operate as much as possible.