It’s been fun watching David Cameron’s European Council pantomime routine this week. You have to wonder about his political acumen. Broadcasting to the great British public before the event that he was going to tell Johnny Foreigner where they could put their contribution increase was only setting himself up for a fall. You have to hope that it wasn’t complete ignorance of reality that drove him to do it, that he does know something about where the current strands of sovereignty run in the European Union. That being our elected Prime Minister, he did know that nothing he says will have any impact whatsoever on how much we pay the European Union. That if the European commission and parliament decide that our contribution will increase by 5%, 8% or 12%, the hard pressed British Taxpayer will have to shovel over the readies however much Cast Iron Dave huffs and puffs. Given that he knew this, he could have taken the principled route and told us the truth – that we were stuffed by the Lisbon Treaty and that we either have to get out or keep taking it in the shorts. Hey, he could even have just blamed it all on Gordon. However, instead he decided to go the usual kabuki theatre route of British politicians since the start of the EEC. That being:
1) Talk in serious tones of red lines, protecting British interests, in Europe but not run by Europe ecetera.
2) Walk through the journalist throng to the meeting with furrowed brow. David and Goliath, our man in enemy territory outnumbered but unbowed.
3) Come out with a weary yet resolute look. It was a hard fought negotiation but you stood your ground and carved out some very meaningful guarantees for Britain.
4) Hope the media train moves on and no one notices the huge tranche of British sovereignty you’ve just signed away.
Unfortunately for Cameron, so far this hasn’t been working out and his insistence that he has got guarantees that the increase will only be 2.9% does make you wonder if he fully comprehend the political reality. The excellent Richard North dissects the situation for Mr Cameron over at Eureferendum.
The procedure, however, is arcane. In the final analysis, the initiative lies with the EU parliament. Here, its position is straightforward – and powerful. Its response to the EU Commission proposal for a 5.9 percent hike – and the 5.9 percent was a Commission, not a parliament proposal – was to increase the figure from €130.1bn to €130.6bn, bringing it to about six percent. That is its negotiating position. The difference is between the Council’s €126.5bn and the parliament’s £130.6bn.*
Not only is the parliament not going to accept the Council’s 2.9 percent, if by some strange – and extremely unlikely – chance the Council actually stuck to its position, the parliament has a veto. It can pull the budget and force the whole procedure to start over, causing a humungous crisis in the EU, which can be laid at the door of the member states.
That ain’t going to happen. The Council negotiating team is going to compromise on a figure somewhere between 2.9 and 6.0 percent, most likely at the higher end.
Cameron claims the letter he has got is a “guarantee” the rise will not be any bigger than 2.9 percent. “What we’ve done is guarantee, with the support of other member states, that this is 2.9 percent,” he says. “They’ve given their word – 2.9 percent and no further. That’s the word they’ve all given. That’s the word I’ve given.”
It is not a guarantee. The letter has no status whatsoever. His “word” is an empty promise. If Cameron thinks he has actually got a guarantee (or given one) – he is delusional. Moreover, his advisors should be fired. If he is listening to them, they are turning him into a laughing stock.
So stage 3 in the Kabuki theatre guide to the British Politician in European Council Meetings, is not going too well for Cameron. However, not being in the UK, I can’t quite gauge how stage 4 is going. That is the bit where you hope that no one notices the huge wedge of national independence you’ve just handed over to Brussels. However, England Expects for one has noticed.
The grins and smirks of Mrs Merkle whose satisfaction is a quite something to perceive, and as the Economist has pointed out, this Council was not about the budget, it was about the Treaty, and Cameron has OK’d a Treaty change in a way that he thinks will avoid a referendum.
“I AM on the whole quite satisfied with the decision.” With these modest words, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, rounded off a remarkable victory at the end of a bruising European summit that concluded today.
Less than a fortnight ago, members of the European Union were universally opposed to Germany’s demand to reopen the EU’s treaties to strengthen the means of maintaining fiscal discipline among members of the euro zone. But within days of winning over Nicolas Sarkozy to her cause at the Deauville summit on October 18th, she got everyone to sign up to the idea of a “limited treaty change”. By the slow-moving standards of the EU, this happened in an eye-blink. It is a testament to the authority of Mrs Merkel, as well as the power of Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe.
Douglas Carswell is very unhappy about this,
The spin says that the proposals from France and Germany for fiscal governance extend to the Eurozone only and so will not affect the UK.
The truth is that the EU might not be able to impose sanctions at this time, but our budget will be subject to as much scrutiny like every member state, including in theory Greece.
Having established common EU scrutiny over our budget, this deal also means a common EU legal framework applicable to “all EU Member States” – irrespective of us being outside the Euro. The path is now clear for us to be out voted on future EU legislative initiatives involving our internal fiscal affairs.
We’ve not just given ground over how much of our money we give the EU. We’ve given the EU a say over how we spend our own money at home. Some victory, eh.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Cast Iron Dave promise a referendum on any more transfers of powers to the EU? Mmmm.
The Devils Kitchen reminds us that not long after the Lib-Cons got into power, they went over to Brussels and handed over control of the City and the Banking and Financial sector to the EU. It was at the time blamed on Labour. Not the Lib-Cons’ fault, and not worth rocking the boat over, and besides, they managed to nail down some Cast Iron guarantees about vetoing the EU vetting of our budgets.
Now what happened to that guarantee?