I read that the government does not think the current Euro crisis is the best time to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU. Sometimes we are told there is no urgent need for a new Treaty, so there is no opportunity to renegotiate. Sometimes I read there will be changes to the Treaty, but it is not right for the UK to make demands, when these changes will apply to Euro area members, not to us. We are told we should not stand in their way as they try to patch their troubled money.
I disagree. It is the German and French intention to press the Euro states into a much closer union. There will be budget controls, much more intensive surveillance of spending and taxing, more rules and regulations. The 17 will meet more often. They may develop a passion for settling things between themselves, and then pushing them through the 27 member EU where necessary. They will be able to outvote the UK and her few allies.
They may do this through Treaty changes. They might do it through a new agreement of the 17. They might simply try to do it without changing the formal powers of the Treaty, as they are in a hurry and have a phobia about referenda which some countries would need for a new Treaty or Agreement.
This requires a new relationship for the UK. We cannot be at meetings of the 17. Our interests in an open market throughout the EU are different and much more limited than their plans for common government. The UK needs guarantees or opt out facilities to protect herself from adverse law making and decisions taken by the 17 alone, or taken by the 27 on the insistence of the 17 against our wishes.
The official line is to keep more things in the 27, for fear of our exclusion from any new grouping of the 17. I would find a new organisation for the 17 liberating. We would not have to follow its rules as we would not belong. We could then at leisure negotiate about what was left for the 27 to do. The government seems to think an agreement by the 17 is a threat to us, one to be avoided at all costs. I do not think they could easily do it. It would take time to establish the new architecture and legal framework. It would presumably need referenda decisions in several Euroland countries. From the UK perspective it would leave no doubt that the costs, duties and laws surrounding the Euro are for the 17 alone, and not for us. We would need to negotiate what we can by way of protection from abuse of the law making of the 27, but we have to do that anyway in the context of a stronger Euro group within the 27.
I still think negotiate and then vote is the right UK approach. To those who say this is not the right time, I ask “If not now, when?”
To those who fear a Treaty of the 17 I say “Bring it on”. It will makes things much clearer and will highlight the need for the UK to sort out its position vis a vis the budget, taxing and law making powers of the EU.
And to those who say just withdraw, who claim the EU will not negotiate, I say let the people decide. If the EU will not give a better deal more people will vote to come out altogether.
PS: I see the English Democrats claiming a great success in coming second in a Rochford by election. They took half the Lib Dems vote. Was UKIP asleep for this one, or are the English Democrats taking over in second place elsewhere?