Yesterday the 25 countries signed up to the fiscal pact Treaty. The Uk did not sign it. That sounds like a veto to me.
The veto had three good consequences. The first is this is now an intergovernmental Treaty, not an EU Treaty. They wanted an EU one and Mr Cameron exercised the veto. Their legal grounds for using the EU institutions are as a result insecure or non existent. The UK intends to push the legal issues further, as it has to do.
The second is it has helped force a referendum on this Treaty in Ireland, where the decision to hold one cited the fact that this is now a different legal arrangement from the EU treaties as one of the factors swaying them in favour of a referendum. This delays this Treaty coming into force. The delay gives time for France or others to demand a renegotiation or scrapping of the Treaty.
The third is it has started what will be a long process of the UK setting out an alternative course for the EU and for the UK’s relationship with it. Twelve countries agreed with the UK that the EU needed to deregulate to help growth and jobs, but were ignored by the Franco-German-Commission axis this time. It starts to build support for a different approach. Mr Cameron was right to explain in public that this latest summit has not done enough to promote growth, and has chosen the wrong policy mix for the situation.
Even Euro friendly commentators agree that the intergovernmental Treaty is unlikely to do much for the Eurozone. It is widely seen as a fig leaf for German public opinion. It is not widely wanted or liked by other weaker members of the Eurozone, and it is difficult to see how it delivers the desired goal of lower budget deficits, more cuts and higher taxes all at the same time.
None of this will cheer people who simply want to pull out tomorrow. As I constantly remind them, some people have wanted that for the last thirty years, but it has never happened. The pace of change is slow, but at least this time we are travelling in a better direction. It would have been wrong to have signed this Treaty. It would have been wrong not to seek a better set of freer market policies to try to stimulate growth and jobs. The UK has sought to explain that this latest Treaty is not the answer to Europe’s economic troubles. She now needs to press on with defining a new relationship with the EU that avoids more damage to us from the greater austerity zone they are creating.
I ask Mr Cameron’s strong critics what should he have done about this Treaty? Surely you agree it was better to refuse to sign it? Surely it was right to table alternative approaches for progress? Mr Cameron told you before the General Election he wanted powers back but did not want to pull out, so he has not cheated you. He voted with the whole Conservative party for a referendum on Lisbon prior to its ratification, as promised. He did not promise an In/Out referendum in the Manifesto as many of you wanted. His coalition partners want a lot more Europe, which stands in the way of the progress moderate Eurosceptics want, let alone what strong Eurosceptics want.