All this week we will hear of last minute pressures to worsen the deal Mr Cameron has negotiated. We read that the French want to water down the already weak statements on how the UK avoids being dragged into comprehensive Eurozone regulation and taxation. We hear that some Eastern European countries are still not content with modest changes to the UK’ s welfare payments system.
Some cynical Eurosceptics think this all a choreographed dispute to make it look as if the UK has won something worth having. Other observers think the push back from some countries is genuine,as the deal was not cleared fully with all member states when the Commission and Council President put together the package. I am inclined to believe the latter. If all this is stage managed, then it serves to help the Leave campaign more than the Stay in group. For what the protracted and difficult negotiation has shown many British voters is just how little power the UK has over basics like welfare and business, and how we have to beg and petition to get modest change to our position which we ought to be able to do for ourselves. If someone did think creating a sense of difficulty would make people value the deal more, they forgot that it might merely show people who had not though much about the EU just how much power of self government has already gone.
The wish to water down some of the original proposals is not good news. Without Treaty change none of it is binding legally anyway, but if you are seeking a political agreement and strong statement instead of legal guarantees it is important to have clear and firm ones which will take a bit more unpicking. The UK wants to be part of the so called single market, but it does not want the Euro area to be able to override all City regulation, impose transaction taxes and change the architecture of financial markets against London’s interests. France seem very reluctant to offer any guarantees, and is one of the main advocates of much more financial service and banking integration. It does not augur well for life outside the Euro but still inside the EU. France makes clear the EU is not a multi currency Union, but a union based around the Euro with just two members allowed legal opt outs. That’s a long way from the multi currency union of the UK’s imagining.
Nor are the benefit rows insignificant. Lower income member states do not want to see the UK paying lower Child Benefit than our domestic rates to children not resident in the UK, yet the UK’s starting position long since surrendered was we should not have to pay any child benefit to the child of an EU migrant to the UK where the child has not come with the parents. The UK has also been forced to back off from saying no EU economic migrant will receive any benefit for the first four years of residence, to accepting a four year phase in of all benefits. Anyway a new migrant has every right to school places for children and free NHS treatment from the day they arrive.
The deal Mr Cameron was offered fell well short of what he asked for, which fell well short of the good aims of the Bloomsberg speech. The further rows just serve to tell all UK voters interested that we do not run our own affairs, and even under pressure of a referendum our partners do not want to offer us what we want.