STRUCTURE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
European Parliament Directly elected (751 MEPs), votes on legislation, but cannot propose any
European Commission The Executive responsible for proposing new laws and regulations (unelected)
Council of EU Government ministers, final decision on legislation, does not make laws (able to overrule the Parliament with a veto)
European Council Heads of States/Governments, can ask the Commission to propose laws
British Prime Minister David Cameron went cap-in hand to Brussels warning them that the people had had enough of the excessive interference by the European Union, and now the majority (NOW 42% to 38%) wanted us to resign from the club. He explained that the UK wanted to reform its relationship with the EU on a number of significant matters, so they would vote to stay in, when he had set a date for an In-Out referendum, which he had been forced to reluctantly offer because of the widespread discontent, particularly amongst Tory MPs and supporters. He made it plain to all, that he himself wanted the UK to stay in the EU, and would campaign for that in the forthcoming referendum, but he needed their help.
Well, Cameron knows little about negotiations doesn’t he? The EU lot know that he can’t really make a deal (only the British public can do that), which is what any meaningful negotiation is all about. The decision will be taken by a UK wide referendum result, which is anyone’s guess, so why should the Europeans bother with Cameron? [The diehard EU power men have good reason NOT to trust countries’ referendums). Then, you don’t give the game away before you even get in the room, do you? Perhaps he should have taken with him the leader of the Unite Union, eh? When it is well known that the lead negotiator’s heart isn’t in it, the other side won’t be willing to give-way much or make serious concessions, will they? No, and so it has turned out, unfortunately?
Our Prime Minister demanded a loaf of bread, and he is now offered a few crumbs, isn’t he? At the EU’s main players’ insistence, Cameron was coerced to put his specific, detailed, finite, wants from them in writing some months ago. Many-many British eurosceptics were utterly disappointed with his stated demands, as there was no way they represented the fundamental change of our membership that he had promised everyone for the past three years. Some thought that he would certainly get the majority of the changes he required, if not all – others couldn’t see even that happening, and so it proved, eh? The EU hierarchy basically said “no way, Jose”, didn’t they?
As some had predicted, Cameron has pushed through a temporary deal with the EU, and one which would enable him to claim a renegotiation victory. So, as we all knew, Cameron comes back, Neville Chamberlain 1938 style, figuratively speaking, waving a sheet of paper that he announces as ‘peace in our time” “a really successful renegotiation” – despite the fact that he has failed miserably, hasn’t he? He faces a chorus of criticism from eurosceptics.
The proposals are only draft text ‘paving the way’, still have to be agreed by all 28 individual member countries (with no date set but perhaps later this month?), and tellingly won’t be implemented before the referendum (even then, the UK will have to go back on its knees to ask permission from all 28 members to get some elements). It has been committed that proposals might be put in the Treaties – and pigs might fly. It is a blatant lie, as there is no way that all these countries will go to the trouble and expense of changing Treaties to accommodate the UK with minor tweaks to the small print, is there?
How Cameron has the bare faced cheek to claim ‘hand on his heart’ that this is a good deal he endorses, which meets his manifesto pledge to boot [eg “No to ‘ever closer union” No to ‘a constant flow of power to Brussels’ No to unnecessary interference’, or “Changes to welfare to cut EU migration will be an absolute requirement in the renegotiation”, or “We will insist that EU migrants who want to claim tax credits and child benefit must live here and contribute to our country for a minimum of four years”, plus the Tories “want to see powers flowing away from Brussels” and end “ever closer union”], goodness knows? Moreover, he did not report back to Parliament first, but gave a major speech elsewhere on the EU deal, to unfairly kick off his personal campaign to stay in the EU, at German Siemens’ UK Chippenham rail engineering factory, no less.
Notwithstanding widespread criticism, not least from the Electoral Commission (Britain’s election watchdog), he looks like calling the referendum for as early as next June. That will go down like a lead balloon with the Commission, who focuses on putting voters’ interests first, as they wanted a ‘six month gap’ between the referendum secondary legislation (that sets the date) and the vote itself. That has not yet been put before Parliament, as there is no date so far actually proposed or confirmed.
The PM’s supporters are encouraging him to go for May, to fall on the same day as Local & European elections, but that would annoy the Electoral Commission even more, because they say this would seriously confuse voters – and the IN group think that will be to their advantage, don’t they?
Cameron wants the referendum as soon as he can get it, with a short campaign, because he has momentum, believes his current authority as recently elected PM will greatly sway floating voters to accept his recommendation, the OUT campaign is without a leader, still fragmented with damaging divisions over tactics, and furthermore he fears that the EU’s problems will get even worse in the future (not least in the eurozone’s 19 members – out of the total 28 States). The eurosceptics and Tory rebels will seek to get a Commons debate to defeat the Government and to delay the EU referendum until late next year, but Cameron and his team will, if they can, rig the date to suit his plans, won’t he?
The other major players like Germany, France, Italy, think the UK has embarked on a petty squabble, and it is a distraction from the real problems concerning their migration crisis
Summary of Achievements/Failures
Fundamental change in UK’s relationship with EU disregarded
EU not to protect non-euro countries
and never involve UK in financing the eurozone partly sanctioned
Repatriation of powers to the UK zilch
Ability of British Parliament to overrule EU legislation refused
UK’s right to initially withhold benefits from immigrants rejected (no ban)
Reduction in the numbers of EU
immigrants coming to UK impossible so not attempted
EU’s ‘ever closer union’ objective cut-out shrugged-off
Powers to flow away from Brussels cast-away
Prevention of European Court overruling
UK law and the Supreme Court not even submitted nor addressed
Donald Tusk, the EU Council president [not to be confused with Jean-Claude Juncker President of the Commission, elected by the EU parliament], announced his proposals for “a new settlement” between the UK and the EU, with publication of a draft plan relating to the four areas previously identified by David Cameron’.
Strangely he quoted Hamlet’s line as a question for the EU “To be, or not to be together, that is the question”, which one can only take to mean that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding his proposals.
Cameron’s List [red] & EU Responses [black] & Comment [Italic]
Economic Governance – basically protection of London’s financial position from eurozone pressures (there are 19 euro countries and 9 with separate currencies). Many were optimistic that a deal could be reached on this element, as it is no big accord for the others.
ANSWER: British taxpayers’ money can never be liable to support the eurozone; supervision of financial institutions in non eurozone countries will remain a matter for their national governments.
Comment: not a significant change to the current situation, and nothing on legislation to prevent the eurozone countries acting as a power bloc. Britain hasn’t secured any special blocking rights over financial regulations. Cameron had wanted to have a say in or even a veto over eurozone decisions, but non-euro countries can only raise concerns to get reassurances about eurozone decisions.
Competitiveness – the UK wants to see a target to cut the total burden of ‘existing regulation’ on business. Some may not support changes depending on the specifics, but others are sympathetic to trade liberalisation, single market extension and deregulation. A deal should have been possible on this.
ANSWER: a clear long-term commitment to increasing competitiveness and taking concrete steps towards better regulation and reducing administrative burdens
Comment: no clear cut targets or cutting of existing legislation, so will make not one iota of difference to the current situation – it is all pie in the sky about ‘efforts’.
Sovereignty – remove Britain’s Treaty legal obligation to work towards an ‘ever closer’ union and for national parliaments to be able to block EU legislation. However, this certainly would require Treaty change, and that is a no-no in the timescales involved.
ANSWER: a ‘red-card’ system to allow national parliaments making up more than 55% of votes on the Council of 28 to be able to ‘veto’ specific EU legislation; spells out that “ever closer union” still remains as an objective, but cannot be used to justify more political integration.
Comment: overall a meaningless inadequate response to Britain’s stated requirement, with the EU effectively still side lining the UK Parliament, as now. The other major countries know it will be totally ineffective, so don’t give a hoot about this proposed response, do they?
Immigration – disappointingly, Cameron has had to accept that he will be able to do nothing whatsoever about freedom in movement of labour in the EU, despite that putting too great a pressure on our schools, hospitals, housing, and public services. He wants a, watered-down, four-year timeout on ‘in-work benefits’ and ‘child benefits’ for EU migrants working in Britain – but the details were sparse. This had no chance at all of success, as it is discrimination and therefore on the surface probably illegal to boot.
He also wanted to include scrapping sending abroad child benefit for immigrant children living in their home countries
social security – an ‘indeterminate’ emergency brake on ‘in-work benefits’ for up to four years if there is unsustainably pressure on a particular member state (which would have to be first requested, by Britain then approved by 100% of the EU council of all 28 states); also child benefit would STILL have to be paid, including for children living abroad (but can be reduced by indexing to the living standards level of member state where the child resides).
immigration – member states can take further measures against ‘sham marriages’ and ‘fraudulent immigration claims’; states can take action against citizens who represent a serious threat to security.
The Council President claimed it was a very strong and powerful package.
Comment: Wow, as most contentious area, the proposal is much use as a bucket with a large hole in it, not least because it is not simply the indefensible impact of immigrants on our welfare state that is the problem we want addressing here – it is the belief (rightly or wrongly) that such benefits act as a massive drawing power for immigrants, isn’t it? Furthermore, over the period allowed, the same welfare has to be ‘phased-in’. What chance, when Britain applies with a brake approvable request, is there of ONE single country saying “NO – it is vetoed as you haven’t ‘proved’ the desperate need”, particularly when we have shot our bolt by already agreeing to stay in? Do we really believe that the heads of say Romania or Poland will agree in the end that their citizens can be ‘discriminated’ against in ONE country of the EU (the UK), because the level of migration into the UK is such that it is essential? Not only that, but any emergency brake would not be available until a year AFTER an EU referendum
While a stricter approach to UK entry is suggested for those with past bad conduct, or posing a genuine serious threat to the UK, is welcome, it is hardly a concession, is it?
If this is a strong and powerful package – dream on Mr President, eh?
[While the UK’s proposed benefits denial to immigrants may well be quite fair & proper and save UK some money, therefore a hundred percent right, but nevertheless it will make no significant difference to the pull on immigration, will it? – and that is the opinion reported to the Treasury Select Committee in Parliament, of the renowned economist of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR is the government’s public body set-up to provide ‘independent’ advice on economic matters)].
[Whether people want to stay in or come out of the EU, it has to be said that the so-called renegotiation has been a farce, surely?]