When David Cameron wielded his veto at the European Council in December many Tories
thought this was the beginning of a process of repatriation of powers from the EU. Myself, I thought it would be the high water mark of the government’s Euro-scepticism — and so it has
proven. But things are about to get even worse for the Bill Cashes of this Parliament. In the short-term, at least.
Why so? Well, the government appears to be concluding that it will not get a receptive ear from its European partners on any repatriation bid. The other European leaders are simply too busy fixing
the euro to even read any UK proposals. And what’s clear already is that they will remain too busy not just for another few months, but for another year or more.
There will be opportunities for Tory backbenchers to register their disgruntlement at this situation, not least as the Croatia Accession Bill winds its way through the House. But it’s unlikely that they will sway the
government so long the Lib Dems are pulling the other way. The non-repatriation will continue apace, as it were.
But that won’t be the end of the issue, of course. A failure to secure repatriation in this Parliament will probably cause Tory eurosceptics to push for a manifesto commitment on the same —
or perhaps even for some sort of referendum. And then, were the Tories to win a majority at the next election, the eurosceptic pressure would be too great for Cameron to ignore.