I have no doubt that David Cameron will secure 100 per cent of his stated aims vis-à-vis the EU. The reason he is stating them in public is that the other members have already agreed to them in private. They have done so cheerfully, incredulous at how little is being asked. The other heads of government know, as the PM knows, that his four ‘reforms’ will alter nothing. Think about it.
1. Opting out of the words ‘ever closer union’
Just the words. Not the fact of ever closer union. The real way to opt out would be to end the automatic supremacy of EU over British law. As long as European Commissioners and judges, who loudly proclaim that deeper integration is their supreme goal, can over-ride UK statues, nothing will change.
2. A moratorium on benefits claims by EU nationals
Such a change can be enacted domestically. Indeed, it is already being enacted domestically. Britain is unusual within the EU in having a non-contributory tax credits regime that subsidises people in work. In order to remove that perk from new arrivals, the government is, in effect, removing it from everyone else, too. No new EU treaty necessary.
3. A ‘red card’ for national parliaments
This is actually worse than the status quo. What Eurosceptics always wanted – and what David Cameron was calling for until a year or so ago – was the restoration of parliamentary supremacy. In other words, EU treaties would have the same status as other international treaties, rather than creating a new legal order with precedence over national laws. EU directives and regulations would then come into effect only following an implementing decision by Parliament.
The PM has evidently dropped that idea, and is instead asking for system whereby a number of national parliaments can club together to block an EU proposal. In other words, national parliaments will be formally recognised as sub-units within a European polity – much as, say, American states are recognised as the units that can formally amend the US Constitution. Parliament will no longer be a sovereign entity in voluntary association with other institutions; rather, it will be a subordinate part of the EU’s political architecture.
4. Making permanent the status of non-Euro states
Seriously? Formal recognition that the pound is our currency? How about formal recognition that London is our capital? That we’re reduced to dressing up statements of the obvious as ‘concessions’ shows what a charade this whole procedure is.
As recently as 2013, in his Bloomberg speech, David Cameron was talking of significant unilateral repatriations of power from Brussels, including in criminal justice and employment law. Indeed, the reason for delaying the referendum to 2017 was to allow a new treaty to be signed first. It now seems clear that that aim has been dropped, which is why the vote is likely to be brought forward.
Britain can still secure a trade-only deal with the EU. We can still agree to opt out of the non-economic aspects of membership, such as foreign affairs, agriculture, fisheries, social policy, environmental law, immigration and citizenship. It’s just that these things won’t happen as part of the PM’s current talks. The way to get them is to vote to leave.
Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP.