David Cameron’s much touted ‘veto’ of the alleged ‘treaty’ at the EU ‘summit’ last week is still setting the political discourse of the media alight. Variously, it has been cast as an example of heroism, treachery, genius or stupidity.
And yet the ‘summit’ was actually a meeting of the EU council, which meets routinely anyway. The council has no legislative power and so could not in any case draw up a ‘treaty’ for Cameron to veto. At best reading, attendees suggested the outlines of some proposals for a future agreement and Cameron indicated that Britain wouldn’t take part in that agreement were it to be formally proposed.
To pretend that he has bravely/foolishly taken any sort of actual action at all is the merest nonsense. That the press are hyperventilating about this phantom series of events tells you all you need to know about the seriousness with which they ply their trade.
The statement of the outcome of the council is, naturally, vague but confirms this:
“The fiscal compact agreed today will be made legally binding by an international agreement. The agreement will be open to the EU member states that are currently not members of the euro area. All EU member states apart from one said they were considering participating.”
The ‘compact’ is basically another one of these things the EU likes so much – an unenforceable set of rules – including limiting ‘structural deficits’ to 0.5% of GDP – and more submission to European bodies – “Member states undergoing an excessive deficit procedure will have to submit to the Commission and the Council for endorsement the structural reforms they plan to take in order to meet the requirement to correct excessive deficits.”
Or in English: “give Brussels the power of veto over your budgets”. Now check again for the weasel words in the first quote: “all EU member states but one said they were considering participating.”
At the moment, everyone is hedging their bets. Everyone fears the secrets of their balance sheets being exposed to the glare of the market and so are trying to hide under Germany’s wings so at this stage of course they would agree to consider any plan that might help them. A ratified treaty that maketh not.
And in reality, what would such an agreement mean? An unelected government of technocrats being parachuted in to do Brussels’ bidding – as in the case of Italy – or the threat of popular plebiscites overridden – as we saw in Greece. Whatever it is, it ain’t your Grandad’s democracy. Only in the corridors of the EU apparatus would anybody imagine that sovereign states will readily hand over their independence to an unelected body of technocrats, or that that will take place with the sanguine acceptance of the peoples directly affected.
So we have the weird spectacle of the press disagreeing or agreeing with a veto that never was, against a treaty that doesn’t exist and that has no agreement other than in principle from other members anyway.
Furthermore, enshrined in this putative agreement is effectively the requirement not to run deficit spending programs in the future, which is the knee-jerk response to being caught out so badly this time. And yet the EU’s medicine has done knack-all to save poor Greece (worse off now than at any point during the crisis) and, bizarrely, runs counter to the anti-cuts, Keynesian model of deficit spending that has characterised what most states have actually done.
In short, this whole thing barely qualifies as a dog’s breakfast, much less a dinner, and is no solution to anything other than the need for various politicians to stride about, chests puffed out, declaring themselves to be the hardest kid on the estate. Nonsense.