So the Irish have voted and agreed to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. In addition President Kaczyñski of Poland has promised to sign, maybe even this week. The reality is that the future of the Union then lies in the hand of one single man and not a very nice one at that. The tactics of President Klaus of the Czech Republic clearly are to delay his signature until after a conservative election victory in England, perhaps in April next year. A resounding “no” in a British referendum is of course a foregone conclusion.
This is of course an absurd situation. The new Treaty will, albeit to a limited extent, prevent some abuses of the veto power. That would at last be a step in the right direction.
Remains, however the problem of England. England has already opted out of central parts of the new Treaty. Conservative sources have indicated that a new government will do everything in its power to “repatriate powers” from Brussels to London, particularly in the fields of social and employment legislation, home affairs and justice.
This will, however, not be achieved without difficulty since every change must be approved by all member states which the British may counter by hijacking other cooperation measures through a veto. England would practically withdraw from the European cooperation under a conservative government.
A consensual exit by the UK would present a win-win situation. The UK could keep all of the advantages from free movement of goods and capital and could further develop its transatlantic ties. Their budgetary costs would diminish, albeit marginally. An EU 26 (plus possible new members) would not be hampered by the English obstinacy and unwillingness to cooperate with “Europe.” Also they would not have to pay the largest part of the British membership fee: today even the poorest countries have to subsidize the British membership.
A back of an envelope calculation shows that the cost of England leaving the Union would amount to less than 3 % of the Union’s revenue – a sum that could easily be covered by reforms on the expenditure side where agriculture and regional policies offer ample opportunities for rationalization.
Taking all the factors into account the question poses itself: why continue a marriage that no-one wants when a divorce would be easy and mutually beneficial?