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Oct 052009

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?

  9 Responses to “The post Lisbon Union”

  1. The answer is probably that the UK can harm the EU more by using its veto on the inside than by exiting.

  2. At the moment – with the ongoing Conservative party congress in Manchester – it’s nowhere near certain that the “Cameroonians” will accept the inevitability of a referendum after a Con victory next year. Remember that there are also strong pro-European elements among the Tories, like the Business Secretary Ken Clarke. And even if there was to be a referendum, would NO really be a “foregone conclusion”? Maybe it would. But I would hedge my bets for a while yet.

  3. @Gunnar. You have a much better vantage point than I so I can only hope that you are right. But as far as I gather Cameron is dead set on a referendum and, being the shining star of the Conservatives, he is not likely to be disavowed.

    But, admittedly, things may look different from London.

  4. How can you expect a referendum on the EU from a man with these ideals:-

    “The Single Market is a great achievement, which the Conservative Party has always strongly supported. We want an EU that looks out to the world, not in on itself. . . We will be strong defenders of the Single Market within Europe, and free trade with the rest of the world … We want to keep the doors of the EU open to new members like the Balkan states and, in due course, Turkey. — David Cameron writing in the Conservative Party’s ‘European Manifesto,’ 2009.

  5. Rayatcov: you’re right, of course. I think the Cameron crowd’s greatest concern is keeping Europe out of the election. The Lisbon treaty is already ratified, and what Boris Johnson is asking for is simply a grumbling, it-wasn’t-me kind of afterthought. What one has to understand is that the anti-Europe sentiment in the Tory party is a grassroots/thatcherite/grammar scool phenomenon. The pro-Europe sentiment is largely a landowning-class, patrician, public school phenomenon, mainly because they own second homes in the Dordogne. And the latter faction now has control of the Conservative Party. I don’t think there will be a referendum , even if the Tories win.

  6. Thank you for your informed and well considered comments. I can only hope that they won’t be put to the test…

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