Friday, November 06, 2009

Pedantry on Cameron

[This is a guest post by the excellent and sorely missed Pedant General.]

Patently Rubbish argues, largely correctly IMVHO, that Cameron's withdrawal from his cast-iron guarantee is essentially reasonable now that the EU Constitution Lisbon is a done deal.
The only politician who has, throughout, kept to his promise that he would hold a referendum, is David Cameron. Every other party has dropped us in it. What is worse, they have dropped us in it so thoroughly, and so deeply, and so irrevocably, that they now actually dare to criticise Cameron for acknowledging that the promise he made is no longer deliverable.

However, I think perhaps a cheeky consideration of the counterfactual is also interesting.

Cameron was, as per this analysis at least, right. His real problem is, was and has always been, one of realpolitik. Ever since he gave the guarantee, every single interviewer has asked the question "what will you do if it has already been finally ratified?" and he has always been utterly unable to answer that credibly. His problem is that if he were to give any actually workable answer to it, he would have done two things:
  1. He would have essentially hoisted a massive flag in Brown's direction bearing the words...
    "Hold out Brownie: all you have to do is deny us a General Election until Lisbon's in the bag and the job's a good 'un"

    ... which I submit might have been counterproductive.

  2. He would have been hung out to dry on his putative policies toward the EU and branded an utterly barmy little Englander seccessionist and what have you. Imagine, if you will, Cameron in 2007 discussing "repatriation of powers" in, at that stage a hypothetical, post-Lisbon world. The BBC would have destroyed him. Besides it would have been defeatism of the first water—it would be a clear signal that the game was indeed (see point 1) as good as over. He would simply never have been able to make the counter point stick—that he was forced into this position by the shameless behaviour of the Government.

However [you knew it was coming...], this is where Patently Rubbish and I part company. Cameron's supporters are bigging this up as realism. Unfortunately, a realist would see, and as our humble Devil has eloquently pointed out, that all his subsequent proposals lack that certain grain—scratch that: any passing sniff—of plausibility. Realism dictates that we are now either in or out. There are no half measures and the failure to address this will be, as it always is, the thing that causes Conservative governments to unravel and the "colleagues" to rub their hands with glee...


Quiet_Man said...

His supporters are indeed bigging it up as realism, but, there are those like me who saw it as nothing more than a betrayal. Yes he could have stated that now Lisbon is ratified we can't have a referendum on it, but he could also have stated that because it has been ratified without putting it before the people that he would hold a referendum on in or out of the EU.

James Higham said...

His real problem is, was and has always been, one of realpolitik.

Bullsh! His real problem is that he's invertebrate and seeks the way to power by compromising policy. That's why this coalition of the right is happening.

People see right through him and don't want it any more. They want someone to stand up for Britain and say this is us.

Cameron is gone.

By the way, great to see you're alive, PGinO.

The Pedant-General said...


I'm not so sure: Cameron has always been explicit that the cast-iron guarantee applied to an unratified Lisbon. This is not that sort of betrayal - that happened last year when it was rammed through Parliament without a referendum and that is not Cameron's fault (or at least not much of the blame attaches to him).

As for your solution, hmmm....

In effect he should have said (in 2007): we give a cast-iron guarantee that we will hold a referendum on this treaty if it has not been finally ratified. In the event that the British public have been denied a vote prior to final ratification, this will have been such an appalling act of duplicity on the part of this appalling duplicitous Labour administration that it calls into doubt the legality of the British ratification. Either the EU will have to recognise this and allow us our referendum or we can only conclude the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the EU. This will then force us to have a referendum on our relationship with Europe in its entirety and we will be very pushed to support continued membership as a direct result.

A statement of that sort of force might - just might - have held the pass.


I am indeed alive, but have been hibernating, and may yet be sluggish. :-)

How much is realpolitik and how much is good old-fashioned spinelessness? Good question, well posed and deserving of a good answer.

My point is that it is NOW spinelessness whereas before there was at least some doubt. Either way, it cannot continue to be bigged up as realism.

It appears that we are all agreed on that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, off-topic... But please mention Julie Kirkbride sometime. Even in passing. Stuff needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

I think he made a complete hash of the whole thing. This train wreck has been coming for a long time and quisling Dave would not face up to the problems it would cause. Face it, the "conservative" party were involved at the start, Heath gave away our Sovereignty and denied it, he lied. We had a chance to vote but on the EEC, it was not the EU, but the politicians knew what the intention was. They lied again and again and again and now we are in deep trouble with having agreed this latest theft. Honesty, difficult I know for the political class, would have put him in a much easier position to fight, but no, he is still telling lies. We have a Constitution and it specifically forbids the giving away of our Sovereignty, an illegal act has been perpetrated against the People of this Country.

Peter Carter-Fuck said...

Cameron's problem is that he is a 'eurosceptic' who refuses to countenance the possibility of ever leaving the EU. As such, his public position is that he is prepared to keep on taking it up the arse from the EU, so long as he can moan about it.

The EU power elite are not stupid, they know he is their bitch. At his first EU Council meeting they will dress him in a party frock and spitroast the shit out of him, the useless faggot.

D. Bum said...

OK, Anonymous, if DC is Quisling what the fuck does that make Brown and Clegg who swore fucking blind they'd give us a say on the EU Constitution? Quisling is about as low as you can go, insult-wise, implying that he is in the pocket of another power and he quite patently isn't.

We all know that the traitor Heath was in at the start but the start involved the creation of a trading block. If anyone gave real power away it was Margaret Thatcher.

But when it comes to broken promises, explicit promises, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are two cheeks if the same Vichy arse and I would gladly cut off his cock and winch Gordon Brown's intestines from his treacherous stomach and cook them for him in front of his remaining eye before cutting him in four and beating the rest of the cabinet to death with bits of him, cunt.

Katabasis said...

OK, I've been going through the entire consolidated treaty line by line and been writing a lengthy analysis.

On the parts relevant to Dave's proposals, he has been extremely disingenous as far as I can tell. Here's what I have on this section so far - please bear with me as its a quick work in progress:

- Turns out that Cameron can't practically do any of the things he said he would. That is to say - technically he could - but the provisions in the treaty make it clear that what he is proposing would be exceptionally difficult.

- Proposals can be made by any member state to increase OR reduce the competencies conferred on the Union (for what competencies it has already been awarded, see later). Going on the basis of history, I expect the trend to be almost completely in the direction of increasing competency.

- Unfortunately just to agree to discuss such a change - every branch of the EU governing infrastructure has to be involved - the Council, the Parliament AND the Commission.

- "Recommendations" regarding proposed changes have to be adopted by consensus - i.e. not even the change itself, just recommendations regarding it!!!!!!

- The Council has the option, with permission of the Parliament, to avoid convening everyone (i.e. Council, Commission, Parliament), in which case the Council is the only body that discusses it. I really can't see this happening with regard to *anything* involving Britain "renegotiating", not that it makes much of a difference as the assault course is just then all the other heads of state.

- Here's the first super-giant killer clause for everything Dave proposed: Article 47, Section 2, subparagraph 6/7: "The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements". Remember Dave's "referendum lock"? The problem is *all* the member states have such a lock on any changes that might be proposed for Britain. Fantastic. It also means Dave wasn't promising anything new at all. This was already in the treaty.

- For general changes to the treaty involving Part Three of the Treaty of Rome (covering the internal workings of the union) that do not include new competencies, an Inter-governmental conference is not required - this is the popularly described 'self-amending' part of the treaty. Amendments however do still have to be approved by all member states. This is one part where Dave's proposals *could* hold the show up, though not necessarily to the UK's benefit (and this also explains the hostile reaction to his proposals).

- If I've understood Article 48 correctly, national parliaments DO have a veto when it comes to new competencies, but not for the 'self-amending' treaty section (as long as proposed changes do not include competencies, obviously). So again, Dave was being disingenuous. His proposals for clawing *back* power for the UK however are up a certain creek for the reasons already outlined above.

- Requirements in the Treaty of Rome however that require the council to act in unanimity, can instead be decided by qualified majority (except for defense).

For actual withdrawal, here's the second super giant-killer for Davy Boy:

- Withdrawal requires a qualified majority in the Council (currently 72%) and the consent of the Parliament (though the latter, as usual is more like an afterthought than an actual obstacle). In other words, everyone else gets to vote on whether or not we leave, moreover, any discussions of the conditions of our leaving we are *not* party to (Article 50, section 4). Looking at the charts put up by Wat Tyler on the UK's net contribution, I can't see this ("do us a favour") agreement being reached any time soon. Can you?

Prodicus said...

Imagine, just for fun, that Germany said, for whatever reason, 'We're leaving. Simples. Sod waiting years for you lot to decide whether to give us your permission or not. Auf wiedersehen.'

What do you think would then happen?

Ah, you say. But... the Euro! They've handed their bank balance over to the EuroFed! They can't leave!

Yes, indeed. And if they hadn't?

The Pedant General said...


Quite - which is why the realism shtick is such utter bollocks.

D Bum,

It's not good to bottle things up. You really need to let your shoulders drop a little, sigh and tell us how you really feel. You'll feel much better when you've got it off your chest.


Absolutely fascinating. The blogfather Tim W had a fabulous post that suggests that actually this is the one major difference between the Constitution and the Lisbon treaty. Because Lisbon is simply amendments to the original Treaty of Rome, we can simply repeal ECA1972 and everything, all subsequently amendments particularly including this clause on how to leave, is repealed with it.

If it had been the constitution, we might not have been able to use that route.


Quite - we've always been the poor relation, except when it comes to paying for it, both in blood and treasure.

Anonymous said...

So the whole thrust of this post is that he is a liar who has no balls.....

Mitch said...

Each new generation of voters should have a say in or out.
I was 10 when this shit was voted on in 75 and now I'm expected to pay for this bullshit but to have no say at the ballot box.
So give us a vote you spineless wankers or one way or another we will tear your playhouse down!!

Katabasis said...

Pedant - so the Constitution would have had a fundamentally different legal character to Lisbon? I didn't know that....

...anyway for anyone who is interested, I've now posted up the first part of a length analysis of the consolidated Lisbon treaty, line by line:

Revealing Lisbon - Part 1

Old Greeny said...

I wonder just what WOULD happen if we left? However, our beloved "Leaders" would never let that happen, too many plum jobs, expense accounts, first class tarvel and "fact finding missions" to exotic destinations...Oh, wait a minute, they can do that over here already. But the biggest problem would be for the scum to admit they were wrong!!

Generalfeldmarschall said...

If a Leader would only realise (put into effect, &c.) ...
Say "Fuck you" and walk away. No further contributions, no subordination to any (especially not previous) EUSSR law or regulation. All trade (subject only to) bilateral (agreement).
What are they to do? Invade? (We've seen others try that). Nuke us? (4 Trident submarines just put to sea).
Set up bilaterals with the Old Commonwealth - the USA & BRIC would join in, with pleasure. So would all the EUSSR countries (remember the Continental System?).
Where's the problem?

Generalfeldmarschall said...

In other words, fuck the legalisms - just do it.

Katabasis said...

Old Greeny - I think you've hit the nail on the head as to why our wonderful Political Class won't let this happen, at least not within the next decade.

The EU is allowing for a much enlarged mutual masturbation circle for the political class; and the current crop need to ensure their sinecures are in place for them for when Westminster is finally euthanized for being completely pointless (upgraded by the EU from 90% useless to 100%).

General - you may find this link interesting on the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties