The whole issue has quickly become relevant because of the desire for the EU—driven by Germany—to gain control over Member States' economies. David Cameron was supposed to have won a great victory by enabling Britain to opt out of the EU's budgetary vetting, in return for supporting the three new EU QUANGOs gaining regulatory powers over the City and banking in general.
I would say that was, at best, a Pyrrhic victory and, at worst, a craven and stupid piece of negotiation which Cameron—and, more to the point, everyone else in Britain—is going to regret bitterly.
As President Sarkozy pointed out...
"Only four months ago, the words 'economic governance' were a taboo. But the idea is progressing."
Indeed. And it seems like Tough Dave Cameron is totally on board with the project. And even were he not, has Dave really managed opt out of EU oversight of the British budget?
In the words of a German diplomat, who upon reportedly hearing British claims of a victory at the summit, said, "Let's wait until October".
Well, it is now October and, sure enough, Douglas Carswell MP has found a puzzling piece of small print in the proposed Treaty.
If you read the European Commission document 11807/10 [PDF], however, it doesn’t seem quite so clear cut. Studying it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new rules on fiscal oversight are going to apply to all EU Member States, not just members of the Euro.
The paper – subtitled “Tools for stronger EU economic governance” – focuses on how Member States, not just Euro countries, “will act in compliance with the EU framework.” The “new structured mechanism” for vetting each countries budget will be applied to “all Member States”.
In or out of the Euro, the paper suggests Britain may indeed have her budget subject to EU Commission vetting – albeit that the time table for this “semester” process might allow officials to claim that the Commons gets to see it first.
And what if Brussels did not approve of the tax and spend policies of our democratically elected government?
If such rules only apply to Eurozone countries, why does page 5 of the document, under the heading “Corrective Action”, say that “This mechanism would apply to all Member States”. Use of that word “all”, again. If there’s a caveat saying “all” excludes Britain, I couldn’t find it.
On the next day, Douglas reminds us that "the cast iron guarantee" on the Lisbon Treaty was reneged on. And now there looks like there will be another Treaty—without any referendum.
Prepare for the government spin, which will likely say:
1. This new agreement involving France and Germany etc is not really a new treaty.
2. It doesn't involve giving the EU new powers in new areas. Just transfers in existing areas. And when we promised a referendum on any further transfer of new powers, we meant in new transfers of power within new areas. Obviously.
3. Besides, this is not a significant transfer of power. We were careful to say there'd be a referendum only when there were significant transfers. And we don't think this is significant. So there.
4. This new thingy, which isn't really a treaty, doesn't involve us, as we're not in the Euro. Despite what the small print [PDF] might say.
5. Anyhow, look how tough we've been, getting Europe to mug us for a little less with a slightly reduced budget increase!
By Friday, there's a fair chance you'll have been fed variants of all five of the above...
Of course, what the government actually seems to be doing is keeping the whole thing very quiet indeed.
This may, of course, be because there is nothing to worry about—Britain's opt-out is in an as-yet-unpublished addendum, and this isn't therefore a Treaty that transfers any powers. I'm sure that Eurogoblin, Nosemonkey (award-winning darling of the EU establishment) or Jon Worth will pop up and tell me that there is nothing to get excited about.
Unfortunately, Douglas believes this not to be the case, and another betrayal by the government is on the cards.
EU competence is to be extended into member state’s fiscal policy, with the power to make law for "all EU Member States". And it appears to have been kept hidden until today.
Not even the European Scrutiny Committee, I’m told, had sight of a paper by the “Task Force to the European Council” called “Strengthening Economic Governance in the EU” until today.
This hidden paper appears to confirm two things:
a) Despite what we were told in June, UK budgets will now become EU business. They might not be able to impose sanctions on us if they disapprove – yet. But they are involved.
b) According to the document, “The Task Force recommends a deeper macro-economic surveillance with the introduction of a new mechanism underpinned by a new legal framework .... applying to all EU Member States”.
Yep. That’s right. The EU is to legislate in a new area. In a way that could apply to all EU Member States.
And you thought there would be no further transfers of power to Brussels, eh?
Douglas's post is entitled "Have we been had?"
The answer, I'm afraid, looks to be "yes, we have been deceived by a bunch of utter bastards who are quite as unscrupulous and inimicable to the interests or desires of the British people as the previous administration."
In other words, not only will regulation of our great financial centre be controlled by Brussels but our supposedly sovereign government will still have to run its Budget through an EU vetting process. In other words, Euro or no Euro, the EU will control vast swathes of our economy.
And what can we do about it? Nothing, it seems—not whilst we are "led" (for want of a better word) by the spineless, massive-foreheaded Dave Cameron.
On my bookshelf, there is a well-thumbed copy of 2008's The Plan, signed by its two authors. Both messages, though concise, are personal—and embarrassingly flattering (I am, after all, a vain man). It is the one written by Douglas that finishes with this uplifting phrase:
Our time will come!
I certainly hope so, Douglas. But whilst I fail to lead a small party, and The Kitchen (a shadow of its former self) slides down the popularity rankings, you are in government—and yet seem almost as powerless as I.
Our time may well come—but if not now, when?