Anyone would think – from reading the stories today on The Guardian’s website – that the UK is shaping up for some major fight with the European Union over treaty reform prior to this week’s summit.
There are two problems with this.
First, the agreement might not be for treaty change at all at the summit this week, or at least not treaty change as the first priority. As the leaked Van Rompuy report (FT blog about it here, full document here) details, some of the measures for improved budgetary discipline could be pursued through an amendment of Protocol 12 of the Treaty, and this can be done by a decision of the European Council (after consulting the EP and the ECB), without needing national ratification. For the UK, this would require prior authorisation by an Act of Parliament, rather than ratification afterwards.
The second problem is the wider one, with the framing of this ‘repatriate or not / referendum or not’ debate. Where is any sense of European responsibility in this? If the Eurozone needs urgent changes, who is making the case in the UK that the UK will assist in this hour of need? Imagine Cameron were to succumb to backbench demands for repatriation and/or a referendum, and a referendum in the UK further messes up the Eurozone crisis… The whole debate in the UK is what the UK can take, take, take. How about what it can give too? Of course Labour could play that responsible role, but instead Ed Miliband chooses to poke the Prime Minister about repatriation at PMQs instead.