The Times reports that Cameron's well publicised desire to try to attempt to reform the EU to fit in with UK requirements has fundamentally come undone, as told to a House of Lords committee by Chancellor George Osborne. It's worth reproducing the Times' article in full here (my emphasis throughout):
Eurozone countries will gang up on Britain as they did over the Greek bailout unless major changes can be won during renegotiations with the EU, George Osborne claimed yesterday.
However, the prime minister and chancellor have been warned that they could struggle to win such reforms in a report published today by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), which says that they have yet to win round key allies.
Mr Osborne told a House of Lords committee yesterday that the 19 eurozone countries decided in a meeting in July — to which the UK was not invited — that Britain should pay a share of the Greek bailout.
Eurozone ministers reactivated a bailout fund known as the European financial stability mechanism (EFSM) to make an emergency €7 billion loan to Greece. Britain thought that this fund had been wound down and the decision put about £850 million of UK taxpayers’ money at risk.
“When the EFSM was decided on there were no non-euro members in the room,” Mr Osborne told peers. “When we first raised this issue, the European Commission said to us in a written document we have a QMV [qualified majority vote] now, so we don’t need to pay any attention to you. Lots of member states disavowed that. But it’s just a straw in the wind of what’s coming our way.”
Although eurozone countries used the fund, Britain struck a deal that meant UK taxpayers would be protected in the event of losses. “The treaties of the EU did not envisage a large number of member states in a single currency and a large number of states who are never likely to join,” Mr Osborne added. “The treaties do not really accommodate that situation. Any person looking rationally at that decision can see something needs to be done.”
In its report, the ECFR presents a bleak outlook for Mr Cameron’s renegotiations, declaring that the prime minister still has to convince partners that Britain “will not seek to destroy the DNA of the European Union”.By Osborne's own words it's clear that Cameron has failed in his objective to try to 'reform' the EU and certainly before the UK referendum. None of this comes as a surprise but it's encouraging that we have further confirmation, as we noted before, that Cameron has as a consequence had to change strategy three times. The Minister for Europe said back in July:
The ECFR has spoken to 100 leading politicians and thinkers in ten key European capitals about Britain’s plans. It has concluded that Mr Cameron has support for barely a third of his objectives, with his high-profile initiatives to slow the flow of European migrants to Britain among the most difficult to achieve, with none of the ten countries yet won round.
The report says that plans to block welfare handouts for new EU migrants for four years is still opposed in France, the Netherlands and Poland and agreement on the issue is “absolutely not doable” with Germany.
German opposition is so entrenched, the report says, because “the largest political parties oppose the idea of limiting social benefits for migrants because this is against the principle of free movement”.
Another objective for Mr Cameron is to opt-out on “ever closer union” and forge clear boundaries between eurozone members and the rest of the EU that would prevent a repeat of the Greek bailout surprise.
Only two countries — Bulgaria and Denmark — were deemed by the think tank to be “convinced”, with France, Germany, Italy and Sweden labelled “unconvinced”.
"The key principle is that the reforms need to be legally binding and not reversible at the drop of a hat … it is not at all likely that by the end of 2017 one could have completed national ratifications of changes to the treaties, but part of any treaty process has to be agreement on the substance and then on the process of ratification … So we say that there would need to be absolutely clear agreement by all 27 countries where they have solemnly committed themselves to deliver on that package. That would be a unanimous decision of the European Council."All of this leaves now Cameron vulnerable to the timings of the European Union over a new treaty which provides the Associate Membership option - his only get out. We are now beginning to get a firming up of Cameron's strategy.
And here Juncker's speech today takes on a new significance. While Farage concentrates his response to Juncker on his comments on migrants, ranting about "closing borders", aided and abetted by the myopic nature of the UK media, the real agenda of the speech has clearly passed him by. For example a key passage, of many is:
"I want to ensure we preserve the integrity of all four freedoms of the Single Market and at the same time find ways to allow the further integration of the Eurozone to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union."We can see clearly then Juncker has fired the starting gun for a new EU treaty; the asylum seeker crisis rather like Greece is being used as a "beneficial crisis" to facilitate a new treaty and so more EU integration.
Throughout the speech Juncker regularly refers to needing "more union", he's being clear about the need for further integration while also having a "fair deal" for Britain with the opportunity for us to participate in further integration should we wish. It looks all a bit familiar - it's the associate membership option we'll be fighting in the referendum.endum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum