Update: the UK government has issued a statement on a common position on relations with the EU. As expected, it reiterates the idea of future referendums on new revisions of the founding treaties. The idea of new opt-outs from the Treaty of Lisbon is discarded, however.
The deed is done, and a coalition between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party will probably govern the United Kingdom. As usual, I try to figure out what does this mean for the European Union.
First, on the personality effects. David Cameron and the future Foreign Secretary, William Hague, are not, well, real fans of the European Union. Cameron and Hague have given some pretty worrying signals in the past. Cameron promised to run a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, but later backed down. He also did try to sabotage the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon by writing to Vaclav Klaus.
Mr. Hague, the former chairman of the Conservative Party, and future Foreign Secretary, has a motto: ‘In Europe not run by Europe’. His special breed of euroskepticism was an essential part of his strategy as a party leader, and later as a shadow Foreign Secretary. He eagerly opposed any idea of joining the euro. He went so far that no other than the White House administration expressed its concern that the Conservative’s Euroscepticism could undermine the ability of a Conservative government to influence events in the EU. However, a leaked memo in the Guardian, drafted by civil servants on behalf of William Hague, shows that he is still in the same boat. He reiterates the earlier demand by Cameron for a number of new opt-outs (criminal justice, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and social/employment issues) that would demand new revisions of the founding treaties.
So the question is will Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hague pursue this policy in full? I am not so sure. The Cameron government will be a coalition government, to begin with. On the criminal justice front the Liberal Democrats demand keeping Britain part of international crime-ﬁghting measures such as the European Arrest Warrant, European Police Ofﬁce (Europol), Eurojust, and the European Criminal Records Information System. They also believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro. Again, on a personal level, Nick Clegg – the future Deputy Prime Minister, was a European Commission official, and later – a member of the European Parliament.
This obvious contradiction must be cleared. It remains to be seen how the new British coalition government will manage these issues. In fact, the future government’s stance on Europe may the main stumbling block ahead. Perhaps Mr. Cameron can use some wisdom stemming from the special relationship.