Tag Archives: opt-outs

Will the Cameron Government Be THAT Euroskeptical?

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.

David Cameron on EU – Just a Little Bit Softer

The leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron, has delivered a speech on the EU. One issue has obviously dropped off the Tory agenda – there will be no new referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. The reason – holding a referendum now will be like holding “a referendum to stop the sun [from] rising in the morning”.

One of the concrete steps for a possible future Tory government will be to prohibit, by law, the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum. Cameron also proposes a new law “to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament”. The third measure is to require all changes in primary EU law without a new ratified treaty (the so-called pasarelles) to be subject to “full approval by Parliament”.

Cameron demands also new opt-outs for Britain:

  • opt-out from the Social Chapter;
  • new, better opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • limiting the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over criminal law to its pre-Lisbon level.

Cameron recognizes that these new opt-outs are subject to approval by all the Member states of the European Union.

 

Talks on Working Time Directive fail

Talks between the European Parliament and governments of member states on removing the so-called “British opt-out” in the Working Time Directive failed.

As the European Parliament notes, this is the first time that no agreement could be found via conciliation since the Amsterdam Treaty which significantly extended the scope of the codecision procedure.

The affair may become more interesting since the ECJ has quite a negative stance for opt outs from compulsory working time limits (see the SIMAP case for example).