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Reacting to Lib Dem disquiet about the veto, newspapers today carry multiple reports that David Cameron is about to offer an "olive branch" to Nick Clegg.  As the Telegraph puts it:

"Mr Cameron is also preparing to make a significant concession to Mr Clegg and his party on the way Britain deals with the countries who sign the new European treaty, which will put limits on euro-members’ budget deficits.

France and Germany want EU institutions like the European Commission and the European Court of Justice to monitor and enforce those deficit limits.

Mr Cameron had suggested he would try to block any use of the institutions by the new Euro-Plus group. But yesterday, he promised to “look constructively at any proposals with an open mind.”

The Guardian notes:

"Clegg said in his talks with Cameron that Britain urgently needed to build diplomatic bridges with other EU countries and could not afford to be seen to be hindering Europe's efforts to stabilise the euro.

He said on Sunday that it would be ludicrous for the UK to insist that the other 26 countries set up separate bodies for their future meetings on the euro, adding that Britain needed a foot in the door to protect its national interest."

Now, of course, I had argued in advance of the Summit that the Eurozone had, ultimately, to be able to use the institutions of the EU to build the Single European State.  That's what they were always for.  Ultimately we need to get to that.  But he has to get something in exchange.  He cannot veto a new Treaty and then simply allow the other 26 to use the EU institutions.  Remember: the veto did not prevent any new impositions on the UK.  The veto was introduced because our EU partners refused to return certain powers to us.  When Cameron exercised the veto, 23 Member States proceeded to form their own Treaty, with 3 others saying they might sign in due course.

Thus, the only content there is in Cameron's veto is the forbidding of the use of the EU institutions.  He didn't stop there from being a Treaty.  He merely stopped there from being an EU Treaty.  And the only difference between a €+-26 Treaty and an EU-27 Treaty is that an EU-27 Treaty carries with it legal underpinning for the use of the EU institutions.

So, if he now allows the €+-26 to use the EU institutions the only difference between his vetoing the new Treaty and his signing it is a few millilitres of ink.  Well…that and a rather spurious claim that, because those few millilitres of ink remained in the pen, we therefore don't need to have a referendum in the UK.  Such a strategy will be presented by our opponents (and many friends) as a scam.  They will say: "If Cameron had signed, then there would have had to be a referendum, as a matter of practicality.  But by not signing, he hopes to avoid a referendum, even though there is absolutely zero practical difference between his signing and not signing."

Eurosceptics won't put up with that.  And the newspapers won't fail to understand for long.  Having hailed Cameron as delivering a heroic achievement (though I'm unclear what, precisely, he is supposed to have achieved), their idol will have feet of clay, shortly to be feet of baked, cracked clay as the fires of press anger burn beneath him.  His greatest protection as leader in the press mind, so far, TINA ("There is no alternative") could quickly turn into ABC ("Anyone but Cameron").  Buckling so abjectly, having apparently promised so much, would be completely disastrous and turn many erstwhile friends against him.

It's a tricky one.  I'm not convinced there is anything to get, to be honest.  I suspect we shall leave the EU in the not too distant future (which will be a pity), unless the whole thing collapses first with the euro going down.  In the end, if the euro does survive, they are going to have to be able to use those institutions.  But if Cameron gets nothing in exchange – if he simply waves it through – then the pressure for a referendum will be irresistable and the threat to his own leadership will be deadly.

42 comments for: Andrew Lilico: Don’t buckle yet, Mr Cameron!

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