This week has seen plenty of dicsussion about David Cameron’s treaty “U-Turn”. In fact I was a little startled to not see the matter picked over on Question Time last night but one assumes the BBC hadn't picked the right members of the panel for that.
The Prime Minister has revoked his original standpoint of blocking a new compact observing tighter fiscal regulation and budgetary control governed by the European Court of Justice. That is now going ahead, but without the involvement of the UK or Czech Republic. What does this mean? Well before Christmas the UK vetoed a new treaty which would effectively see economic governance enforced to all 27 members of the EU by Brussels. Apparently we do not have a new treaty, due to the veto, and so instead 25 out of the 27 member states have drawn up an "intergovernmental pact" which is supposedly separate from EU jurisdiction (as we blocked it - you see, any new treaty has to be ratified by all member states) yet the European Court of Justice will preside over it and the meeting will take place within the governmental buildings of Brussels. In essence, they have I would propose illegally sidestepped the knotty issue of the fact that an EU treaty of fiscal governance was blocked, and gone ahead and effectively made one anyway. This poses the question of how a 25 state intergovernmental pact can use the jurisdiction of an institution of the 27 member state EU without it in some way being regarded as an EU treaty. It also leaves the UK vulnerable to decisions made under this new entente which could affect the single market or financial industry in the City of London as we are not part of it. Now I'm not suggesting I'd want us to be part of it, far from it. Instead we have been told that if new regulation encroaches upon UK sovereignty, the legality of the agreement will be called into question, which would effectively mean appealing to the ECJ to pass judgement on its own lawfulness. It is a strange situation that until put into practise, remains pretty hard to fathom. What is clear is that the EU is prepared to work above the law which it writes itself and bend the rules whenever it feels like it if not all parties are appeased by the decision making.
So when will this not-a-treaty-treaty come into force? Well Nicholas Sarkozy has stated that France will not ratify the new “treaty” until after the French Presidential elections, with his main contender, Francois Hollande, suggesting he would demand a rewrite if he were to gain power. This means the 25 member state agreement will not even be put into place until after the start of May, yet the Eurozone is likely to stumble quite dramatically before this legislation can seriously send out a message of calm to the markets. The initial bail out loan to Greece is set to mature on 20th March with the possibility of an uncontrolled default looming large. The bubble of toxic debt currently hovering over southern European Euro countries could burst when Greece fails to start paying back the loan and with potentially disastrous consequences. If this were to happen, how much would the UK be dragged into the mess?
I have addressed two letters, one to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and one to Edwina Hart, the Welsh Government Business Minister, asking whether any contingency plans or impact assessments have been prepared for euro collapse and whether any public money has been set aside to rescue businesses should the single currency come to a timely end. We have heard how the UK Foreign Office has prepared a rescue strategy for British nationals if a collapse of the single currency leads to social uprising across Europe, but what about the equally pressing possibility that shockwaves from another crunch could smash against UK shores?
I am concerned that Welsh businesses are implored to trade further afield than the EU, especially with the fantastic links we have with the Commonwealth, yet the rhetoric from the First Minister’s Office suggests a vain clinging to the ideal of the EU as some kind of saviour for Wales. After all, if the single currency goes down, anybody who relies on trade with the countries involved will be equally damaged. So have Welsh businesses been encouraged to slough the bonds with Europe and look elsewhere? I have heard little to this end. Instead all we continue to hear are members of the political elite still championing the EU as of some kind of irreplacable benefit to Wales. The usual reasons, trade and regional funding, are constantly echoing around newspaper columns, but in truth, we can see how in fact the trade links established with the EU are the reason many businesses should be starting to panic, while recent damning reports confirming what I have always said about EU Cohesion Policy are coming to light.
It is interesting how recently the myth of structural funding has been overturned. For years Cohesion Policy has been championed as the greatest benefit for Wales of EU membership. Even though parts of West Wales are net beneficiaries of the funding, overall, Wales, like the UK as a whole, pays far more in to the pot than is ever returned. In fact, I have often argued that Cohesion Policy is essentially Brussels saying to Wales ‘You pay us millions, we will give back 65% and tell you how to spend it in return for you publicising how generous the EU is’. It’s simply propaganda funded by extortion.It would of course be far better for us to manage our own regional spending, but propagandist nationalists would suggest Westminster would leave us high and dry and only Brussels can be trusted to make sure we get a fair deal. Really? It is silly to believe this just to fulfill a patriarchal agenda when it is clear that this would surely not be the case. In Scotland and here in Wales the forces for independence vainly cling to the idea that membership of the EU in their own right would be the way forward, after all, the benefits of being part of the British pound and receiving money via the Barnett Formula from Westminster would need to be replaced with another pot of cash. I think not. If one can see how easily the UK can be defied when it suits the EU, imagine the rollocking smaller states would get from Brussels. Plus the EU would control the North Sea Oil, the whole of the Welsh farming industry, would force us to sign up to Schengen, and make all businesses stick to their frankly inept and dangerous working and competition laws which would render us wholly uncompetitive and wholly dependent upon Mother Brussels for everything (which is of course, what they want). Plus with a whole contingent of new members lined up to join, our needs would be increasingly disregarded. It is also part of EU law that any new member states must sign up to the Euro, a rather chilling prospect I think you will agree. Plus I can't see member states like Spain sitting back and letting Scotland, or potentially Wales, sign up to the EU independently when it has such problems with the Basque separatists and those who want to see an independent Catalunia. If Brussels were our look-to government and not Westminster, I would imagine people would soon grow sick and tired of the amount of legislation and control being filtered down from Brussels when the dream was to have a Wales standing on her own two feet. I would also imagine if that were the case England may well decide to break away from the EU and grow in wealth and freedom until the disparity across the Severn would be unimaginable and everyone was regretting not sticking with the devil we know.
However let's not go too far with this line of thought. The more pressing concern is what is going to happen over the coming months to the economy.
The unravelling narrative of the Eurozone crisis is far from over and I would venture to suggest that across the continent the public are becoming wearied and justifiably concerned about the direction what was once a simple free trade community has recently taken. What is left unaddressed however is whether public opinion alone can democratically overturn the burgeoning powers the EU bestows upon it’s self. Given the recent move in Brussels to compose an essentially illegal “treaty” one would suggest that democracy is slipping further and further away from EU conscience. Only time will tell how long this delicate balance between an increasingly agitated public and a wilful supranational superpower can last.