UK shadow PM David Cameron claims to be “dejected” about the final ratification of the Lisbon treaty, but he seems pretty pleased about having just missed the “massive Euro bust up".
Or, as he says, “We could not make the treaty magically disappear, any more than we could hold a referendum to stop the sun rising in the morning.” Right you are. As Guardian columnist Simon Hoggart snorted, “In short, we cynical hacks assumed, he would create a lot of noise, make umpteen demands, and then when the other 26 member states laughed in his face, he would go away quietly.”
Cameron is the bicycle-riding son of privilege, the scion of a family connected with royalty for generations, and, through his wife, tied to the Stuart dynasty – in a sort of left-handed way. The 42-year-old Cameron is almost a lock to replace the hapless Gordon Brown, just nine years after Cameron entered Parliament, and just four-and-a-half since he became leader of that once-reviled Conservative Party. At the party’s most recent conference, Tory leaders set out an austerity program to bring down the deficit and rein in spending – especially social benefits – in the midst of a recessionary time. Even so, most observers say Cameron and his people will win handsomely.
The parliament that would be elected in 2010 with a Conservative Party majority will not be about a mega-referendum on Europe, despite the Tory’s long-time distrust of the Lisbon Treaty’s implications. Some laws may change, there may be tiresome negotiations about the repatriation of some governmental powers but, rather than girding his loins for a final fight to the death, Cameron and his party seem prepared to acquiesce in the new Europe. More Salisbury than Churchill?
The Tories have taken a long, slow journey to get to this point over the past decades. And, for months they have been twitching with irritation at the inevitability of a new Europe, with new rules. Cameron’s most recent comments on the EU, while not for inscribing on heroic plinths, at least haven’t sent European leaders rushing to board the lifeboats.
Cameron’s proposed UK sovereignty bill would stipulate the new EU is a collection of sovereign nations, rather than a trans-national commonwealth. This is probably a bit of red meat to dyed-in-the-wool Tories but it won’t keep the Eurocrats awake too late at night. Yet his insistence on special employment and social legislation takes aim at the EU’s rasion d’etre in protecting the rights of its citizens. Repatriation of powers back from the EU would require a whole new treaty (and with that you would hear a near-collective “ouch!” in dozens of European capitals), as well as unanimous agreement from all EU members. Not gonna happen.
By Brooks Spector
WATCH: David Cameron and William Hague on how the Conservative Party will deal with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and any future transfer of powers to the EU.