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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Italy: A new (and unexpected) ally on EU reform for David Cameron?

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has probably made a lot more friends than he expected on his first official visit to the UK. This is largely due to a couple of quite sensible remarks he has made about the future of Europe and Britain's role in it.

Asked by the BBC's Gavin Hewitt about the UK returning significant powers from Brussels, Mr Letta said
"It can be possible and it could be useful for us too...We need a more flexible Europe...We can have a new [EU] treaty negotiation for the UK to have a different link, but remaining on board, and for Italy or other countries in the euro to have a more integrated eurozone."
He was even more specific during the joint press conference with David Cameron earlier today,
"I think it will be possible to have a common very near future in which we can have [EU] treaty changes for having a more flexible Europe in the interests of the UK, but also in the interests of Italy and the euro area countries."
This certainly challenges the assumption that there's no appetite for major treaty changes across Europe.

Meanwhile, in a piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free, Mr Letta also argued,
"Greater integration in the eurozone should not challenge the integrity of the single market or leave countries outside the eurozone less comfortable with their membership of the [European] Union...We need to reshape the Union, so that it can accommodate the interests of countries which want to move forward towards greater political and economic integration, and countries which prefer a co-operation around the single market."
Furthermore, during the joint presser, Mr Letta repeated several times that the single market is "the main pillar" of the EU because, unlike the single currency, it is shared by all 28 member states.

This is music to David Cameron's ears. Italy is traditionally one of the most pro-integration EU member states, and while Mr Letta believes in the 'United States of Europe', the fact that he also acknowledges the need to make the EU "more flexible" is potentially significant. It means that more integration in the eurozone, if that is what happens, is not incompatible with a more flexible, looser relationship for other countries outside the single currency.

As UK Foreign Secretary William Hague put it in his speech at Open Europe's summer reception last night,
"Change in the EU is worth fighting for and that change would not just benefit Britain but every country in the EU."
Well, the UK may just have found a new, and somewhat unexpected, ally in this fight. 


Denis Cooper said...

But we've heard this kind of thing before, going back to 2009, and then in the autumn of 2010 when Merkel demanded a treaty change to make sure that the eurozone states could set up the ESM bailout fund Cameron agreed to just give it to her and ask for no other treaty changes in return.

And Hague helped out by making sure that any such EU treaty change for the benefit of the eurozone would never trigger any UK referendum under his carefully drafted "referendum block" law, thereby greatly weakening the UK's negotiating position even if Cameron did ever seek a quid pro quo.

Anonymous said...

All very well and good. A good idea from Mr Letta.

The only thing is that we all know that Italian governments only last a few weeks at a time.

Next month(post the Italian bailout) the new Italian technocrat PM will be saying something entirely different.

No thanks.


DVK said...

What he actually said is you can go or you can stay,it does not matter to Italy

c said...

Let's be clear! No member of the EU can repatriate any powers already subsumed into European law. The powers that May is banging on about have not yet been subsumed and are not due to be until the end of next year!

Equally, no country can renegotiate any powers already subsumed without the highly unlikely unanimous agreement of all 28 member countries! Even in the unlikely event of such agreement, Given the time factors involved, no significant or meaningful changes, are going to occur during the life of the present coalition!

If Cameron was sincere about either repatriation or renegotiation he would have to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty! In view of the fact that he has made it clear that he intends to keep us in the EU "regardless of how little we get out of it", his words not mine, He is not going to do that!

Spin, smoke and mirrors are Mr. Cameron's stock in trade!

Anonymous said...

but we can leave--no?

Anonymous said...

The UK can do anything it likes by passing a new law in Parliament.

What is the EU going to do about it? To be frank, bring it on.

I would be interested to know what could happen if anyone knows.

Any sanctions against the will of the people would be oppressive behaviour and against every rule in the UN book. In fact, would the ECHR take the EU to court over it?!


Anonymous said...

Letta is a Eurofascist, in the pocket of the EUSSR banksters.

Cameron is a Eurofascist in the pocket of the EUSSR banksters.

So, what's the news here.

Rik said...

The EuroZone's bananarepublics (and kingdom) know that extremely likely they will require a treatychange. To make EZ exit possible if politically things run completely out of control. As well as alternatively create a 'Germany pays' union with transfers via ESM (or similar); a European tax; ECB bondbuying or a bankunion).

Clear that the ones not pro change are the Northern EZ countries. As their government donot like to be part of Germany and Co that pays as well as being butchered in the next election.

In other words Italy and other banana republics are Dave's natural allies on this issue.
As they know as well that good old fashioned blackmail is a very likely UK approach. Backbenchers simply demanding it or a civil war would break out in the Conservative party. A thing that Cameron cannot afford.
While the South needs EZ exit rules in place before a country leaves (otherwise it will be a complete mess) and preferably room for other stuff like a banking union (aka Germany pays via a resolution and/or account guarantee fund).

Denis Cooper said...


Cameron could have pressed for that kind of treaty change nearly three years ago but chose not to.

Why? Because he wanted to preserve the eurozone intact, even though he knew that later it would expand and eventually engulf the UK as well.

Rik said...

3 years ago Cameron clearly missed the bus. But there has clearly be a (policy) game changer now and it looks very unlikely he will miss the bus again.
3 year ago was a different situation. Traditional politics everywhere in Europe thought it would be like always. Cameron and Co woke up in the mean time. As said these times will not come back, things have changed. Furthermore everybody was afraid the bottom would fall out of the worldeconomy.

The UK probably has several different priorities regarding its relation with the EU.
No good for anybody if the by far largest trade partner falls apart. So the UK would clearly like to see the group staying together (and starts to function).
On the other hand a reneg is necessary. Continuing in the present way (EU starting all sort of stuff up without a platform in respectve populations combined with an UK population who have simply had it with the Europe (and the next few years of negatives more or less assured)) is driving the car against the wall. In a nutshell things as they were are not sustainable and politics now realise that. Although Cameron is the only one more or less concrete. The rest is vague (Mr Nick) and vagues (Mr Ed).

From the Italian angle they might have hoped Germany pays the bill (directly or via the ECB). That is not going to happen as things look now. And reform looks even more difficult than before.
Plus they have had the time to analyse things.
Meaning countries like Italy (and even more Greece, Cyprus and Portugal) need to prepare for alternative scenarios (aka EZ exit, which requires a treaty change). When either their own population or one of the North's pulls the plug. Eg Holland now has a majority Euro sceptics in the polls.
And gambling on an easily cooperating UK at this moment in time looks simply wishful thinking. In other words simply way too risky.