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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ten lessons David Cameron needs to learn from the EU veto

Sir Humphrey it appears that "lessons need to be learnt” on how to negotiate EU Treaties

The Coalition has itself admitted that “lessons need to be learnt”. We would agree.

Open Europe has today published a new briefing setting out the ten lessons that should be learnt from David Cameron’s ‘veto’ of a proposed EU Treaty change at the summit of 8-9 December.

By accident or design, the UK Government has set down a marker for future negotiations. It is prepared to use the veto. It remains unclear what theconsequences of this initial veto will be. However, as moremember states show their reluctance to sign up to the new Franco-German-eurozone deal in its entirety, the initial dramatic portrayal of an isolated Britain was clearly premature.

Though Cameron left the negotiating table without any of his demands being met – which clearly wasn’t ideal – the broadly positive public reaction to Cameron’s veto should give him the confidence to set out what the UK wants from its relationship with Europe. But to make this vision a reality, it is vital that the UK uses the experience of this month’s summit to learn the lessons needed for future EU negotiations. Here they are:

Ten lessons in brief:

Lesson 1: Get in early
The Government was far too slow to react to the prospect of a series of EU Treaty changes to bolster the eurozone. The Government gave the impression that it left its requests to the last minute despite having over a year to prepare. The Coalition needs to start thinking now about not only the next potential opportunity but the one after that.

Lesson 2: If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail
The UK failed to prepare potential allies and crucially failed tocorrectly gauge the likely reaction of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There was clearly a breakdown in communication and understanding leading up to the summit with no time being given to explain the UK’s requests. The UK needs to improve its preparation for negotiations using all the resources available to it.

Lesson 3: Communicate intelligently and to persuade
The Coalition needs to set out a coherent narrative prior to summits in an easily understandable form. The UK was secretive and this made it easy for others to portray the UK’s requests as ‘special pleading’ for the City of London when in fact the UK was also seeking for the right to impose stricter regulation on banks than the EU standard. The UK should have emphasised its desire to protect the Single Market and the UK taxpayer.

Lesson 4: Listen and understand what the other side is thinking
There was clearly a failure to understand the changing mood in Berlin. Next time the UK will need to have a more intelligent method of understanding the thinking of key decision makers as well as natural allies so it can pitch its requests at the appropriate level and in the appropriate manner.

Lesson 5: Tailor your demands to the nature of the negotiations
The UK needs to ask for the right things at the right time. The UK’s requests at the summit were modest but some of the very technical demands were not appropriate for a discussion on EU Treaty change.

Lesson 6: Have a clear view of your own long-term interests
It is evident that the UK has for a long time failed to articulate a strategicplan to further its interests in the EU. The UK must develop a long termstrategy based on the realisation that it will not join the euro but that othereuro states might well seek to work more closely together.

Lesson 7: Don’t expend unnecessary political capital on lecturing others
The UK wasted a lot of goodwill and political capital lecturing EU leaderson how to solve the eurocrisis in the run up to the summit. As the UK was not going to contribute to a plan to ‘save the euro’, this advice was not welcome and merely wasted political goodwill. In particular, the UK’s public support for greater ECB intervention was always likely to antagonise Germany. The UK needs to do better at prioritising when to use its political capital andunderstand the sensitivities of other countries.

Lesson 8: Attempt to achieve a united front across the political parties
The UK political class, more than in any other EU state, uses the EU as a party political football. This creates a polarised debate at home and ties the hands of UK politicians abroad. The UK should do more to engage its MEPs and its staff in the EU institutions with a national strategy based around the UK’s strategic interests.

Lesson 9: Thereis no clear Coalition decision making process
It was not clear who was in charge of the UK negotiations, with officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Number 10, and the Treasury all keeping each other in the dark. The Coalition needs to make itsdecision making processes clearer.

Lesson 10: The Treasury and FCO are on the same side
The key UK institutional relationship in the negotiations was between the FCO and the Treasury. It is clear that this relationship broke down. This needs to be repaired so that all parts of the Government are signed up to the same strategy. The Treasury also needs to learn to engage with and better understandthe mechanics of the EU.


rapscallion said...

There was no veto, because there was no treaty, unless of course you can give me the name of the Treaty Cameron was supposed to have vetoed.

Your 10 points are a waste of time. We just place one piece of paper on the table with the words
"We are leaving the EU" on it.


Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks Rapscallion. Although, we're not sure we follow you.

Cameron vetoed a treaty change at the level of 27. There were various proposals but the primary one was to amend protocol 12 of the EU treaty (on the excessive deficit procedure). This could have allowed the EU institutions (Commission and ECJ) to enforce and interpret the new rules (What Germany wanted although France remained opposed to the idea).

See here for more:

As a result of the veto, a new intergovernmental treaty was proposed (outside of the EU institutions). Therefore the new rules (automatic sanctions in particular) cannot be governed and enforced by the Commission or the ECJ at the supranational level (possibly why France seems happier with the outcome than Germany).

letsgo said...

I too think that the ten points are irrelevent.What is there to understand about an organization which cannot be trusted? Which break it's own rules when convenient for the "founders", and is not built on any semblance of democratic priciples and can ignore the fact that the accountancy is too corrupt for any reputable firm to sign off accounts. One does not get into a partnership or close relation with such as this. Trade with them and nothing else. Any little power over us will be used as a whip because that is the nature of the beast.

Rollo said...

The first thing that Cameron should learn is to stop repeating the five lies. There are not 3000000 jobs depending on the EU. Only 4% of our trade is with the EU, and we make a 30% loss on it. There is no level playing field for UK companies to trade in Europe. Most companies do not want to be in the EU. And we need EU regulation like a hole in the head.

crapshooter said...

These are indeed sensible lessons. And if David Cameron's objective was to enter into negotiations for a Fiscal Union treaty at 27 with safeguards for the financial services sector in Britain, then he negotiated ineptly. But if his objective was to avoid having to submit any treaty to the House of Commons, while purporting to show that he was defending a national interst, agreed with his coalition partners, and not acting out of fear of his own backbenchers, then he achieved his objectives.