Cameron’s bid for irreversible guarantee means constitutional chaos

The Conservative government’s attempt to renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union continues to distress Britain’s pro-Europeans, antagonise its anti-Europeans and bamboozle its EU partners.

Prime minister David Cameron has realised that there are two cardinal principles of EU primary law which he will not be allowed to breach: freedom of movement of EU citizens and no discrimination on the grounds of nationality. Moreover, hostilities against the European Court of Justice appear to have been suspended, at least for now. He has also learned that in order to change EU secondary law, namely in labour and welfare matters for migrants, he will need not only a qualified majority in the Council and the connivance of the European Commission but also the cooperation of the European Parliament. The latter, at least, is unlikely: Cameron has not even begun to butter up MEPs, and he is still unsure about whether to risk a personal appearance at a Strasbourg plenary. Who knows, he may even be starting to regret that he pulled his own Tory MEPs out of the European People’s Party, Parliament’s largest group.

Furthermore, it transpires that much of what the new Conservative government appears to want by way of EU ‘reform’ – such as a more dynamic trade policy, a push to competitiveness and better regulation – is work already well in hand under the auspices of President Juncker’s Commission in any case, and will continue to be so whether or not the UK remains a member state of the Union.

Investigation of the possibility of asking for more opt-outs for the UK has led nowhere, especially after the coalition government’s recent review of EU competences threw up no suggestions for repatriation ...

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