Helping British PM David Cameron with his demons
by our secret columnist in Brussels
We would like to help the British Prime Minister David Cameron to cope with his demons including his coalition partners, the parliamentary opposition, his wilder supporters, the press pundits who have it in for him, the antis and his European 'colleagues'. Our secret columnist Schadenfreude puts forward some ideas
Although Schadenfreude, like his Anglo-Irish satirist inspiration Dean Swift, "mocks a solemn creed with solemn sneer"; he also has a softer side. Let's call it Mitgefühl - compassion. In this spirit we would like to help the British Prime Minister David Cameron to cope with his demons including his coalition partners, the parliamentary opposition, his wilder supporters, the press pundits who have it in for him, the antis and his European 'colleagues'. Cameron has given pledges to roll back European Union legislation, which he says cripples business. One option is available and would do much to demonstrate firm leadership.
In the Intergovernmental Conference, which endorsed the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the then British Prime Minister John Major obtained an exemption from the 'social contract'. It was an achievement described at the time as "game, set and match". This was hotly debated in the United Kingdom's parliament's ratification debate. When there was a change of government, the new prime minister announced that consistent with what it had demanded in opposition - the new government was cancelling the Maastricht exemption. It did so by signing up to the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, Tony Blair's first foray into EU business. This incident was made memorable when he tactlessly won the leaders' informal bicycle ride round the city.
Power changed again in 2010, but Cameron has had difficulty in finding an opportunity to address the question of burdensome regulation. We suggest a simple expedient. Given that the Maastricht IGC approved of British non-participation in the social contract and that the cancellation of the exemption was entirely a British domestic decision, there can be no obstacle to a new UK decision which restores the exemption. It is a clear case of status quo ante. How to restore the exemption is lawyers' work. Measures adopted under the provisions of the social contract, would not apply in the UK. The agency directive reflects an agreement between the Trade Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry and could be left intact.
Additionally, during the period in which the exemption was in force, the EU-adopted measures which were proper to the social contract - but were based on other provisions such as health and welfare. The notorious example is the EU Working Time Directive against which the UK protested, unsuccessfully, as a misuse of powers. It and any others adopted under an inappropriate base would likewise not apply in Britain. The restoration of the post-Maastricht regime would be a long step forward in Cameron's strategy. With the party ever more closely united behind him, he would go into a showdown with his adversaries.