There were a lot of voices calling for treaty change at the “State of Europe” event last week. This was perhaps not surprising; many see “more Europe” as a solution to the current crisis, and would like to see the treaties opened up to allow deeper integration between member states. What was perhaps somewhat surprising, however, was the number of nominally “Eurosceptic” voices that have been joining that call.
In the UK, long seen as a bastion of ardent Euroscepticism, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, spoke recently of the importance of Eurozone members accepting the “remorseless logic” that monetary union inevitably leads to deeper fiscal integration, and said he believes “there may be a treaty change imposed in the next year or two.”
Could treaty change be an opportunity for the United Kingdom to renegotiate its relationship with the EU, and repatriate certain powers – particularly over social and employment policy? This is certainly the view of some British Conservative MPs, who have begun researching which policy areas might be up for grabs.
Debating Europe spoke to British Conservative MP Peter Lilley, and asked him if he agreed with George Osborne about the “remorseless logic” of monetary union. Does Europe have a choice? Or must the EU, as Debating Europe reader Protesilaos argues, move along the path towards full fiscal union?
No, it does have a choice. It can’t stay where it is, that’s true; there has never been a single currency without powers to tax, spend, regulate, etc. The euro hasn’t got those powers, that’s why it’s in trouble. But it has a choice: it either has to go down the route of the closer fiscal integration needed to manage a currency, or it has to face up to reality and effectively probably shrink to a narrower zone – shrinking down to a more managable core. There is a case for a single currency covering some of the countries of Northern Europe.
Would repatriation of powers be enough, though? There are those calling for a full UK exit of the EU. Would a limited repatriation of powers be enough to satisfy them?
It would put the people who want to leave the European Union entirely on the back foot, it would weaken their position if there was a process to get back powers that don’t need to be at the EU level. The principle of localism, the principle of our coalition, is in line with the repatriation of powers from Brussels. Once that principle was conceded – even if some people then said we should go the whole hog and pull out of the EU – it would kill, not dead, but certainly fatally weaken their case.
What do YOU think about the UK renegotiating powers away from the EU? Is it fair for the UK to receive special treatment in this way? Or should other countries start renegotiating powers as well? Would a two-speed Europe be the solution? As reader David Fuzzey argued earlier on Debating Europe, perhaps “no country or people should be required to go any further than they wish”. What do YOU think? Let us know in the form below and we’ll take your comments and ideas to policy-makers and experts for their reaction.