Don’t use the veto. It’s a devalued currency...

Letter to the PM

Dear David,

Your problems over the EU budget stem from the relationship between your isolation in Brussels and the demands of your party in Westminster.

The currency of diplomacy is compromise and a willingness to give ground in one area in order to secure concessions in another.

You build alliances through complex trade-offs in order to maximise influence and get agreement for the changes you want.

But the implacable hostility of Conservative MPs to giving any ground at all leaves you with little room for manoeuvre. The risk is that any diplomatic failure in Brussels will increase opposition at home even more.

You have the option of a veto, but it’s a wasting asset. The more it is used, the more creative other countries become at finding ways round it, such as devising new structures from which the vetoing country is excluded from any role or influence.

One option in the event of a budget veto would be to use the treaty procedure that allows an emergency budget to be set by majority vote.

The UK could end up being outvoted and paying more anyway.

You need to find allies at a time when your party is forcing you to behave in a way that makes alliance building all but impossible. Something has to give.

Yours,

David Clark

David Clark was special adviser at the Foreign Office from 1997 to 2001, working for the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook

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