Britain faces veto clash with Brussels

Britain faces new conflict with Brussels following proposals published yesterday to abolish use of the veto in 25 new policy areas. Among areas where unanimity could be abolished are culture, industry and the environment, says a draft proposal on European Union reform published yesterday by the Netherlands, which holds the presidency.

It also sets out the first detailed plans for building a hard-core Europe, using "flexibility". It suggests the veto may not be maintained for "flexibility", which means Britain could lose the power to stop other countries speeding ahead.

Two options are set out under which hard-core countries could proceed after agreement by qualified majority. Only one option is presented for voting by unanimity. The document confirms British fears that other states are determined to find ways of speeding integration without being held back by objectors. It will form the basis of tough negotiating before final decisions at the European summit in Amsterdam in June.

Under one option, fast-track power-sharing could be applied to several core areas of policy-making, listed as economic and monetary union, including indirect taxation; environmental standards; health and safety of workers and areas of immigration and justice policy.

Applying flexibility to EMU is important to several member-states keen to ensure countries which join the single currency should have the power to use fast-track decisions, to speed future economic integration. Several member-states envisage a need for greater harmonisation of tax and social security once the single currency is running.

The last chance they have to secure a treaty change, creating this power, before the launch of monetary union will be in June. In perhaps their most ground-breaking initiative, the Dutch supported the drive for speedier integration within the Euro-zone. They insisted the veto would, in general, never be lifted for policy-making on direct taxation, regional funding and constitutional matters.

The European Commission has been reluctant to accept application of flexibility to areas in the "first pillar" of EU decision making, which includes EMU, for fear the entire union would fragment as a result.

However, it is clear the phrasing in the Dutch document is broad enough to allow countries to adopt fast-track "flexible" decision-making in any areas of EMU policy-making they choose, including direct tax and social security.

John Major has insisted Britain would not give up the veto in any new policy areas and Tony Blair has said Labour would accept an extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) to limited areas, citing industry, research, social policy and environment. Several of the 25 areas listed in the Dutch document as a "working basis" for extension of QMV are highly technical, such as development of research and training, and laws governing professions.

Mr Major has favoured flexibility in principle but insisted Britain should have the right to veto any decision by core groups of countries to move ahead alone.

r Strasbourg - The European Commission president, Jacques Santer, fighting to avoid censure for the way it handled the "mad-cow crisis, offered the European Parliament the right of veto over EU health policy, Reuter reports.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions