British 'opt-in' could wreck Maastricht deal

IF LABOUR and the Tory rebels defeat the government by including the Social Chapter in the Bill ratifying the Maastricht treaty, the consequences will be felt in the other 11 EC capitals, where any modifications have to be ratified, according to legal experts.

The result could be a catastrophe for Maastricht, with Denmark, Ireland and France possibly being forced into high-risk strategies of putting the treaty - modified to include Britain in the Social Chapter - to their electorates yet again. If successful, the Labour amendment would become a time-bomb ticking away at the heart of the integration process, some legal experts fear.

The Foreign Office has joined the war of words over Labour's amendment, which has presented John Major with a crisis. The battle centres on whether the amendment will wreck the treaty. Labour insists it will not; the Government and the anti-Maastricht Tories say it will.

Tristan Garel-Jones, the minister of state, told the Commons it would mean the treaty would have to be renegotiated, though he conceded it might be possible to do it at an intergovernmental conference in 30 seconds. But he warned that attempting to renegotiate the treaty, even for something which the other 11 member states favoured, would put it in peril.

'If the amendment is successful, the UK will have failed to ratify the treaty' - opting in to the Social Chapter Protocol would amount to a modification of the treaty and would require further ratification, said Colm Mac Eochaidh, who directs the Brussels office of The Law Society of Scotland, England and Wales.

When Mr Major returned from the Maastricht summit proclaiming 'game set and match for Britain' because he had blocked the Community from including the Social Chapter in the treaty, it was little noticed that he also ensured there was no 're-entry clause' for Britain. This contrasts with the Danish opt-out from monetary union.

The Social Charter was conceived by Jacques Delors as a way of improving working conditions as companies profited from operating Europe-wide. The Social Charter - which Britain was not party to - was only declaratory in effect, and moves to insert a Social Chapter in the Maastricht treaty were blocked by Mr Major. The compromise negotiated by Mr Major was the Protocol on Social Policy, which provided that the other 11 EC states could decide social matters without Britain taking part or being bound by any decisions.

Foreign Office advice that the amendment will wreck the treaty is being reinforced by a briefing note to Tory MPs warning of the dangers of supporting the amendment. But George Robertson, Mr Garel-Jones' Labour shadow, has received advice from member states that the amendment would only require a brief renegotiation.

The anti-Maastricht Tory MPs have taken their lead from Martin Howe, a Conservative lawyer and Euro-sceptic. In a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, he says: 'Mr Smith's amendment seeks to delete the Protocol on Social Policy from the Maastricht treaty. The protocol simply gives the UK's permission to the other 11 states to use the common Community institutions for administering their separate social agreement.

'Deleting the protocol would mean that the other 11 would have to administer their social agreement through their own separate institutions . . . (the) amendment would further distance the UK from the Social Charter . . .'

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on