A veto over EU laws? This can only be a Mandelsonian plot

What the 95 Tory MPs propose is not just unrealistic, it is unrealism on stilts

Related Topics

Robert Conquest’s Third Law is one of my favourites. It holds that the simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies. That is, indeed, the only way in which we can make sense of the 95 Conservative MPs who have signed a letter to their own Prime Minister asking him to do the impossible, with the implication that he is a chump and soft touch if he fails.

It is as if Peter Mandelson drafted the letter, in which the MPs pledge their undying loyalty to David Cameron if he should give them (a) the Moon on a stick, (b) a unicorn each, and (c) a parliamentary “veto over current and future EU laws”. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, went a slightly paler shade of deathly blue and murmured something about having to be realistic. After that, the Prime Minister hoped it would all go away. It is only a letter, after all. That is the constitutional equivalent of commenting below the line on internet articles: it is not as if it actually affects anything. It is not like an official report of the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC), the committee of the House of Commons that examines EU law.

Oh. The letter refers to the report by the ESC published last month, in which it proposes that “there should be a mechanism whereby the House of Commons can decide that a particular legislative proposal should not apply to the UK”. Again, Conquest’s Third Law is the only plausible explanation. We can see why the Labour MPs on the committee, five of whom were present when it approved the report, might wave it though. They want to cause as much trouble as possible to the Prime Minister. That is part of their job. And we can see why the two Liberal Democrats on the committee might not have kicked up a fuss, as they weren’t at the meeting. But what about the Conservative members? Were they the puppets of a Mandelsonian controlling intelligence, pressing Cameron to deliver what they know perfectly well he cannot?

The idea that the member states of the EU could opt in and out of EU law as their parliaments see fit lacks, as the Foreign Secretary might put it, a firm anchor in the reality-based community. When some EU laws are first drawn up, they can be vetoed by the government of any member state. But once they are law they stay law, unless all 28 governments agree otherwise. What is more, much EU law is to do with the single market, in which case it is passed by majority voting, and so no single country has a veto, under the terms of the Single European Act, a treaty signed by Margaret Thatcher.

What the committee and the 95 Tory MPs propose is not just unrealistic, it is unrealism on stilts, with bells on. There is no prospect that any other country would agree to it, let alone all 27 of them, either now or after the election, assuming Cameron were to win and seek to change the EU and put those changes to a referendum.

So what is going on? Well, Lord Mandelson blurted out the cunning plan in the Upper House on Friday. He said that the Conservative Private Member’s Bill to set the date for the referendum “is stage one in raising impossible demands of the EU in order to create a pretext for leaving it”. That is what the cabal of Cameron’s enemies are up to. They want to paint the Conservative Party as in the grip of ideologues: Tory Trotskyists pushing their transitional demands. Just as Labour’s Marxist infiltrators long ago pushed for higher public spending to expose the contradictions of capitalism, Bernard Jenkin’s 95 fellow travellers seem to be asking for something reasonable (a national veto) in order to achieve what they really want (to leave the EU).

The reason I can tell that this is a Mandelsonian plot is that there are nowhere near as many as 95 Tory MPs who secretly want to leave the EU. They are Eurosceptics, certainly, but so are most normal people. “Eurosceptic” was a term coined to refer to people who did not want Britain to adopt the euro, and how right they were. It did not mean, primarily, those who wanted Britain out of the EU altogether. That confusion is a calumny of the Mandelsonites, ably assisted by the dunderheadedness of the Tories themselves. Why, even Bill Cash, chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee and arch-super-ultra-sceptic, does not want to leave the EU.

Most of the 95 are aligned with the majority of public opinion: they want the EU to change but they want to stay in it. It is a triumph of Cameron’s enemies that they look as if they want out.

Read more: John Rentoul - Sherlock would never have shot an enemy

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower