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

Share
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

Systems & Data Lead – Oxfordshire – Permanent – Up to £24k

£20000 - £24000 Per Annum 28 days holiday, free parking, pension: Clearwater P...

Digital Media Manager

£38000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350 - £4...

Secondary Teachers looking for work near Peterborough

£100 - £140 per day + Competitive Pay: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to call someone stupid?

John Rentoul
High and mighty: Edinburgh Castle and city skyline  

i Editor's Letter: We're coming to Edinburgh

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?