Take a deep breath. Step aside from your preconceptions about the UK and the EU, and your views on David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sakozy. I’m trying to do that when writing this blog entry. Follow the steps of the simplified conversation below, and please comment if I am factually wrong.

Merkel & Sarkozy: To stabilise the Eurozone we want to agree a new EU Treaty among all 27 Member States.
David Cameron: I will agree to that only if you add a protocol to the Treaty protecting the City of London, changing some areas of financial service legislation to Unanimity rather than Qualified Majority Voting* (paper summarising Cameron’s proposals here).
Merkel & Sarkozy: But this Treaty is about the stability of the Eurozone, not about financial services. Why are you raising these issues now?
David Cameron: I am raising these issues because they are vital for the UK.
Merkel & Sarkozy: We know that. But we do not want to discuss financial services now. We need to stabilise the Eurozone. So will you help us?
David Cameron: Not without the protocol.
Merkel & Sarkozy:  OK, so we will go ahead in the Eurozone without you, because we can, and you knew that was the danger. And as there will be no protocol as a result of us doing this, then rules for regulating financial markets remain unchanged.

Result: Merkel & Sarkozy get the Eurozone integration that they want, albeit with legal complexity to make it work outside the EU treaties. David Cameron gets nothing, because without the protocol the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon apply.

* – whether this actually would have been achieved with Cameron’s protocol is another debate. Let’s assume it would do what he demanded.


  1. Nick Crosby

    @Martin Keegan- I read your about/not about piece and I don’t see how it connects to Jon’s excellent piece.The summit was about Treaty change to shore up the Euro. Financial services regulation are already binding on EU 27 member through EU law and under QMV procedures so any discussion of that is irrelevant, since the summit was not proposing to change that. Secondly, any FTT taxation of financial services already requires unaninimity- so the UK could not argue for more ‘veto’ than that which it already holds. So arguing for that is both redundant and a waste of others’ time.
    In both these senses- seeking to change irrelevantly that which it is not proposed to change and asking for something you already have- strike me as ‘not about’ the matter in question (shoring up the euro.) And misleading- since Cameron seeks to give the impression that he was resisting others’ attempts to impose changes on the City through the new Treaty. You have, sir, with your ‘not about/about’ construction apparently failed to see the deception that Cameron was playing.

  2. Martin Keegan

    The whole “this X is about Y, not about Z” trick is documented (badly) here. It does seem like your argument depends on people falling for this.

  3. So some of the unelected heads of state have agreed and/or are considering the way ahead for their citizens. The electorate, you know Jon, the stupid dumb electorate who happens, one would suggest, to be in a majority in wanting to completely leave Europe and resume making it’s own laws in a democratic Parliament. Well done Mr Cameron and may history judge this bold move. At last a PM who has made a decision right or wrong.

  4. You are right, of course. And the sad thing is that this was all so unnecessary and so driven by the Tory right and a feral right-wing tabloid press obsessed with straight bananas and other nonsense. Mary Dejevsky has an interesting take in the Independent, but her conclusion is somewhat unrealistic. This is going to accelerate the breakup of the UK, which will be good for the Conservatives, though they’ll have less to conserve.

  5. Aymeric L.

    Or maybe the conversation sounded like that:

    – Merkel: I neet my treaty on fiscal tiscipline ant I neet it now. I’m sure we can find an agreement with the Parliament so that they agree on a treaty change rapidly.
    – Sarkozy: Oh please Angéla, let’s not demande their mind to this bunch of losers. Do you rilly want to get the things out of contrôl? Is that what you want? No. David, how is it looking with the solution we discussed?
    – Cameron: Well, as we discussed, I can ape Thatcher and defend my national interest so that you don’t have unanimity on your proposals and you can go on with a treaty outside the EU. I already worked on my speech, my backbenchers are gonna love it. We all agree we don’t want to strengthen Brussels, after all. In exchange, of course, I hope your offer still stands?
    – Sarkozy: Of course, you’ll have your… (???)

  6. European Citizen

    Ah, Jon you missed the funniest part:
    David Cameron: Fine but then your new sovereignty-destroying little “fiscal union” can’t use any of our common structures: yes, and that includes this very building and the chairs you are sitting on, and the cups from which you are drinking your coffee…[throws a hissy fit and leaves the room]

  7. barry laughton (@kilkeal)

    I think that sums it up, but if he signed up, where would he stand with his party and the electorate? The real problem is that France and Germany will still proceed with EU changes by QMV that will be to the Uks disadvantage, the clamour to leave will grow, what will little boy blue do then?

  8. Electorate – fair point. I didn’t try to put them in the conversation!

    France and Germany and QMV – here you are not right. Treaty change (among EU27 or 17+ etc.) requires unanimity among those countries. The question is then what policy areas *within* the Treaty are with QMV and which with unanimity. Most of the stuff to do with financial services is QMV already, but – notably – to introduce a Financial Transaction Tax is not, it’s unanimity. To change anything from unanimity to QMV within the Treaty itself requires unanimity (hope that’s clear)!

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