It’s a sorry state of affairs for an avowed socialist to find himself in agreement with David Cameron, but as one of the few Eurosceptic EU Lawyers out there it happens to me more times than I’d care to admit. However, David Cameron’s latest attempt to win over the Euro-phobic right of his party has even this Eurosceptic scratching his head.
It is a particularly poor negotiator who goes into a negotiation without knowing what he wants, however for the moment, at least, David Cameron’s position appears to be exactly that. What precisely is David Cameron going to go into a negotiation and ask for? The UK already opts out of Economic and Monetary Union; the Schengen Area; and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We opt-in to Freedom, Security, and Justice. Defence and Foreign Policy could easily be opted-out of, but it’s so unsubstantial it hardly seems worth it. David Cameron would, surely, be wary about negotiating in the Citizenship policy area for fear of harming the single market.
“Let’s opt out of plant patents – that’ll keep Nigel Farage happy!”
That leaves tinkering at the edges: the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies; various EU quangos such as the European Space Agency, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, or the Community Plant Variety Office; or perhaps renegotiating the odd veto in certain policy areas. Such modest reforms would neither placate the Eurosceptics to David Cameron’s right, nor look like a substantial win for Britain by the Prime Minister.
I’m in no doubt the the European Union is in dire need of substantial reform. But one man’s crusade to secure a few more opt-outs isn’t going to curb the rampant and unaccountable bureaucracy that is the European Commission; it won’t close the legitimacy gap between citizens and the European Parliament; it won’t reorganise the hierarchy of norms, or restore sovereignty to Member States; and it won’t halt the proliferation of nonsense decisions and garbage jurisprudence from the Court of Justice of the European Union. In order to achieve any meaningful reform of the EU, David Cameron needs to be a team player – and not a pariah on the lunatic fringe.