The EU treaty that David Cameron didn’t veto

The Tories persist in claiming that [in December 2011] David Cameron courageously and patriotically “vetoed an EU Treaty” to protect British interests, and was the first UK prime minister ever to have done so.  I have just received a lengthy questionnaire from the London region Conservative MPs which includes the following ‘question’:

In December 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron vetoed a new EU Treaty which European [sic] governments wanted to pass [sic] to deal with the Euro crisis because it didn’t protect British interests. How strongly do you agree or disagree with the Prime Minister taking this action?

In fact Mr Cameron never vetoed an EU Treaty: there was no treaty for him to veto.  In a blog post of last January [2013] I wrote:

It is widely forgotten that on 9 December 2011 Mr Cameron returned from a summit meeting in Brussels boasting that he had bravely defended British interests by vetoing an EU treaty, on the grounds that the rest of the EU had refused to satisfy the conditions he had laid down for refraining from exercising his veto. These conditions amounted to a series of demands which were mostly unconnected with the subject matter of the proposed treaty. In fact, our prime minister had not vetoed a treaty at all: there was no draft treaty in existence for him to veto. All he had done was to try to prevent the rest of the EU from using the Commission and other EU organs and facilities for the negotiation of a new treaty designed to impose more discipline on the Eurozone. In practice this shabby attempt was easily circumvented, and the only effect of Cameron’s attempted blackmail was to ensure that Britain alone was virtually excluded from having any input into the negotiations leading up to the new treaty. (The sad and shameful tale is related in more detail in an earlier post on this blog, here: it’s well worth reading.)  If that episode is a reliable indicator of Mr Cameron’s negotiating skills, and of the integrity of the account of his actions that he offers the British people, Labour should have no great difficulty in exposing the fraud, recklessness and ineptitude of the new Tory strategy for Europe, and the reactionary character of its real aims.
[Postscript to of 24 January 2013]

It’s a shame that the Tories succeed in getting away with this presumably conscious misrepresentation of the facts, time after time.  The true story is just a little too technical and tangled to be easily and briefly deployed in rebuttal;  and most people have understandably forgotten all about it.  So Mr Cameron is able to pose as the first British prime minister to have had the manly courage to stand up to all those scheming “Europeans” and veto their treaty.  Yuk.


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