Playing at a British EU exit
13.12.13 @ 09:21
BRUSSELS - Since the British Conservatives announced they want to hold an in/out EU referendum in 2017, it seems everyone else is giving more thought to what a Brexit could look like than the potential absconders themselves.
So it came to be that OpenEurope this week hosted a mock-up of the event, calling it EUwargames. Various thinking people got round the table to imagine what German/French/Nordic/EU views would be on renegotiation of the treaty or British-EU relations post membership.
The whole exercise appeared far more polite, reasonable and reasoned than the actual event is likely to be.
But it did show, in its simulated way, that extricating the UK from the EU could be as hard as keeping it in on terms more agreeable to (insatiable) British eurosceptics.
And as far as the exercise went, it looked like a case of: 'Can't live with them. But don't particularly want to live without them either.' And that goes for both sides. And is, arguably, as good a negotiating basis as any other.
And what about a more general push for treaty change?
Germany has been good at scaring everybody with talk about the need to delve into the EU’s rulebook. It would like a precise surgical opening of the treaty; slipping in things dear to Berlin’s eurozone heart – some sticks, half a carrot – and then quickly putting it back together.
But it has been making less explicit noise about treaty change lately.
Possibly realizing that others, such as the Dutch, might open that Pandora's Box with a bit too much enthusiasm. And let's not talk about the European Parliament. A treaty change will involve no less than 24 demands for change.
So Berlin has taken to saying that banking union is very important. But not so important as to do it properly.
This week’s draft agreement would see the thing wobble into existence with insufficient supervision, no sharing of risk and national governments remaining on the hook when a bank goes bust. So more of the same but with glossier wrapping.
It could still change. The issue is likely to end up on next week's EU summit's agenda which itself is beginning to resemble a cupboard into which a random collection of items is stuffed.
When the door is opened next Thursday out will fall promises to talk about banking union, savings tax, jobs and defence.
And, if French President Hollande gets his way a permanent EU crisis fund. Though fellow member states have been doing a magnificent job of ignoring what Paris has been doing in the Central African Republic until now.
Green cats and shady prizes
Turn out has fallen in each EU election year since 1979. And anti-EU forces are on the rise. In the face of such phenomena, one must, it seems, turn to cats.
The European Green Party is hoping to cash in - vote wise - on the fact that cat photos with 'cat-language' captions are a megahit in internet land. So, they will be bringing you posters with "U no vote? Are you kitten me" and "I wanz to be your eurocat."
Now if that doesn't get people to the urns, nothing will. And there will formally be no more hope for a pan-European demos.
Lastly spare a thought for Jose Manuel Barroso. The commission president hot-footed it to Vienna to be awarded for his "remarkable ability to foster positive global trends" and "dissemination of values such as honesty and transparency." And many other word-filled accolades besides.
Only it turned out the prize-giver has been accused of not been such a keen fan of these values himself. And has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for industrial espionage.
Still at least Barroso was upgraded to 'president of the European Union' during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
Such are the bitter lows and ephemeral highs of EU politics.