The Eu: What Happens When a Veto is Used
Mr Cameron keeps dripping on about how we have a "Cast Iron Veto" on Turkey joining the the Eu. So I thought I would have a look back through recent history to see how this veto has been used before in the Eu and what happened when is was used.
I have found six occasions where vetoes were issued by National governemnts. On each occasion the veto was either worked round, ignored, or defeated.
Here's the story of six "Cast Iron Vetoes".
In theory each Eu member state has a veto over treaty change. Sometimes due to the type of treaty change, ratification will invoke the necessity of a referendum. Most of the time though (and not just in the UK) the change only requires Parliamentary approval. As I described recently (post is on this link) this parliamentary approval itself can, and has been in the past, subverted. This subversion avoids the necessity for a formal division and a recorded vote is avoided.
But this post is about six times where member states of the Eu have invoked the "Cast Iron Veto" and what subsequently happened.
Cast Iron Veto Number One 1993 Denmark. Treaty of Maastricht
Denmark held a referendum to approve the Treat of Maastricht. On a very large turn out the people rejected the treaty. So the Danes were the first to issue a "Cast Iron Veto".
The Eu was outraged. The Danish government was ordered to fix the problem.
Consequently the Danish government came up with four opt-outs that they hoped would swing the vote. Less than a year after the first, another referendum was forced through. A massive ugly propaganda campaign swung the vote. The second referendum overturned the "Cast Iron Veto".
An final twist to this is that since then much effort has been expended by the Eu in trying to water down and remove the opt-outs obtained by Denmark. The Danes have been forced to hold two further referenda (2000 & 2015) to try and remove their opt-outs. The opt-outs remain. Like us, the Danes are getting wise to the mechinations of the Eu.
Cast Iron Veto Number 2 Ireland. Treaty of Nice 2001
In 2001 the Irish voted down the Treaty of Nice. The second "Cast Iron Veto" had been made. After the subsequent fudge to Irish concerns over the threat to their neutrality (the Seville Declaration) and the ritual massive propaganda campaign centering on scaring the electorate, a second referendum was held. The result was overturned.
Cast Iron Veto Number 3 France. Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe 2005
The French looked at the Constitution, saw what it would do to their sovereignty and rejected it with a healthy majority. The French "Cast Iron Veto" had been served.
Wikipedia: Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe Link
Cast Iron Veto Number 4 Netherlands. Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe 2005
The Dutch looked at the Constitution, liked it even less than the French and voted it down. The Dutch Cast Iron Veto had been served.
With two countries having rejected the new Constitution and with the UK lined up to deliver a third. The Constitution treaty was dropped.
So was this double veto a victory for the "Cast Iron Veto"?
The Eu had another plan. That plan was the Treaty of Lisbon.
(Wikipedia - Treaty of Lisbon Link)
The Treaty of Lisbon's first killer characteristic was that it was an amendment to existing treaties (not a new one like the Constitution). This was a stroke of malign genius. It meant that governmental approval avoided referenda. It was only, after all, an amendment.
Cleverly The Lisbon Treaty amended existing treaties so that at the end of the day they were to all intents and purposes the same as the defunct constitution.
The Lisbon Treaty was (and is) unintelligible. That of course was its second killer characteristic.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the former French President put it as so:
"The Treaty of Lisbon is the same as the rejected constitution. Only the format has been changed to avoid referendums"
(See Telegraph Report LInk Here)
d'Estang is also quoted as so
"Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly ... All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way ... What was [ already] difficult to understand will become utterly incomprehensible, but the substance has been retained."
(Irish Times Report Here)
Karel de Gucht, Belgium's foreign minister, said:
"The aim of this treaty is to be unreadable ... The constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear... It is a success."
(Irish Times Report Link Here)
The "Cast Iron Vetoes" of France and Holland were circumvented.
As an amendment the Treat of Lisbon was pushed through National Parliaments without referenda. The promised UK referendum on the Constitution was now declared unnecessary and quietly abandoned.
But there was one exception. Ireland (again!).
In Ireland somebody, incensed by the proposed change to the Irish constitution without a referendum, took the government to court. He won. This forced the Irish government to hold a referendum on the unintelligible Treaty.
Gloriously the Irish Government (and the Eu ) lost the ensuing referendum.
Cast Iron Veto Number 5 Ireland. Treaty Of Lisbon.
The Eu were apoplectic with rage. It was insinuated that Ireland would be thrown out of the Eu. Various blackmail threats were issued concerning Irish neutrality and abortion laws.
(See Daily Mail Report Link Here)
Eventually the Irish government caved in.
They ran a "study" of Irish voting reasons. They came to the grand conclusion that the electorate had rejected the Treaty of Lisbon because of : "lack of knowledge/information/ understanding".
To sweeten the pill the Eu threw in a few "promises".
(See Wikipedia Ratification Link Here)
A new referendum was called. This time the Eu spared no quarter in their propaganda onslaught. Like in Denmark, the intimidated electorate swung the other way and the "Cast Iron Veto" was overturned.
Cast Iron Veto Number 6 UK. Euro Accord 2011
Then we come to David Camerons 2011 veto of an amendment to the Treaty of Lisbon.
The Eurocrats wanted to amend the Treaty of Lisbon (remember - the deliberately unintelligible document that is an amendment itself). The amendment was Euro centric and paid little or no thought to the affects it would have on the viability of the UK financial services industry. Cameron begged for an opt-out and was refused.
Amid huge abuse from the Eu, with threats of expulsion coming from both Germany and France, Cameron was forced to use the veto by his back benchers. It was either that or it was bye-bye Conservative Party and Coalition Government.
(See Guardian Story Link Here)
After the ritual Eu tantrums and hysterical threats, the Eu simply ignored Cameron's veto. They passed the legislation without Camerons signature. The only difference was that now instead of being called a Treaty it was called an Accord.
So, far from being a "Cast Iron Veto" on Eu policy, all it achieved (at best) was an unrecognised and undocumented UK opt-out (which I suppose is at least something). True to form then EU had circumvented the "Cast Iron Veto" again.
And that is where we are today. The concept of a "Cast Iron Veto" as eulogised by Cameron is an illusion. The timid will not use it. The devious avoid it. If it does get invoked, it is circumvented, ignored or defeated.
It is purely Smoke and Mirrors.