The Brief: White Paper brings back bad memories for Cameron

WHITE PAPER BRINGS BACK BAD MEMORIES FOR CAMERON

David Cameron has probably had enough of politics. After all, it turned out he wasn’t very good at it.

But if the former prime minister of the UK bothered to tune into Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech on the future of the European Union, he might have suffered a flicker of déjà vu.

Today’s White Paper on the post-Brexit plans for the EU-27 set forward the idea of a multi-speed Europe, for discussion by EU leaders later this month.

Member states wanting to push forward with integration would be allowed to do so, while those less keen could preserve their current status in the Union or join later. Much as happened in the creation of the eurozone and the Schengen area.

We understand that this is the preferred option of the Commission and influential member states such as Germany.

Cast your minds back to Cameron’s attempt to negotiate EU reforms, ahead of the UK’s referendum on its membership of the bloc. You know, the vote which cost Cameron his job and seems to dominate all of our lives everyday.

In his deal, Cameron secured a British exemption from “ever closer union” with Brussels.

The agreement, now binned, said that the EU recognised the UK was not committed to further political integration. “References to ever-closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom.”

Cameron even managed to get the EU to agree a safeguard for non-eurozone countries. Under his deal, any member state could force a debate between EU leaders about eurozone regulation.

There is no such safeguard mentioned in the White Paper. “It is about respecting what we have already,” said one official of divisions between the eurozone and non-eurozone, “but in some areas, going further”.

It is, though, worth remembering that Cameron himself called for greater integration of the eurozone’s financial supervision.

The vision of multi-speed Europe has its antecedents in Britain. But the country won’t be able to profit from the reforms that Brexit has driven.

THE ROUNDUP

The Brief particularly enjoyed Juncker declaring that he was “not a dictator”, who issued Trump-style executive orders. Especially as he had earlier insisted, “The future of Europe should not become hostage to elections.”

The Commission does not regulate toilet flushes, Juncker said, before admonishing the press and governments to stop “Brussels-bashing”.

There was an awful lot of talk about defence in the White Paper. Expect a few screaming headlines in Britain about the creation of an EU Army tomorrow…

François Fillon promised in January that he would quit the presidential race if his honour was questioned or he was placed under formal investigation. Both have happened but he won’t quit.

The candidate of the living dead has now become a liar. He has accused the courts and the press of torpedoing his campaign. Even conservative cheerleader Le Figaro is having a hard time defending him.

Britain’s House of Lords looks set to defy the government by voting to guarantee EU workers’ rights in the UK after Brexit. This will delay Theresa May’s plans to trigger Article 50 by at least a week.

Already suffering from the devalued pound, Irish businesses have warned that a hard border and customs controls with the UK would send the republic’s economy into recession.

The Circular Economy Package would have cost UK businesses €2bn over the next two decades, according to a new report. Its authors see Brexit as a chance for a more intelligent rethink of waste policy.

Changes to the EU laws governing road tolls are due in May, following the bitter row over Germany’s plans to charge foreign road users.

The European Parliament’s Dieselgate committee wrapped up this week with a call for a European road transport agency to police emissions standards. Expect opposition from member states.

Viktor Orbán yesterday told Hungarian MPs the secret to economic success was “ethnic homogeneity”.

Neighbouring Slovakia has been criticised for segregating Roma children in schools. The discrimination has continued despite EU intervention two years ago.

EU auditors found deficiencies in the bloc’s aid to sub-Saharan Africa. Measures to boost tax revenues are being undermined by implementation weaknesses and “challenging local circumstances”.

EU energy ministers took the bloc one step closer to a deal on the future Emissions Trading System.

Malta has called for more EU funds to send African migrants home from Libya.

Europe’s resurgent right wing appears to be faltering, with Martin Schulz and Benoît Hamon turning the tables for the left.

Samuel White contributed to this Brief. 

LOOK OUT FOR…

The She Decides conference will take place tomorrow in Brussels. This initiative from Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden aims to send a strong signal in support of women’s human, sexual and reproductive rights. Live-streaming here tomorrow morning.

Views are the authors’ and not our sponsor’s.


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