UK Constitutional Law Association

affiliated to the International Association of Constitutional Law

De Baere and Eeckhout et al: Europe, the Prime Minister, and the facts – seven questions for David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister,

Much has already been said about your speech on ‘the future of Europe’, delivered on Wednesday 23 January at Bloomberg, and much more remains to be said. As academics in the fields of EU law and international law, we express our hope that the debate on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU will be conducted on the basis of as complete and accurate a set of facts as possible. We would like to ask you a number of questions with that in mind.  They are questions which you have left unanswered, despite the crucial importance of such answers for the debate.

What would “a new settlement in which Britain is at the forefront of collective action on issues like foreign policy and trade” entail? Will you be advocating the repatriation of some of the EU’s trade competences to the Member States, thereby allowing the UK and others to take individual or collective initiatives in that regard? Conversely, will you be arguing in favour of reinforcing the EU’s single voice in external trade, which has enabled it to create a more level playing field in trade negotiations from Washington to Beijing? Would more collective action in the field of foreign policy entail more initiatives such as the military operation in (or above) Libya, which was indeed collective, but mostly outside the framework of the EU? Or would it entail a reinforcement of the European External Action Service, headed by Baroness Ashton? Does the repeated blocking by the UK of collective EU statements in the UN (as reported in The Guardian ) represent the UK being at the forefront of collective action?

Can your proposal to “work together against terrorism and organised crime” be squared with your avowed desire to opt out of a great number of EU measures put in place precisely to combat cross-border crime? The potentially self-defeating effect of such an opt-out has been highlighted a number of times by British former or current officials (see the Financial Times).

What do you mean when you ask the British people not to be “misled by the fallacy that a deep and workable single market requires everything to be harmonised”? Incidentally, you are absolutely right that complete harmonisation is not desirable, which is of course why the Commission abandoned the idea in its 1985 White Paper  on completing the internal market. It is also why the European Court of Justice, which you accuse of having “consistently supported greater centralisation”, has introduced the principle that Member States can keep their own product regulations, which must be recognized by other Member States.

What are the “huge number of expensive peripheral European institutions” and in what way is the Commission getting “ever larger”? Surely the London branch of the Unified Patent Court, for which you fought so hard, cannot be an example of an “expensive peripheral European institution”? And would the amazing expanding Commission be the same that has proposed a 5% cut in staff combined with an increase in weekly working hours and lower salaries in certain areas?

In what way does the EU not have “enough focus on controlling spending” and what “programmes that haven’t worked” do you want to shut down? It is of course perfectly true that the budget is large: 140 billion euro in 2011 to be precise.  Nevertheless, the EU budget represents around 1% of EU-27 GDP whereas Member States’ budgets account for 44% of GDP on average. The average EU citizen in most Member States has to work well into the spring and summer until they have paid their tax contribution, while he or she has to work only four days to cover his or her contribution to the EU budget.

In light of your wish to address ‘the sclerotic, ineffective decision-making that is holding us back’, can we ask whether you are in favour of more majority voting?  That has always been the key to more effective decision-making.  Or is there some other solution of which we are unaware?

In what way is the “more flexible, more adaptable, more open” European Union you advocate different from today’s EU?  The UK, as you rightly point out, is not in the Eurozone, or in Schengen, and is capable of opting out of EU policies in matters of international crime and immigration.  It has not signed the fiscal compact (even if the current government is just as austerity-minded as Germany).  Is the EU not adaptable, if one looks at the numerous Treaty changes there have been?  Is it not open, having expanded so dramatically?

It would not be correct for us to ask you these questions without at least helping out with answering some of yours. Let us start with one: “And I would ask: when the competitiveness of the Single Market is so important, why is there an environment council, a transport council, an education council but not a single market council?” Well indeed why not. The answer, it turns out, is rather simple. There is an internal market council. It was integrated with the industry and research council configurations in June 2002, in what is called the  ‘Competitiveness Council’.

As you accurately put it: “It is time for the British people to have their say.” We hope that they will get the opportunity to do so on the basis of facts.  We hope you may be able to answer our questions, so that everyone – including other member States – develops a better understanding of what kind of EU reform you are advocating.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Arnull (Birmingham)     Catherine Barnard (Cambridge)

Andrea Biondi (King’s College London)     Hugh Collins (LSE)

William Cornish (Cambridge)     Nicola Countouris (University College London)

Paul Craig (Oxford)     Egle Dagilyte (King’s College London)

Geert De Baere (Leuven)     Piet Eeckhout (University College London)

Pavlos Eleftheriadis (Oxford)     Amandine Garde (Durham)

Markus Gehring (Cambridge)     Alicia Hinarejos (Cambridge)

Angus Johnston (Oxford)     Claire Kilpatrick (European University Institute)

Panos Koutrakos (City University London)    Maria Lee (University College London)

George Letsas (University College London)     Virginia Mantouvalou (University College London)

Cian Murphy (King’s College London)     Ronan McCrea (University College London)

Eva Nanopoulos (Cambridge)     Niamh Nic Shuibhne (Edinburgh)

Federico Ortino (King’s College London)     Robert Schütze (Durham)

Joanne Scott (University College London)     Eleanor Spaventa (Durham)

Anne Thies (Reading)     Alexander Türk (King’s College London)

Lorenzo Zucca (King’s College London)

Suggested citation: G. de Baere and P. Eeckhout et al, ‘Europe, the Prime Minister, and the facts – seven questions for David Cameron’  UK Const. L. Blog (1st March 2013) (available at http://ukconstitutionallaw.org).

5 comments on “De Baere and Eeckhout et al: Europe, the Prime Minister, and the facts – seven questions for David Cameron

  1. Caroline Brook Boysen
    March 2, 2013

    Indeed! But it is getting to the point where every time Cameron opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. It doesn’t look as if he’s a born liar – more that he just doesn’t put in the time, doesn’t know his dossiers – and then goes for the popular sound bite. The number of times he is reported as “chillaxing”, on holiday, “making rhubarb crumble”, on a sacred date with his sife, or mending his children’s bicycles is legion. And when attempting to reshuffle (Cabinet) Iain Duncan Smith away from “welfare” (awful word), Cameron didn’t see it through, explaining he was helping his son “write a poem about a bear” for his homework instead.

  2. mymouths2big
    March 2, 2013

    Why is this unconstitutional group not insist that the Government heeds the Constitution. The sole authority in Britain is her Majesty the Queen, whose contract is not with Government but with all of her individual subjects.
    .
    Despite the huge constitutional issues raised by these events of 1937 and 1953, the essential words in the Oath sworn by The Queen were:
    “…to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom…according to their laws and customs.”

    She also swore to preserve for the people…
    “all rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to any of them.”

    The Coronation Oath is not a contract between the sovereign and parliament. It is a contract between the sovereign and each individual subject. It cannot be broken by a vote in parliament. It can be broken only by the sovereign or by the individual.

    Iike all contracts, if one party to the contract believes the terms are at risk, the other party can be called to account.

    The law and Coronation Oath also states: “.And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.”

    Therefore, lawfully the Queen cannot consent to allow her Government to act in High Treason, by allowing either the Lisbon, or Nice Treaties to be adopted. No referendum can override Magna carta, Bill of Rights, or remove our laws and custom, of sovereign independence..”

    Tony Butler

  3. Carol Harlow
    March 4, 2013

    There is another question I should like to see answered in some detail. Eurosceptics talk grandly about leaving the EU; Van Rompuy says that would be hard and might take several years. There is talk of needing to negotiate and sign up to 30+ treaties.

    How complicated would it really be?

  4. Brian Cave
    May 23, 2013

    And will the I million plus British Citizens living in Europe beyond the UK ever have a democratic voice in all this? It seems unlikely!

  5. Eile Gibson
    May 28, 2013

    UKIP and Daily Mail readers need to understand these issues, not merely David Cameron who I am sure is well aware of them. He is a politician in a coalition with particular difficulties with a minority of his backbenchers taking advantage of the situation, and playing a dangerous game.

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2013 by in European Union and tagged .
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