Open Europe Blog

In Parliament this afternoon, David Cameron gave his statement on last week’s EU summit, followed by questions from MPs. The debate was a bit all over the place if we’re to be perfectly honest, with the 2.9% increase to the EU’s 2011 budget dominating.

The most talked about intervention came from Ed Miliband who said in response to Cameron’s alleged cave-in on the EU budget freeze for 2011: “He wished he could come back and say No, No No, but in his case it’s a bit more like No, Maybe, Oh go on then.” (apparently a phrase Miliband didn’t quite come up with himself).

On actual substance, Chris Heaton-Harris made the most astute observation. He noted that the PM now has two separate vetoes at his disposal: one over Treaty change and one over the EU budget post-2013. Heaton-Harris asked whether Cameron would use the two vetoes independently to achieve EU reform. As we’ve argued before, a twin-track approach to EU negotiations is by far the smartest way to achieve reform in Europe and the restoration of some democratic control over key EU powers.

If the two vetoes are used in parallel but for seperate issues – one for repatriation of powers and the other for concessions on the CAP for instance – we bet anyone (eurosceptics and federalists alike) that the Coalition government will get at least one game-changing concession in return.

The Coalition could even get other member states along for the ride if it’s confident and strategic enough. After all, Merkel has given us a great example for how to do it.

Unfortunately, in response to Heaton-Harris and also earlier in the debate, Cameron hinted he would pass up his veto over the treaty change, effectively giving EU partners a two-vetoes-for-the-price-of-one deal.

Hopefully this isn’t the end of the story though, as there’s still much to play for before Treaty changes are agreed. But MPs need to get their line of argument in order or the Coalition might well go for the do-nothing option.

For Cameron to use the twin-vetoes separately but in parallel, is surely what backbenchers in favour of EU refom should be pushing for?

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