Here are my instant thoughts on the three ‘masterplan’ bullet points in the above story, which can be found on the Sunday Times website here (£subscription needed).
This is clearly nothing more than a rebranding exercise, not least because it even uses the word “rebranding”. Whether intentional or not, Tim Shipman’s phrasing about “a different sort of member state” further illustrates this is firmly in the realms of “thin gruel”.
One can imagine commission colleagues meeting up for lunch in future and joking: “So how’s my friend from a ‘different sort of member state’ these days?!”
So Bullet 1 need not detain us.
Bullet 2 is a bit more interesting as it echoes a concept found in the EEA Agreement, that of the so-called “emergency brake”. Indeed the way it is phrased here, it sounds like it is the same as the power held by EEA states…but obviously within the confines of EU membership. Surely a victory then?
However there is a snag. Just two days ago, the Guardian reported the same thing about an emergency brake but added a crucial detail: it would be “subject to agreement from the European Commission”, thus actually confirming (again) that inside the EU, Britain is subordinate. The EEA countries have no such proviso and have the power to apply the brake unilaterally. [Worth noting to those who say Freedom of Movement is absolutely no different for EEA countries.]
The third bullet is more nuanced (or designed to mislead — take your pick). Cameron is supposedly looking to change the law so that parliament is sovereign. Now that would be an interesting move — though one wonders how that would work — until one reads the rest of the sentence suggesting this would only apply to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is the EU’s implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights (a non-EU convention) with a bit more added on top. In other words, we would remain subject to the ECHR — a point which Cameron seems privately happy with.
On this reading, the bullet point’s practical significance would therefore be very limited. However the rest of the article elaborates on this bullet as follows:
Now you could read this and interpret it as meaning the Government would set up “something similar to the German constitutional court” based in Karlsruhe Germany, which has a much wider remit than just the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Witness its involvement in some deep questions about German sovereignty and the Maastricht treaty, the eurozone, etc.
But within this passage, “neutering the Charter of Fundamental Rights” is again mentioned and we end up with the distinct impression that we’re being taken for fools. Nothing new there then.
Desperately seeking rabbits
One final thought. This passage appears later in the article (on page 4 of the printed paper where fewer will read it):
Now what does that say to us?
Well, apart from the almost comical image that it evokes of panicked, besuited Whitehall folk rushing hither and yon it also says that ministers have little idea of how the EU works, nor how deeply ingrained and limiting EU law has become to the UK and its government. In any normal world, you’d like to think they would all suddenly and simultaneously stop dead in their tracks, as an almighty penny makes its descent.
They are too busy with their careers, with pleasing the prime minister, with fitting in with their rampant group-think, to notice anything so obvious.
And these people are in charge.
This is why we need change. And big change. Brexit would be the start of that change.