Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Angela Merkel tosses Cameron a bone and presses on with Little EU amendments

David Cameron rubbed his hands in glee a few weeks ago when Angela Merkel insisted that the European Union treaty be amended as part of her agreement to save weaker countries from bankruptcy.

Because amendments require 100% approval by all members, Cameron thought that he could bargain with the Iron Chancellor and claw back rights for Britain as the price for his agreement to her changes.

But Merkel is made of sterner stuff. She simply tossed him a bone (which some of his own party say is pretty nigh worthless), and pressed on with the idea of having amendments affect only the 17 members of the Eurozone.  In effect, she brushed the British Prime Minister aside and threatened to bypass his veto power entirely:
It's my way, David; not your way ...

Addressing Germany's confederation of employers in Berlin, the chancellor said that if changing treaties proved too difficult on an EU level, they would be dealt with instead by the 17 members of the eurozone.

"We have to change the construction of the euro area," she said. "Treaty changes are for me an immediate part of solving the crisis, the political response to a politically derived confidence crisis."


Reports on Monday suggested that Britain would accept a "narrow" amendment of the EU's Lisbon Treaty covering the eurozone in return for a deal on the EU's working time directive.

What a neat bit of bargaining from the Iron Angel!

If you don't do it my way, I'll simply ignore you and do a deal with those 17 guys!

And what did Cameron get as a face saving 'win'? Not much:

Britain is one of a number of EU countries with an opt-out from part of the Working Time Directive, allowing individual workers to say they do not want to be limited to a 48-hour working week. But ministers believe it is  under threat from other EU countries...

The Working Time Directive dictates that people must not be obliged to work for more than 48 hours per week. This limit is averaged out over a four-month period, so that an employee can work more than 48 hours in one week if this is offset in another week. It includes activities such as job-related training and business lunches. Workers who set their own hours, as well as soldiers, sailors and domestic workers, are exempt from the directive. Anyone aged 18 or over can waive their right to work no more than 48 hours by signing a written agreement with their employer...

In return, Mr Cameron is said to have agreed that the UK will sign up to German proposals for a ‘narrow’ amendment to the Lisbon Treaty to put the eurozone’s fiscal rules on a legal basis and introduce automatic sanctions for any of the 17 single currency states which breach them. 
She's made of sterner stuff than those weak kneed politicians Cameron can browbeat back home.

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