The Reform Treaty and the euro

Euro notes (picture Freefoto.com)

An enquiry comes in as to whether the Reform Treaty has any implications for Britain’s opt-out from the euro. Despite what some Eurosceptic conspiracy theorists have sometimes suggested, the answer is no. Britain remains outside the single currency. That may be a pity, but it’s also a fact.

One could go further and say that actually it’s the other way round: the euro has had an impact on the Reform Treaty. Let me explain.

When the Treaty of Maastricht was signed in 1992, I don’t suppose that many people thought the British and Danish opt-out from the euro would have lasted so long. It was thought of as a temporary means to secure agreement at the time, with each of the two opting-out countries likely to revise its opinion soon. As it turned out, the Danish voted No in a referendum in 2000 while the UK did not even get that close. The euro, however, while weakened by the absence of the pound and the krone, has nevertheless survived and grown more established.

The lesson is that opt-outs can work. While it is necessary that every member state agrees to each treaty, it is not necessary that all aspects of each treaty should apply to every member state. It is open for a member state to agree that certain provisions should apply to the others but not itself. Many aspects of the Reform Treaty are founded on this basis.

The UK has been an enthusiastic adopter of this principle in terms of justice and home affairs, and also on the Charter for Fundamental Rights. Other countries – Ireland, Poland – are doing the same. And the rest of the EU was ready to agree. It was better to allow an opt-out than to provoke an argument. It was true at Maastricht and it remained true in Lisbon. So much for the argument that there is a relentless conveyor belt towards an integrated Europe: participation remains a national choice.

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