While not a total divorce the decision by Britain to go its own separate way clearly marks a fundamental split in the EU. If David Cameron was hoping for support from some of his fellow leaders to block the latest treaty pact, it was in short supply.
Even Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who had raised doubts, eventually came on board having agreed to consult their parliaments. But, without the safeguards to protect the UK’s treasured financial sector Cameron felt he had to use his veto. Some experts think it could pave the way for Britain to eventually leave the EU.
Piotr Kaczinski from the European Policy Studies said: “There are 26 countries which want to be in this new treaty outside of the union treaties, so this new legal formula, but UK stays out, is the only country outside of this legal regime, so depending on what is the final agreement in March next year, it might be the beginning of the UK leaving the European Integration.”
In the end 17 eurozone members plus nine was the best EU heads could muster. Some observers, however, believe the treaty changes will just lead to more Brussels bureaucracy.
Hugo Brody from the Centre for European Reform: “Now we are going to have to have a treaty between 17 plus countries with possibly new institutions more complexity more presidents and heads of organisations, fighting each other in bureaucratic battles. As opposed to clarity, swift decisions, trusted institutions implementing policies that will be tough and which have to happen soon.”
Getting the new treaty through without political and legal difficulties will still be tough, but as our correspondent in the European Council says: ‘‘Britain seems increasingly isolated in contrast to other members of the EU who appear ready to submit a new treaty to their national parliaments. The big question now is when this ratification process will be completed. Until that is done the EU’s biggest countries will remain anxious.’‘