This article was first published on The Commentator.
In Brussels last month, the Prime Minister claimed a huge success with his so-called renegotiation ‘deal’. From the outset, it was clear the ‘deal’ fell well short of the fundamental, far reaching change to the UK’s relationship with the EU he promised in his Bloomberg speech of 2013.
The content of Cameron’s lengthy negotiations was focused on relatively minor areas — such as migrant benefits and preventing the UK joining the Euro. The latter, of course, was secured by former Prime Minister John Major in 1992. More importantly, even these minor changes are meaningless, as they have no legal impact whatsoever.
Cameron also claims his deal is legally binding. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stand up to the briefest analysis. He justifies this by claiming that by depositing the agreement with the United Nations it becomes an ‘international treaty’, and therefore the EU must follow it. This is fundamentally incorrect, and constitutes a display of utter incompetence by our Prime Minister.
Article 31(3) of the Vienna Convention 1969 makes it clear that Cameron’s EU renegotiation only needs to be “taken into account” and does not have to be followed by the European Court. The ‘deal’ is not legally binding in any true sense of the term; it is only legally binding in the sense the Court must take a glance at the renegotiation document.
In other word’s the UN manoeuvre is pure ‘spin’ designed to cover up his pitiful attempts to forge a realistic and mutually beneficial relationship with the EU.
As the deal only needs to be ‘taken into account’ the renegotiation has the same legal effect as Cameron sending a ‘letter’ to the European Court; the Court takes all the circumstances into account. It would also have exactly the same legal effect as you or I sending a letter to the European Court.
The Court can simply ignore this. The European Court can also overrule the renegotiation if it so wishes, as the treaties are higher than a decision of the heads of state in the EU hierarchy. So, this is unlike a formal treaty change which the Court would be forced to implement. For instance, if the Court feels Cameron’s minor benefits reform contradicts the principle of non-discrimination, the Court would be bound to overrule the deal.
This is not some remote legal possibility. It is highly likely some EU migrant or other currently living in the UK would challenge Cameron’s ‘benefits and tax credit deal’ by taking the case to the European Court. It is my legal opinion — shared by many others in the legal profession — that the court would rule against the UK on this matter, proving the deal was not legally binding in any way shape or form in the first place.
This wouldn’t be the first time the European Court has completely ignored a so-called ‘legally binding deal’. In 2010 the Court paid no attention to the Edinburgh summit deal, which was spun as being irreversible and binding in the Rottmann case.
The Edinburgh agreement clearly stated national citizenship should be decided by national law; however the Court tossed this aside, ruling the EU had the right to decide national citizenship as an individual would also be a citizen of the EU.
Ask yourself this question: why does the “renegotiation” only take effect after the referendum? If Cameron genuinely thinks his deal is great, why hasn’t he implemented it immediately?
The reason for not doing so is because the Prime Minister is running scared of the European Court overruling his deal. He’s running scared of the European Parliament voting his deal down. And he’s running scared of a public outcry when people realise just how inconsequential his renegotiation deal really is.
It is clear that Cameron’s deal is as useful as a grave robber in a crematorium — it is legal piffle.
He asked for crumbs and most of those have blown away. The only way to get a new, functioning relationship with the EU and the wider world is to Get Britain Out of the EU in the coming referendum.