One of the key achievements of Britain’s veto in Brussels on Thursday night was supposed to have been that not allowing the full 27 members of the EU to sign a treaty would have stopped the 26 countries willing to go ahead using the EU’s institutions to do so.
The main effect of that would be to stop the European Commission scrutinising other countries’ budgets, and the Euroopean Court of Justice implementing the Commission’s decisions. This would make it much harder for Brussels to interfere in the fiscal plans of member states.
Not allowing them access to the lawyers, translators and even buildings used by the Union also would have made it difficult for the 26 to progress with their new pact, another important reason for Cameron to impose such a ban.
But in one of the more intriguing statements in the Commons this afternoon, the PM seemed to suggest he was open to the idea of the new group using EU institutions. Cameron said when it came to the 26 countries from using the institutions Britain would “look constructively on any proposals with an open mind”.
He later seemed to row back slightly from this position, saying:
[The 26] don’t have the power of the EU institutions fully behind them. It will make some of the things they want to do more difficult.
That latter statement seems to allow some leeway however (what does “fully behind them” mean for example?). And if the institutions are used by the 26, it can fairly be asked whether Cameron has managed to achieve anything whatsoever.