‘The Veto’

A brief one this week, but just a linguistic observation.

David Cameron talks about ‘using the veto‘ a lot these days (and it will be said a lot more in the days to come). However, it’s never clear what this ‘veto’ is.

Think back to last Christmas and the Fiscal Compact negotiations, where Cameron ‘used the veto’, in the sense of refusing to agree to a treaty amendment: this didn’t stop anything, just pushed it to one side and confirmed people’s suspicions about the UK.

Likewise, the Financial Framework negotiations require unanimity, so a ‘veto’ is a block. However, the result of any impasse is the continuation of the existing budget, which would not meet British demands. So again, no win.

In practice, a ‘veto’ is neither a nuclear bomb, that stops everything, nor a constructive contribution. It’s an obstacle and if any organisation has learnt how to deal with obstacles, then it’s the EU, which has working through more crises than most.

Quite when British politicians will learn that you get your voice heard and acted upon in the Union by working constructively and with the flow – a lesson that British bureaucrats learnt a long time ago – I don’t know. But this week doesn’t make me too confident about it happening soon.