Why the British demands on national parliaments must be resisted

Six years ago today, the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, introducing an early warning system for national parliaments concerned with the principle of subsidiarity. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called for more incisive rights of national parliaments to block EU legislation. The UK government, which normally preens itself on its flexibility and pragmatism, is trying to impose a one-size-fits-all approach on national parliaments, ignoring their very different mandates, powers, practices, timetables and levels of political interest and staff support. The fact is that waving subsidiarity cards is the least important EU function of national parliaments.

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Cameron’s EU reforms: political feasibility and legal implications

David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, has set out his objectives for EU reforms in a speech at Chatham House on 10 November 2015 – objectives which he later clarified in a letter to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. Cameron’s demands fall in four categories – i) safeguarding Britain’s position in the Union’s ‘variable geometry’; ii) strengthening the competitiveness of the Union’s internal market; iii) bolstering the democratic authority of the EU by strengthening the role of national parliaments in the EU’s decision-making process; and iv) ensure changes to the principles of free movement and equal treatment of Union citizens in access to welfare systems in the host state. The political feasibility and legal implications of these objectives differ quite significantly. More crucially, each of the stated objectives can be interpreted and implemented in different ways. Generally, it seems, Cameron’s success seems to depend on presenting reforms that at the same time address British domestic issues as well as strengthen the EU’s functioning.

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