The use of the British ‘veto’ at the Summit of 9 December 2011 was the subject of much debate both in the UK itself and in Brussels and other national capitals. But how significant was it really? Did it represent a significant step towards a British disengagement from the EU and does it mean that Britain is now, or will become, less influential in Brussels’ corridors of power?
Representatives of international companies listened to the reflections of a distinguished panel of players with an inside perspective on these questions and then had the chance to put their own questions and comments.
The debate covered the mechanics of the negotiations themselves including the significance of the issues where Britain was seeking specific outcomes, most notably on financial services issues. There was also a broader discussion of the practical impact of the decision. There were strong arguments that little if anything had changed in reality and that there had been a fairly rapid return to normality in the Council, with positions based on the primacy of national interests and attitudes in the development of coalitions on specific issues.
There was plenty of common ground on the overall assessment of the veto itself and broad agreement that politics, both those of the UK and other key members states were more significant than the specific details of the negotiation. Some concerns were expressed about the perception in some quarters that the UK is not fully committed to the EU, though these were challenged.
Finally there was broad agreement on the essential nature of the single market, both as a clear cut benefit of membership of the EU and the importance of further economic reform and implementation or extension of the single market in areas like services.
– Martin Callanan MEP, Leader of the British Conservative Party in the European Parliament and Chair of the ECR group
– Andy Lebrecht, Deputy Permanent Representative for the UK to the EU
– Mark Gray, Spokesperson for President Barosso
If you missed it, check out the pictures and keep an eye on our events calendar so you can join us next time.
British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
Thursday 29th March