The Boss over on EUReferendum has been waging a valiant fight against what he calls "fantasy politics" as have numerous other bloggers. This blog has been doing its poor best to bring some sanity into the debate and, to be fair, a number of journalists out in the big bad MSM have been doing the same. For the time being we are overwhelmed by people who accept the Boy-King's notion that, like Humpty-Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass, he can make a word he uses mean what he wants it to mean.
he Princess Bride (ha, didn't expect that, did you): "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." To be fair, I have no idea what the Boy-King, his supporters, the ToryBoy blog or the so-called eurosceptics who are still whooping with joy think the word "veto" means. But I do not think it means whatever it is they think it means.
So, back to basics. The word comes from the Latin veto, vetare (first conjugation if memory serves), which means to forbid. Not to stay away from the discussions and the signature but to forbid.
In the sixth century BC the Roman Republic introduced the concept of the veto, the intercessio that could be used by the People's Tribunes (such as the Gracchi) and, possibly, one or both of the Consuls in order to control and moderate the Senate. When vetoed, a bill was denied the force of law, that is, its use was prevented.
With me so far? Good. Let us carry on.
Veto (n.): - a constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a law-making body
- such a rejection
- a prohibition
For example, the President of the United States has the veto over legislation sent to him by Congress. He does, of course, need to have the legislation first and, once he has exercised his veto, it does not enter the law. Or, to give another example, a committee or board may have a veto over an appointment. There has to be a position and a person who has been appointed for the veto to apply and when it has been applied, the person does not get the job or position.
Veto (v.): - exercise a veto against a decision or proposal by a law-making body
- refuse to accept or allow
Again, one needs something that one can refuse or allow in order to veto it and, once that has been vetoed, it is stopped from proceeding. Is that quite clear? Good.
The question is on what did Mr Cameron, the man who, by some freak of historical development, appears to be the Prime Minister of this country, exercise his veto on. He does have a veto on certain decisions, none of which had been made during the European Council that he graced with his presence, if rumour is to be believed, and on treaties that are produced by the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC). There had been no Conference so there was no treaty which he could have vetoed. QED.
Moving right along, we have to acknowledge that whatever is vetoed cannot happen. That is the whole point of a veto: it stops a certain event, piece of legislation or, in the case of the EU, treaty from going ahead. Well, what's this? Scotch mist? As it happens, this is the agreement (carefully not called a treaty but it is in all but name) that the Boy-King was supposed to have vetoed. It is called: DRAFT
INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT ON A REINFORCED ECONOMIC UNION and it has all the various measures that were supposed to have been vetoed.
The idea that the agreement when it is signed in March will have no effect on this country is moonshine. If nothing else this will make it easier for legislation to be passed under QMV, which is how all Single Market legislation and, as it happens, all those directives aimed at the City, which Mr Cameron was intent on saving, passed. (He might consider trying to save it from his own Chancellor but that would be like asking him to equip a fleet of porcine aircraft.)
So, we have Humpty-Dumpty Cameron telling us that the word veto and the word treaty mean exactly what he says they mean, which is a huffy exit and a wave of the hand to let the others get on with whatever it is they wanted to do. And we have a very large number of people, including all Tory MPs, the entire Conservative party and many others outside it in the media and among so-called political activists who believe it. Alice did better than that. She argued with Humpty-Dumpty, who then had a great fall.
Instead of a vetoed treaty that has been stopped in its tracks, we have an agreement that is going ahead, will undoubtedly be signed, will, if implemented, indubitably affect this country. The one thing we do not have is Cameron's right to veto it. That's right. He has actually given up his right to veto the next agreement because he was so anxious "not to bring a treaty back to Parliament". And while other countries will debate the resultant agreement, look for some kind of a desperate political alliance to implement it (in Austria, for instance, they will need two-thirds of the vote) and, quite possibly, be forced to have a referendum (as it is being discussed in Ireland, Denmark and Sweden already) we shall be sitting back, waiting for the decision to happen or not to happen.
That is not quite the way the veto was envisaged in the Roman Republic. But then, what did those Romans do for us?