As any medieval king could tell you, fiscal sovereignty - which the Franco German draft proposes Eurozone countries give up - is the one thing which really counts in a democracy. The ability to raise taxes and compel people by force to pay, is the first power we delegate at the ballot box. All else, spending plans, law and order, domestic and foreign policy - flows from that.
Will Cameron sign? - apparently, if British interests are protected, he will. And those interests will be easy to protect because they arent under attack. The UK is not being asked to cede power, because it isnt in the Eurozone. With the single exception of the Tobin Tax, easily kicked into the long grass to give Cameron a PR victory, nothing in the current draft could even be the proper subject of a UK referendum.
Those demanding a referendum in the UK are tilting at windmills, and Cameron and Merkel both know it... in fact the confusion suits Brussels well because what the technocrats really fear is referenda in countries which are actually being asked to cede powers, especially Ireland, where the principle of delegata potestas non potest delegari - enshrined in the constitution - stops a frightened, or ambitious, or frustrated Taoiseach giving away the power granted by the electorate.
If you were in any doubt that the Irish Government was keen to avoid asking it's own people before submitting to Brussels, the Irish Times, is not:
"HERMAN VAN Rompuy’s idea to use provisions already in the Lisbon Treaty to amend and toughen the treaty’s budget supervision protocol has immediate appeal. And not least for Ireland where treaty change has been, well, awkward. ... the European council’s president has reminded leaders of legal mechanisms in Lisbon that allow the amendment by the Council, acting unanimously, of the treaty’s budget control implementation procedures."
Merkel and the EU know perfectly well that Ireland would likely vote against a referendum.The Irish are an intelligent, proud people who fought hard for their independence and for whom the Euro has been more pain than gain. They know that their short-lived economic success was due as much to low corporate tax rates, high level of education, and changing technology as it was to the ultimately toxic monetary union which burst their banking sector with cheap money.
What the Irish people do not realise is that Cameron, ironically, might just be their last hope to get a say before democracy is sacrificed on the altar of Germanic and French political vanity.
If bulldog he be, David Cameron should remember that it was not Britain's interests which Chamberlain surrendered at Munich - in fact he probably safeguarded them, in the short term. It was Czechoslovakia, and ultimately Poland - small countries - which Chamberlain abandoned, and Churchill stood up for.
Before shutting one eye and permitting the abrogation of democracy in his closest neighbour, and the other small countries of Europe, he and William Hague should remind themselves of the words of Dylan Thomas, a poet from closer to home who wrote (in 1935)..
The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,And famine grew, and locusts came;Great is the hand that holds dominion overMan by a scribbled name.
From time to time, the responsibilties of leaders extend beyond the immediate needs of the countries which elect them. This weekend will show us whether Cameron deserves his rich Downing Street inheritance.