Richard North, 04/10/2012  

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Van Rompuy, as leader of the "quartet" working on the options for a new treaty, has produced draft conclusions for the forthcoming European Council, which include some further detail on where the "colleagues" want to go. The draft has been widely leaked to and by the media, including the Financial Times, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and FAZ. Helpfully, FT has published the draft.

Watching paint dry would be vastly more entertaining than reading the draft, so suffice to say that one of the controversial yet substantive proposals is for a common eurozone budget, something which has to the support of France and Germany, and also the commission. The draft also suggests manadatory "reforms" for member states seeking financial assistance.

From the UK perspective, what is important is that the proposals apply rigorously to the eurozone. Although there is a reference to the need for "strong mechanisms for democratic legitimacy and accountability", the guiding principle being that in "democratic control and accountability are effected at the level at which the decisions are taken", this too applies to the eurozone.

Should this focus continue, any idea of Mr Cameron being able to use the treaty negotiations as an opportunity to seek the repatriation of power goes out the window. The "colleagues" have made it abundently clear that they are not in the mood for such games, and if the UK seeks to block their plans, a way will be found of by-passing the obstacle.

Also, as we have previously suggested, this could by-pass the UK's referendum lock, which would resolve some of Cameron's difficulties, but create others. Not least, a straight in/out referendum then would be very hard to refuse, with the question boiling down to a choice between independence and being consigned to the outer zone.

Whether they realise it or not, on the face of it, the "colleagues" seem to be closing down British options.

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