The “veto” that never was and the ire of the Eurosceptics

Labour Party

Sometimes I almost feel sorry for David Cameron. He really seemed to believe that walking out of the Brussels summit in December would begin to end his EU troubles.

Far from it. As Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said in the Guardian this morning: “The unanswered question after this summit [the one which has just ended] remains what exactly David Cameron achieved by walking out of the EU negotiations last month? With the EU institutions now involved, it seems clear that all his earlier phantom veto achieved was to undermine British influence.”

The Brussels summit which ended yesterday endorsed the use of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to enforce the “fiscal pact”. Britain reserved its position, along with the Czech Republic, the only other EU member state to do so.

This latest climb-down by the British Prime Minister makes it even clearer that David Cameron achieved absolutely nothing by walking out of the last Brussels summit. He did not “veto” the treaty; he quite simply did not sign up to it. A veto implies preventing or stopping something happening. Cameron did not achieve this. Rather he took himself and the UK away from the agreement. “Refusal to agree” or “abnegation of responsibility” would be better terms for David Cameron’s antics.

However, this is not the view of the feral Tory Eurosceptics.

Cameron’s personal woes are at home while our country’s are in the EU. Losing influence and being marginalised in Europe do not help the UK. Because of our geographical size and proud history, we should be a major player at the heart of Europe, leading the EU, one of the world’s major power blocs, in the direction which would be best for Britain.

Meanwhile, unable to perform in any credible way in the EU, David Cameron is facing a  Eurosceptic backlash in the House of Commons as well as searing criticism from his own MEPs.            

Speaking about Cameron’s volte-face on the use of the EU institutions to enforce the fiscal pact, Martin Callanan, Leader of the ECR Group, largely made up of British Tories, is quoted in the Guardian this morning as saying, “I blame a combination of appeasing Nick Clegg, who is desperate to sign up to anything the EU puts in front of him, and the practical reality that the pact is actually quite hard to prevent.”

Leading feral Eurosceptic backbencher Bernard Jenkin said, “The government cannot retreat from that [not agreeing to the treaty changes last month], or they will refuel demands for a referendum on the UK’s present terms of membership of the EU.”

So Cameron’s attempts to pacify his Eurosceptics at the expense of Britain being able to take its rightful place in the EU are failing miserably.

The embattled Mr Cameron is also facing criticism from the backbench mob for doing what Nick Clegg wants.

I always thought coalitions were about agreeing joint policies and taking them forward together. Not, it appears, in the modern Conservative Party who are behaving as if they won the last general election with an overall majority. They did not, and would do well to remember it.

Cheaper to Watch Football, but What About Cricket?

Labour Party

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently made a ruling on broadcasting rights for sporting events that could have serious effects on minority sports across Europe, including cricket. 

At the moment broadcasting rights for sport in Europe are sold on a ‘territorial’ (country by country) basis.  They are also sold on an ‘exclusive’ basis, which means that only one broadcaster in each country is allowed to broadcast the event.  Understandably the rights are sold at different prices in each territory since, for instance, Greek broadcasters are unlikely to pay as much for English football as British ones.  The system works using ‘decoder cards’ which, once a subscription is paid to your territories service provider, allows you to access their channels through a satellite dish.

What has happened in this instance is that a British publican has used a Greek ‘decoder card’ to access Premier League games for far less than they would have to pay for subscription to a British provider.  The Premier League has brought a case against them as they believe that this infringes their right to sell their product on a country by country basis.  The ECJ has ruled that this ‘territorial exclusivity’ goes against the principles of the European Single Market and that decoder cards can be legally traded across member state boundaries.  So the victory goes to the pub owner.

Now you are unlikely to hear me standing up for the rights of the megalithic Premier League or BSkyB, they are big enough and tough enough to do that for themselves.  I’m also uncomfortable with the notion of such a big organisation with limitless resources suing an independent pub owner.  Having said that, this ruling, in my opinion, does no one any good at all. 

It would mean less money for all sports who sell their broadcasting rights. If there are no ‘exclusive’ rights, then broadcasters would pay far less money.  It would mean a significant loss of cultural diversity, if there are no ‘territorial’ restrictions then you could have a ‘one-size fits all’ European system. Big sports could still sell on a big ‘European’ system (football is popular everywhere). But smaller sports such as ski-jumping, cricket, curling, or cycling, would not be able to make enough money from selling to the whole of Europe.  Smaller broadcasters would not be able to afford the cost of ‘European’ rights. They would not be able to compete, which would mean a monopolistic advantage for the biggest broadcasters in Europe.

So we could see cricket losing a lot its money, similarly handball in France and the Scandinavian countries.  This would be bad for sport and bad cultural diversity.