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United States of Europe One Step Closer to Reality?

The agreement reached in Brussels on December 9 calls for the new treaty to be drafted within the next three months (by March 2012), even though in the past this process has taken many years. After that, the treaty will need to be ratified by each of the 26 countries. Some of them, such as Ireland, will also require holding public referendums.

Without Britain on board, the other 26 EU countries could also face potentially complicated legal obstacles, especially on how the new treaty will be enforced.

Moreover, Cameron says he will not allow the other 26 EU leaders to use the institutions of the 27-member EU to draft and police regulations for the 17 eurozone countries. Presumably, this would include the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, which Britain, as a member of the EU, helps to pay for through its annual contributions to the EU budget. He says the EU institutions are there to serve the interests of all 27 countries equally and not just a small group.

Cameron defended his veto by saying: “What was on offer wasn’t in British interests, so I didn’t agree to it.” And the majority of British voters agree with him. According to a poll published by the London Daily Mail on December 11, 62% of Britons agree that Cameron was right to veto the new European Union treaty; only 19% say he was wrong.

What’s more, 48% of Britons want Britain to quit the EU; 66% want a referendum on British ties to the EU; 66% want to renegotiate Britain’s ties to the EU; and 65% believe the euro will collapse.

But European elites were infuriated by Cameron’s implacability. Sarkozy, who observers said needed to be “physically restrained” during the summit, said: “Very simply, in order to accept the reform of the treaty at 27, David Cameron asked for what we thought was unacceptable: a protocol to exonerate the UK from financial services regulation. We could not accept this as at least part of the problems [Europe is facing] came from this sector.”