We saw that the heads of state or government, as Jean-Claude Juncker earlier, were willing to apply the principle of 'live and let live' with regard to Britain, provided it worked both ways.
The Mauritshuis in The Hague has just reopened after renovation, part financed by the European Union. Let me therefore recall Rembrandt's painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, before I start dissecting the United Kingdom as a member of the European Union, using normal membership as the measure.
Legal exceptions, historic experience and current attitudes form the basis for a few suggestions.
The United Kingdom has chosen to remain outside core areas and values through opt-outs (Wikipedia): the Schengen area of free travel, the economic and monetary union (euro currency), the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ; police and criminal justice legislation).
Verbally, PM Cameron's government seems to realise that the eurozone is the emerging hard core of European integration, but practical obstruction has dampened the effect.
Through Statewatch we can see that the UK notified the EU on 24 July 2013 that it opted out of all acts of the EU in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, under Article 10 of protocol 36 to the treaties, and that Britain now wishes an "opt-back-in" to a list of measures (16 June 2014, document 10168/14 limite).
Due to overextended rules on national referendums, Denmark may have as many opt-outs as Britain, but researchers and responsible politicians see them more as impediments than as advantages. The United Kingdom is different in this respect: fiercly marginal.
The UK also has a budget rebate (Wikipedia), paid by other member states and worth about €3.8bn, leaving the the current net contribution at €3.86bn (2012). Since the British rebate is about two-thirds of the the net contribution (the amount by which UK payments into the EU exceed EU expenditure returning to the UK), the country has a disincentive to use EU funds, which require local funding as well.
Small wonder that the United Kingdom acts like a ”budget hawk”, willing to downsize the EU budget, including for the poorer countries its expansive enlargement policy has brought into the European Union (to pay for the rebate).
In addition to the opt-outs and the budget rebate, we have a forty year history of UK participation in European integration, including treaty reform, paved with vetoes, blocking actions and red lines.
The anti-federalist and anti-democratic rhetoric from the government, politicians, media and wide segments of public opinion is on the increase.
The United Kingdom has not been a shining example of allowing those who want to deepen integration to move ahead.
The referendum lock, officially the European Union Act 2011 (Wikipedia), means that any treaty amendment transferring powers to the EU is subject to a binding referendum.
Since treaty amendments and new treaties require unanimity, the national referendum lock 'de facto' prevents the whole European Union from gaining new powers, given the political climate in the UK.
In my view, there are three cases when a national referendum is justified regarding the EU: 1) accession, 2) secession, and 3) the quality leap to a democratic European republic (federation).
Countries, such as Denmark, Ireland and now the UK, insisting on referendums in other cases, should not allow holding back the (rest of the) European Union. If exceptions are impossible, secession is preferable for the sake of the whole.
In January 2013, prime minister David Cameron promised the British people and in/out referendum on the European Union by the end of 2017, should the Conservatives win a majority in the 2015 general election.
He asked for time to make the European Union ”fit for the 21st century”, based on five principles: competitiveness, flexibility, repatriating powers, democratic accountability through national parliaments as ”the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU”, and fairness for countries inside and outside the eurozone.
Participation in the single market, and the UK's ability to help set its rules was the principal reason for membership of the EU, according to Cameron.
For all their declarations about the importance of Britain as an EU member, the other countries know that treaty level progress with the UK is practically impossible (without escape clauses) and that Britain may not be a member anyway a few years from now.
In his statement to the House of Commons yesterday (30 June 2014) on last week's European Council meeting, prime minister Cameron could have admitted that he had missed an opportunity to allow those that want to deepen integration to move ahead.
He could gracefully have conceded to the proposal that the lead candidate of the largest political group, Jean-Claude Juncker of the European People's Party (EPP), should be elected as president of the next European Commission by the European Parliament.
Every time Cameron damages Britain's relations with EU members and institutions, he receives support from anti-EU backbenchers and media, smelling not the coffee, but approaching Brexit.
Cameron was not prepared to budge, even after the 26-2 vote for Juncker, because he rejects the prospect of European level democracy.
The Labour leader Ed Miliband is almost as minimalist, intergovernmentalist and exceptionalist as Cameron. Lately it has been difficult to find evidence that the chairman of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is less parochial.
If in power, the secessionist UKIP chair Nigel Farage would solve the problem for the European Union.
Live and let live
Until then, the UK political establishment should try a new, constructive approach to future EU level democratic government, accountablity, transparency and needed powers for the rest of the European Union.
The British government wouldn't need to antagonise other member states or convert the public in continental Europe into more fervent Brexit supporters, when strong signals of 'live and let live' as a two way street could achieve better results and relations.
Unless poisoning is in its nature, as in the fable about the scorpion and the frog.