While many people thought the idea of a European Constitution had died with the French and Dutch "No" votes in 2005, EU officials and politicians have been making other arrangements. Since taking over the EU presidency, Germany, a big fan of the constitution, has been trying to get agreement on a revised text. Other member states, not least the UK, would no doubt rather forget about it, but no one should underestimate the ability of Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to broker a deal. Since negotiating a settlement on the EU budget in 2006 Merkel has emerged as one of Europe's great mediators.
A new version of the constitution could be imminent, so it's worth looking at what the revised document could have in store. At first sight, the original draft did not appear particularly relevant to the business community, but looks were deceptive. On the plus side, the number of legislative instruments at the EU's disposal would have been cut from 15 to six, the Council of Ministers would have met in public and national parliaments would have had more power to reject any EU proposals deemed unnecessary.
This would have made life easier for big businesses trying to lobby Brussels, but would have made little difference to a hairdresser in Runcorn, or any number of entrepreneurs that make up the bulk of businesses in the UK. On the negative side-and this is where small businesses should be more concerned-the previous draft constitution would have made the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding. This would mean that the European Court of Justice would have been given enough power to extend the scope of social legislation through the extension of case law.
We could have seen a case-by-case progression of judicial decisions in the area of employment law, which would affect all companies, from hairdressers to HR consultancies-indeed any business brave enough to hire staff.