Saturday, December 10, 2011

european union (think the clue’s in the title)

Where does one start?
The right wing press have hailed Cameron’s veto to block a new EU-wide treaty as a Triumph (oh what a surprise). Similarly, he will receive a hero’s welcome in parliament on Monday from right wing Tories.
In truth, Cameron’s actions at the EU summit hardly came as a shock – as far as I was concerned, he’d been making all the wrong kind of noises long before he departed for Brussels. It’s just that I’d hoped for a minor miracle – which never came. Reassuringly(!), I note that Chancellor George Osborne says that the PM’s actions were "very refreshing" and has insisted that Britain will still play a central role in Europe. He must live in cloud cuckoo land.
A few thoughts:
1. At a time that called for international statesmanship, Cameron’s actions, in the early hours of Friday morning, were almost exclusively focused on domestic politics – with pressure from perhaps 80 Tory MPs helping to dictate the UK’s current predicament.
2. I suspect that the PM felt that his veto would avoid a future referendum (which, reasonably, he judged he would lose). Actually, Euro-sceptics - such as Bill Cash - appear to think that the situation demands a fundamental renegotiation of the treaty and that “that, in due course, will also require a referendum”.
3. The PM no doubt believes that his actions will help to protect the City of London’s best interests (oh, and his rich pals - including a few high-flying bankers). If I was leader of one of the other 26 EU nations, I think I’d be so cheesed off with Britain that I’d insist on avoiding financial business with the City as far as possible. The UK could miss out altogether on future bank talks. I somehow think that what Cameron regards as “defending the interests of the City” might prove only temporary.
4. Britain SHOULD be a leading player in Europe, but it isn’t. The Guardian aptly describes it thus: “The two-speed Europe is here, with the UK alone in the slow lane”.
5. It all feels as if the government still thinks we have an Empire. In many ways, the UK government will be hoping that it “all goes wrong” for the EU – so it can say “we told you so”. I suspect that the next year or so will indeed be very difficult (both economically and politically) for the EU. Whilst I don’t want UK citizens to suffer in the current financial turmoil, it would be gratifying if the EU had started to emerge from the economic gloom before the next General Election (perhaps ahead of the UK)… it would be enormously gratifying!
6. And what about the LibDems? You remember the LibDems – those pledges about student fees and their pro-Europe stance (and all that bull about the need for us “to be there at the table”)? It seems that if the LibDems pledge anything, you might as well just assume the opposite.
7. No one is saying that the situation within the EU isn’t incredibly complicated and dire – but the fact was that we (ie. the UK) were members of the EU team, but refused to act like team players (we seemed to have walked off the pitch in a sulk?). You might have felt that the slogan SHOULD have been: “we’re all in this together” (where have I heard this before?)… but it wasn’t. Britain is now isolated and friendless as far as the EU is concerned… and, from now on (whatever Osborne says) it won’t be able to influence the debate.
That must surely be bad for Europe and, most definitely, bad for Britain?
Photo: “It wasn’t me guv”.

1 comment:

bigdaddystevieB said...

Yesterday’s (Saturday’s) newspapers reported that Clegg had apparently given his blessing to Cameron’s stance. Yesterday’s Guardian reported that Hague had “mentioned yesterday that Clegg had ‘signed up’ to Cameron’s tactics and decision”; The Daily Mail indicated that “Downing Street sources insisted that the two men had agreed in advance of the talks that, if the rest of the EU would not give in to British demands to protect the City of London in any new EU treaty, the Prime Minister would use the veto”.
I see from the BBC’s website this morning that Clegg is now furiously peddling the line that "Nick certainly doesn't think this is a good deal for Britain, for British jobs or British growth… It leaves us isolated in Europe and that is not in our national interest. Nick's fear is that we become the lonely man of Europe”.
I have a sneaky feeling that Clegg is actually going to become one of those lonely men!