With David Cameron in Brussels to secure an EU deal to put to the UK electorate, let’s remind ourselves what happened in December 2011 when European Treaty reform was on the table. Call-me-Dave played a blinder; at least in his own eyes he did…
There have been some wonderful quotes emanating from all angles following David Cameron’s veto of European Treaty reform. The UK media has been fairly congratulatory but Europe has been almost universally condemnatory.
So what’s the flavour? From Cameron himself, “I said before I came to Brussels that if I couldn’t get adequate safeguards for Britain in a new European treaty, then I wouldn’t agree to it. What is on offer isn’t in Britain’s interests, so I didn’t agree to it.”
Well that’s all fairly straightforward isn’t it?
And the old pals across in Europe were fairly kind in their reactions.
Nikolas Sarkozy came back with, “We would have preferred a reform of the treaties among 27 (nations). That wasn’t possible, given the position of our British friends. And so it will be through an intergovernmental treaty of 17, but open to others.”
José Manuel Barroso followed the same line with, “We would have preferred, of course, a unanimous agreement … This was not possible, because this required unanimity, so I think the only alternative that was left was to do it through this kind of intergovernmental treaty.”
Angela Merkel meanwhile preferred to concentrate on matters which DC seemed to be oblivious to, “We have made good progress, especially with regards to the debt brake for all states that will be part of this new treaty and more automatic sanctions.”
Darling David has stuck to his vaguely hypnotic mantra that he was “protecting” the City but this seems more and more disingenuous as every moment passes and the implications of separation from mainstream Europe become less appetizing for the financial sector. He reminds everyone that the EU, Frankfurt and Paris are jealous of the City but Lord Heseltine put it all into perspective with his own succinct putdown, “In saying he wanted to protect the interests of the City, there is no way you can protect those interests by floating off into the Atlantic, frankly.”
I’m not inclined to agree with Tarzan too often but he has nailed it here. The UK needs to be inside Europe and not on the outside looking in.
Another one that I am not too inclined to agree with – no let’s rephrase that, one that I NEVER agree with – is Douglas Alexander with his assessment, “The roots of Cameron’s fateful decision lie in his failure to modernise the Conservative Party. He promised to leave the European People’s Party, and ever since he has been following his party, not leading it.” That is pot calling kettle black as the Labour Party is the long-time master exponent of weather-vane politics as so brilliantly championed by Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. However Alexander has speedily cut to the nitty gritty here and what we see now is a Conservative Party leadership being chivvied along by the Eurosceptic backbenches. Suddenly the City is not the relevant factor and it is the MPs stacked behind DC in the Commons.
But what about other views from Europe? The Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann is quite kind with his, “The British Government is called upon to compromise and to represent their own country. But to simply present conditions and to say either/or, that’s a blatant contradiction to the spirit of the European Union,” and that’s a pretty common thread although the level of dissatisfaction varies quite a lot.
A less charitable tack is taken by Franco-German MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, “Cameron is a coward,” whilst German CDU MEP and European People’s Party foreign policy spokesman, Elmar Brok, led with, “If you’re not willing to stick to the rules, you should keep your mouth shut.”
Make no mistake, 26 EU members see Cameron’s intransigence as one of the grandest betrayals in modern history. His constituency in Europe has evaporated overnight and we can be certain that the White House is silently fuming as they wanted the Euro issue put to bed to give Barack Obama the chance to take centre stage as the 2012 US election campaign cranks into action in the first week of the year. Obama’s initial summing up of Cameron upon their first getting acquainted is sure to become common currency before the dust settles. And for those with short memories that line was, “What a lightweight!”
Back to London and Lord Oakeshott opined that, “He went to Brussels with a set of impossible demands. He wasn’t there to negotiate; he was there to stage a walk-out. LibDem leaders must stop Cameron kowtowing to the Tory right and force him back to the negotiating table.”
He is backed up by Tim Farron who chips in with, “The idea of this being any kind of victory for us is just madness. We have lost massively. It was a lose-lose situation and unsurprisingly we lost, while making ourselves isolated from our colleagues in Europe.”
I’m not one to give the LibDems credit for anything at the moment as they sold themselves and the country down the river in an unashamed power grab in May 2010 but this pair are not entirely dumb. If Nick Clegg really is as disturbed as he privately makes out that he is then this is his moment. He can bring down the coalition by withdrawing his party’s support immediately and calling a confidence motion in the Commons at the first opportunity.
Of course that is unlikely to happen as he is far too comfortable with his feet wedged firmly under the Cabinet table at No. 10 but maybe Nick might grow a bit of backbone. Who knows?
Anyway back to the words that matter and Foreign Secretary William Hague assures everyone that, “We’re not separating ourselves from the European Union.”
Well it does not look like that from the continent. Cohn-Bendit insists, “Now we must put pressure on the British and force them, by implementing tough regulations on financial markets, to decide if they want out of the EU or if they want to stay inside,” and EPP vice-chairman, Manfred Weber, helpfully adds, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant,” which nicely sums things up.
So what of the implications of this in the sphere of Scottish politics and the debate on independence? In The Independent Jane Merrick points out, “Some believe that Cameron’s isolation in Europe could make it even easier for Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Scottish Nationalist Party to secure independence – and eventually, perhaps, to join the euro.” She then quotes a ‘senior’ LibDem as saying the following, “So Scotland walks away and joins the euro and leaves the Little Englanders having finally got their Little England. The Little Englanders think we will be like Switzerland, but with nuclear weapons. Actually, we’ll be like Norway, but without the oil.”
An Upper Volta with rockets for our generation! Classic! Who said the LibDems have no sense of humour?