UK As Defiant Problem Child

Hello Dave Cameron, Eurosceptic

I have to say movies are a lot less interesting than what’s been going on in the world since the GFC first reared its head in August 2007, a full year before the credit crunch that brought about things like TARP and stimulus packages. Since then the chaos has moved on from banks to sovereign states that paid money to buy out these bad debts, with the PIIGS nations getting a hammering the bond trading markets.

This week saw some extraordinary developments whereby some of the EU nations moved for greater union as the UK chose to sat it out. It’s a tricky thing, but basically David Cameron might have been the right man at the wrong place or the wrong man at the right place. Given the choice of wanting more of an input or less into the affairs of Europe, he chose to opt for less.

For Britain the benefit of the bargain in Brussels is far from clear. It took a good half-hour after the end of Mr Sarkozy’s appearance for Mr Cameron to emerge and explain his action. The prime minister claimed he had taken a “tough decision but the right one” for British interests—particularly for its financial-services industry. In return for his agreement to change the EU treaties, Mr Cameron had wanted a number of safeguards for Britain. When he did not get them, he used his veto.

After much studied vagueness on his part about Britain’s objectives, Mr Cameron’s demand came down to a protocol that would ensure Britain would be given a veto on financial-services regulation (see PDF copy here). The British government has become convinced that the European Commission, usually a bastion of liberalism in Europe, has been issuing regulations hostile to the City of London under the influence of its French single-market commissioner, Michel Barnier. And yet strangely, given the accusation that Brussels was taking aim at the heart of the British economy, almost all of the new rules issued so far have been passed with British approval (albeit after much bitter backroom fighting). Tactically, too, it seemed odd to make a stand in defence of the financiers that politicians, both in Britain and across the rest of European, prefer to denounce.

Mr Cameron said he is “relaxed” about the separation. The EU has always been about multiple speeds; he was glad Britain had stayed out of the euro and out of the passport-free Schengen area. He said that life in the EU, particularly the single market, will continue as normal. “We wish them well as we want the euro zone to sort out its problems, to achieve stability and growth that all of Europe needs.” The drawn faces of senior officials seemed to say otherwise.

That section is quite telling. Even prior to these meetings, it wasn’t entirely clear what possible input the UK might have had given its history of not joining the monetary union. While that choice looks like a great choice in hindsight, it’s also looking like the UK never really joined Europe in the way it was supposed to, so it now stands quite isolated.

As an Australian, the irony is rich, for the UK essentially had to abandon its preferred trade with Commonwealth nations in order to have access to the European markets and joining the EC, way back in the 1970s. That was one of the major changes that essentially push Australia towards embracing its Asian trade partners because it simply had no choice. In a sense the UK had to give up the baby to join the special club, only to find it didn’t want to be a member of that club because it was more a cult, but now it has no baby.

As it turns out, giving up the portion of sovereignty that controls money is probably the least possible thing to do for the UK when you think about it. France, and Germany have lost their kings, and other royal families of Europe have long ceased to have any political or even significant economic power. This is in stark contrast to the United Kingdom that successfully (I wish I had a better word for it than successfully, but… you know what I mean) preserved its positively medieval monarchy with significant reserve powers. no Conservative government in the UK is going to hand over the controls to the treasury to a bunch of Republican Frogs and Gerries. And God save the Queen and all that.

So given these kinds of historic reasons, is it any surprise that Cameron chose to stay out of the room where important decisions will be made?

“He’s thrown some meat to the eurosceptics who like to see the British PM wielding the veto. (But) it is going to make it harder to defend British interests,” said Simon Tilford of the Centre for European Reform, a think tank in London.

“Cameron has played a bad hand poorly. He’s been stung by the mounting rebellion here.”
In Brussels, Germany failed in its campaign to persuade all 27 EU countries to write the tougher rules into the bloc’s treaty, with just Britain and Hungary refusing to go along.

“Worried that Britain is starting to drift away from Europe in a serious way. To where? In a strong alliance with Hungary,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a tweet on Friday. By lunchtime, even Hungary had changed its mind.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague played down London’s isolation and tried to put a positive spin on the treaty clash, noting that different groups of EU nations had long worked together on various issues like defence and border controls.

“Decisions about the European single market, the thing that matters most to us for jobs and businesses in the UK, still have to be made by the 27 countries together,” he told Sky News from Brussels. “We will be very vigilant about any threat to that.”

Sort of amusing, that. Not surprisingly the moment been likened to Neville Chamberlain’s moment in history waving a piece of paper saying “peace in our time”. Europe’s suddenly been over run by the threat of sovereign collapses with ‘Merkozy’ emerging as a kind of force for further unification. I have a hunch that says even if I don’t like Cameron’s side of politics, he may have made the right call for the UK. He would have come to rue the day if he had laid down the burning spears of desire and given over to ‘Merkozy’. I mean, what would Winston Churchill have done? Blood Sweat and Tears, right? So while Cameron is likely to cop a walloping for his defiance, I suspect history will prove to be kinder to him.


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