Cameron Didn’t Fail
The thesis of this article is that Cameron failed.
Forget economics. This was a political moment, and it will be remembered as the time the politicians failed. …
But most of all, David Cameron failed. The British Prime Minister will be applauded by his more isolationist backbenchers for his decision to pull out of Friday’s euro-rescue treaty, making Britain probably alone among the 27 European Union countries in refusing to participate in the pooling of resources and common sacrifice necessary to put the continent’s finances back on track.
His withdrawal is a serious blow to Europe, the world’s largest single economy – making a collapse of investor confidence in the continent far more likely, and forcing the bloc into an imposed Franco-German solution rather than the sort of larger arrangement that Britain could have helped organize, if it had been constructive instead of destructive. …
So it’s almost certainly a disaster for Britain. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where, in the wake of a 26-country agreement to create a fiscal and financial regulatory union with one dissenter, Britain doesn’t end up more isolated from Europe.
While Mr. Cameron’s Euro-skeptic MPs argue that Britain should withdraw into a trade-only relationship with Europe along the lines of Norway or Switzerland, they don’t understand: Britain’s trade ties with the continent are built on six decades of common laws, standards and regulations, all of which are now jeopardized. The British exemption could only result in less trade, not more.
The stakes are huge. This is a country, remember, whose annual trade with its 26 EU neighbours is between £140-billion and £185-billion, somewhere between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of all imports and exports. By comparison, it does £33.5-billion in business with the United States (15 per cent), £5.1-billion with China (2.3 per cent) and £3.6-billion with Canada (1.6 per cent). …
“I think I did the right thing for Britain,” Mr. Cameron told the BBC on Friday, claiming that Britain could take or leave pieces of the EU – a cafeteria common market. No serious observer believed him. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister, certainly didn’t: “Any Euro-skeptic who might be rubbing their hands in glee about the outcome of the summit should be careful for what they wish for.”
What’s saved the Western economies from total collapse in the past three years has been the heroic levels of international co-operation. There’s always been the threat of 1930s-style isolationism. We just never thought it would come from an intelligent free trader such as Mr. Cameron.
I’m going to push back: no, David Cameron didn’t fail.
On the contrary: for once in his life, he stood for something.
See the Mail:
Headline: “Day PM put Britain first: Defiant Cameron stands up to Euro bullies… but French plot revenge for historic veto“
David Cameron stood defiantly behind his historic veto of a new EU power grab last night as France plotted to push Britain towards the EU exit door.
In the most momentous decision of his premiership, Mr Cameron resolutely defended British interests by rejecting demands for treaty change across the EU as part of a rescue plan for the single currency.
Angry Eurocrats said the extraordinary and unexpected move – the first time a British prime minister has said ‘no’ to a new European treaty – marked a ‘great divorce’ and threw Britain’s future in the EU into serious doubt.
‘This is going to cost the UK dearly. They have antagonised everyone,’ said one senior EU official. ‘I don’t believe David Cameron was ever with us at the table,’ complained Germany’s Angela Merkel.
France’s Le Monde newspaper pronounced ‘The Europe of 27 is finished’, while Germany’s Der Spiegel declared ‘Bye Bye Britain’.
Under renewed pressure from his own party to call a referendum on a looser relationship with the EU as other member states form a powerful new bloc, Mr Cameron insisted Britain would not leave the union as long as it remained in our interests to stay in. …
Mr Sarkozy was said to have had to be physically restrained during ten-hour talks that went on through the night, and afterwards ‘blanked’ the Prime Minister by dodging his handshake in the manner of a sulking teenager.
He told Mr Cameron that while others were trying to save the Eurozone he was issuing ‘irrelevant’ demands to make London an ‘offshore centre’ taking cash away from Europe.
To the delight of Eurosceptics at home, Mr Cameron responded by telling shocked EU leaders that in that case, they would have to go it alone. …
Mr Cameron said the new treaty would mean countries having ‘their budgets written in Brussels’. …
‘You’ve never seen Britain actually say “no” to a European treaty before: that’s what has changed. What I’ve done is made sure that Britain’s interests were protected. [The treaty] didn’t have sufficient safeguards for Britain, so I wasn’t prepared to support it.
‘The point is that we remain in the single market . . . we maintain that position and those institutions and that market is protected for Britain. I said to the people of Britain that if I couldn’t get a treaty that was good for Britain, I wouldn’t sign up to it, and I was good to my word.’ …
After an unnamed French official said Mr Cameron had behaved ‘like a man at a wife-swapping party who refuses to bring his own wife’, the Prime Minister said: ‘I have not and have no plans to attend any wife-swapping parties.’
Here’s the thing: fundamentally, the Euro cannot survive without a massive transfer of power away from the national governments, to Brussels.
That’s what the new deal is — all the national governments in the currency will have to have their budgets vetted and approved by unelected, unaccountable Eurocrats.
Granted, the Eurocrats will be vetting them for good purposes — making sure that they don’t run deficits, and put the Euro in the position it now is in. But they won’t have direct accountability for their actions, and for their rulings.
I support austerity; I just support liberal democracy more.
The Economist goes all C.S. Lewis on us:
Europe’s great divorce
WE JOURNALISTS are probably too bleary-eyed after a sleepless night to understand the full significance of what has just happened in Brussels. What is clear is that after a long, hard and rancorous negotiation, at about 5am this morning the European Union split in a fundamental way. …
So two decades to the day after the Maastricht Treaty was concluded, launching the process towards the single European currency, the EU’s tectonic plates have slipped momentously along same the fault line that has always divided it—the English Channel.
Confronted by the financial crisis, the euro zone is having to integrate more deeply, with a consequent loss of national sovereignty to the EU (or some other central co-ordinating body); Britain, which had secured a formal opt-out from the euro, has decided to let them go their way.
BRITAIN did not walk out of the EU last night. But let there be no doubt about it: we have started falling out.
David Cameron finally did what British prime ministers have threatened in Europe so many times, and used his veto last night in Brussels, my BBC radio told me at dawn this morning. This is an astonishingly dramatic moment, the BBC added: the British prime minister has refused to sign up to a new EU treaty involving all 27 members, because the rest, led by France and Germany, would not grant him the safeguards he sought giving Britain powers to block unwelcome regulation of the City of London. …
That stuff about drama and rows is clearly right. But I fear I do not see where Mr Cameron used his veto.
In my version of the English language, when one member of a club uses his veto, he blocks something from happening. Mr Cameron did not stop France, Germany and the other 15 members of the euro zone from going ahead with what they are proposing. He asked for safeguards for financial services and—as had been well trailed in advance—France and Germany said no. That’s not wielding a veto, that’s called losing. …
Nor do I think we would be granted the sort of Swiss deal that British Tories yearn for. Switzerland is allowed access to the single market for relatively low cost because it is small. Because Switzerland is small, its absence from the single market table does not fundamentally alter the nature of that market. A walk-out by Britain, the largest free-market minded power in Europe, would change the nature of the single market fundamentally.
Well, that’s how it goes.
There are some fundamental disagreements. Either one goes along with the supra-national arrangements that are necessary to save the Euro, or one stays out.
Britain must stay out.
As for the members of the Eurozone, well, they have a choice to make. For many of them, staying in makes sense. For all? Well, we’ll see.
Update: The Guardian has a listing of headline reactions. I like the Sun’s.
Head over to ConservativeHome to see the Euroskeptic reaction…
Also, does this doom the Coalition?
Update again: Wednesday’s PMQs, before this all went down.