Prime minister David Cameron’s veto at the EU summit in Brussels leaves the UK isolated in a way that has no precedent. His “veto” is a refusal not to take part in discussions which are going to go ahead without the UK. He was not there to sign – signing treaties (as I’ve said before) is above his pay grade – but to begin negotiations to lead to a treaty. So he has not vetoed anything. He has made the UK unimportant in solving the Eurozone crisis and any wider problems in the EU. He has refused to discuss matters. That is no way to defend or promote national interests. He should have been shaping the proposals with other EU leaders before the summit, not keeping away. David Cameron’s experience has not taught him this.
But, now he is the darling of the Eurosceptic right – the football hooligans of politics, where his heart lies. For their praise he has done incalculable damage to this country and its interests.
What happens if the UK needs the rest of the EU to help with the UK’s economic problems, to agree to state aid, to support the UK over the Falklands or with some other issue at the United Nations, or to back the UK in many other ways as yet unforeseen? How will businesses in the UK deal with EU rules that David Cameron has decided not to discuss but that will bind everyone trading with the EU, member state or not?
What was this national interest he wanted to defend? It was the banks. The banks who created the crisis are the organisations David Cameron has sold the UK to defend. He wanted to save them from a financial tranasactions tax – the Tobin or Robin Hood tax – but has said previously that his government’s bank levy has the same effect and brings in more. So, what was the point? He wanted to secure the position of the City of London, but by walking out, he has ensured that the City cannot be the financial centre for the Eurozone or the whole EU (with or without the UK), which are bigger and more lucrative markets than the UK alone. He said he alone was protecting the Single Market – against the rest of the Single Market. If he was leading a bloc of, say, a third or half the member states and there was an argument to be won, his position would have some sense. But he is not. He is alone and his actions endanger the UK through his Eurosceptic hubris.
Mostly disappointing of all is deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s endorsement of David Cameron’s “veto”, betraying the Liberal Democrats’ historic commitment to the EU with the UK at its heart.
These are dangerous times for the EU and the UK. We need statesmen, yet in the UK we have parochial politicians in thrall to the Eurosceptics. God help us all.