Thursday, 8 December 2011

Right foot in or right foot out

Tonight’s the night, not for romance but for tough talking. No, there won’t be a love-in between David Cameron and his European partners. Tonight will see the foundations being laid for an United States of Europe. And what of Britain? Left in the cold.
Indeed, in all matters European, the Prime Minister is caught between the rock and a hard place. On the one hand he leads an Eurosceptic party who want an EU referendum and wants out. Whilst on the other he faces increased isolation and marginalisation in many capitals across Europe. 
Oh, yes, he has also got to keep a coalition government going with his pro-Europe Liberal Democrat partners.
And even his cabinet colleagues are plotting. Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland secretary, laid down the gauntlet by declaring that any revision to the Lisbon treaty would have to trigger a referendum. 
Quick to get on this particular bandwagon was Boris Johnson who echoed Paterson. Both were following Duncan Smith’s referendum call of last Sunday.
These calls challenge directly Cameron, who asserts no referendum will be required if Britain does not lose more powers to Europe. His view are, that any agreement at the crucial two-day EU summit, designed to save the single currency from collapse, will not involve the transfer of UK powers. 
Paterson contradicts Cameron by declaring "If there was a major fundamental change in our relationship, emerging from the creation of a new bloc which would be effectively a new country from which we were excluded, then I think inevitably there would be huge pressure for a referendum."
It’s all a throwback to the John Major day’s with Europe causing seismic rifts within the Conservative party. And he, didn’t have to keep the Liberal Democrats sweet.
Paterson’s view are given credence by a letter written by the leaders of France and Germany. In a joint letter, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are demanding new rules aimed at establishing "fiscal union" among the 17 eurozone countries, whose leaders would hold monthly summits during the crisis and install a permanent president of the euro group as well as a ministerial structure to run the body. This is nothing less than laying down the foundation of a new European state.
But Cameron will be hampered in giving the Eurosceptics what they want by his certain knowledge that Britain needs, for its own economic good, Europe to stabilise the eurozone. For this to happen the Merkel-Sarkozy plan has to succeed. 
European institutions have to be able to enforce sanctions on the 17 eurozone countries. When  this happens, as it surely must if the euro is to survive, Britain will be out of the loop. Decision’s will be taken that will have real consequences for the British economy and Britain will be powerless, with no say. So whichever way you look at it Cameron’s on a hiding to nothing.
The next forty eight hours will show us what kind of Europe it’s to be. The UK will have confront the issue to be a player or not.  But let’s be clear, such a decision will be made in England’s interest. Where does that leave Wales and Scotland, who have gained greatly by membership of the EU. Will they choose to opt in and thus break up the UK or opt out and loose out on crucial European aid? 

All in all, it promises to be an interesting run-in to Christmas and beyond. And you thought it was all coming to a close with the National Assembly in recess. 


  1. Largely agree, David Cameron has got himself into a right mess over Europe. But, to be fair, I haven't heard much from Carwyn Jones or Alex Salmond on the matter.

    For sure, decisions will be taken in England's interest and understandably so, England is the cash cow of the UK. England is the Germany of the eurozone. It is England that provides the funds to the EU which may their way back to the UK in the form of grants and Objective One funding schemes (so beloved by this and the last Welsh government).

    Indeed, the one good reason I can see for reducing our links with Europe is to stop Wales from becoming a complete basket case, a country entirely dependent upon the largesse of others.

    There was a time when we contributed to the coffers of UK plc, a time when one could feel proud to live and work in Wales. Not any more!

  2. Gareth I think it is more than dubious to say Wales has gained greatly from UK EU membership.

    Wales biggest gain is and always has been from being part of the UK. EU funds into Wales have achieved very little and, dare I say, post devolution even less resulting from the appalling governance from Cardiff coupled with the highly restrictive uses to which our cash, recycled through Brussels, has been put.

    Think of what £50M per day could do for the whole of the UK if we cast aside the yoke of the EU.

  3. You are most definitely correct in stating that Wales has benefited fiscally from being part of the EU Gareth. There are few if any major infrastructure projects that do not have at least some input from EU funds. Its all very well for people to illustrates the views of the home counties of England rather than those from a Welsh or Scottish context to denigrate the EU.

    The fact is that the UK is becoming more and more marginalised within the EU and as such are less and less relevant to the direction the EU takes. If only Wales and Scotland were full members of the EU we could avoid being hostages to fortune in the way the Euroseptics have made Cameron and Co!

  4. any chance of your thoughts on what the British veto of a new Treaty means for Wales especially as the Europe is our largest export market, our farmers reliance on EU subsidies and the fact we qualified for another batch of EU Convergence money.

    In Scotland they are already calling last night's events a game changer for the SNP and independence, where are the Welsh leaders when you need them to stand up for Wales interests, gone home for the weekend i suspect.