David Cameron’s use of the veto in the recent EU summit opens an era of deep uncertainty (and possible catastrophe) for British and European politics. Two things seem to be true: Cameron is an incompetent opportunist in thrall to his backbenchers and the proposed treaty is a disaster for the Eurozone countries themselves. The fact that it is a disaster (a fact recognized by Francois Hollande’s declared intention to renegotiate) might seem to give some support to Cameron. But of course it doesn’t, since the remaining 26 countries will just go ahead without the UK. All Cameron has done is isolate and exclude himself. As one MEP is reported as saying today, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Cameron vetoed the proposed EU treaty on the basis, or pretext, that other countries wouldn’t agree to “safeguards” for the City of London. The reason he was asking for these was essentially just because his backbenchers had demanded he show the “bulldog spirit” and, since EU treaties need unanimity, he thought he could extract some symbolic gain to satisfy them. He didn’t clear this with Merkel or Sarkozy in advance and would have been inhibited in doing so because the British Tories withdrew from the mainstream Euro conservative grouping in order to hob-nob with a bunch of extreme nutters and anti-semites. Sarkozy, who wanted a more integrated core Europe without Britain in any case, took the opportunity to call Cameron’s bluff. All very good for Sarko in the run-up the the Presidential elections. Exit Cameron stage right, claiming to have stood up to the EU - and getting praised by the UK’s tabloid press and an opinion-poll boost – but actually exposing the City to further regulation under qualified majority voting. He’s also chucked away decades of British policy which favoured EU expansion with the new accession countries serving as a counterweight to the Franco-German axis. Where are the other countries now? Lined up with the French and Germans.
The Euro treaty itself, assuming it goes ahead as planned and is enforced, mandates balanced budgets and empowers the Eurocrats to vet national budgets and punish offenders. Social democracy is thereby effectively rendered illegal in the Eurozone in both its “social” and “democracy” aspects. Daniel put it thus :
a takeover of Europe by the neoliberal “permanent government” who failed to get their way by democratic means. All of the nationalism and anti-German sentiment is a distraction from the real scandal here. The ‘technocrats’ (which is apparently what they want to be called, although frankly I am seeing a lot of ideology and not much technical ability) want to reorganise the whole of Europe on neoliberal lines (ironically, to basically replicate the Irish economic transformation
One might think, then, that the left should be happy to be well away from it and that Cameron has inadvertently done us a favour. However, the short-term consequences in British politics could well be awful. My worst-case fantasy scenario has Cameron calling a snap General Election on nationalist themes, getting a majority dominated by swivel-eyed propertarian xenophobes and dismantling the welfare state, the Health Service, the BBC etc. Riots and civil disorder would be met with force, and those driven to resistance or crime would be incarcerated in giant new prisons. The Scots would then, understandably, opt for independence, and England and Wales would be left at the mercy of the crazies for several decades. Texas-on-Thames, in short.
And Nick Clegg? Well I wonder if even Daragh McDowell will make a case for him now.