EU: Britain’s Negligence and Euroskepticism

Prime Minister David Cameron has effectively isolated Britain from the European community after vetoing an EU-wide treaty change aimed at reigning in the Eurozone crisis and further integrate the EU member nations.

"I regret just how badly David Cameron's negotiation strategy has let Britain down" - Douglas Alexander

Leaders of 26 European countries, including the 17 Eurozone nations, agreed Friday to forge a new pact with strict caps on government spending and borrowing to restructure the foundations of the single currency; but the ever pestering problem of Euroskeptic Britain has illustrated its negligence by rejecting the pact.  26 of the 27 EU leaders agreed to pursue tighter integration with stricter budget discipline in the single currency area, but Britain under Prime Minster David Cameron has stated that it could not accept the proposed EU treaty amendment after failing to secure its desired concessions.  Britain’s veto is enough to thwart German and French plans to reform existing European Union treaties, a process requiring unanimity.  Though Sweden, Hungary and Czech Republic have still to review the pact and consult their national parliaments, the block of 26 will force ahead and create a new separate accord, all of which is explained here.   Evidently, Britain’s refusal to go along with its close allies, Germany and France, has driven a wedge between the two sides and could result in instability between the UK being outside of the union, as well as being the third largest economy in the community,  and the progressive moving 26 member nations that are within the pact.

“The summit will surely resolve the Euro-crisis.  There is no EU crisis apart from Britain being foolish and not looking towards the future.  The Euro can easily live without Britain, but can Britain live without the Eurozone?” – William Middendorf, German citizen in Berlin

The Merkozy duo had wanted a binding compact with all 27 member nations to agree to changes in the Lisbon treaty so that stricter budget and debt rules for the Eurozone could be enshrined in the bloc’s basic law.  Nonetheless, Britain, which is outside of the Eurozone but has persistently seemed fit to criticize and lecture the single currency, refused to support the pact.  Rather, David Cameron said that Britain wanted guarantees in a protocol protecting its financial services industry in London from future financial regulations.  Not surprising that the British Budgetary Question, under Prime Minister Thatcher, was only resolved once EU leaders agreed to compensate Britain for its contributions to the Common Agricultural Policy.  Sadly, David Cameron fails to realize that the current crisis has stemmed from a lack of regulation of financial services and therefore, the UK cannot be handed a waiver.  Most vocal in his anti-Brit sentiment has been French President Sarkozy, who often states that the European community has grown tired of Britain’s independent streak, suggesting the PM was trying to use emergency negotiations as a window of opportunity to defend its own national interest by making demands that were off-point.

“You can’t on the one hand ask not to be in the Euro and at the same time wish to be part of all the decisions affecting a currency you don’t want, and often criticize.” – Nicolas Sarkozy, French President

Coincidentally, such animosity is not uncommon for the two neighboring countries.  Before the creation of the EU, Charles De Gaulle spearheaded the formation of the European Community and protected the French profit gained from the Common Agricultural Policy.  So saying, British ascension into the community would threaten France’s power and also represent ties to NATO and the US, both of which De Gaulle were vehemently opposed too.  Moreover, Britain was against the revenues that all member nations had to contribute to the CAP, as most profit went to France at the time, so Britain’s opposition only fueled French animosity.  Generally, the British membership in the EU has often been questioned due to its history of skepticism and reluctance.  Britain’s opt-out in the European Monetary Union (EMU) illustrates its past and present relations with Euroskepticism which has been evident since the days of Margaret Thatcher the Bloody British Question.  Under John Major, Thatcher’s successor, the UK exited from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) which sought to reduce exchange rate variability and achieve monetary stability.  Under Gordon Brown, Britain vehemently opposed the Commission’s proposal to cut Britain’s rebate from CAP and redistribute the proceeds to other net paymasters, as well as increase the EU’s budget by 35% between 2007 and 2013.

“It’s quite untenable for us to remain in a union alone, on the outside, having laws made for us, while we’re in a permanent voting minority.   This is the worst of all worlds for the UK.” – Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independent Party

Furthermore, the actions by the British Prime Minister has also made evident the divide in his government, as well as the growing instability that his regime may soon be facing.  In the past, Cameron has faced two attempts to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU, which it joined in 1973.  This recent rift will increase pressure from Euroskeptics within Cameron’s Conservative party.  A recent poll showed that 49% of Britons would vote to leave the European Union while 405 would vote to stay in it.  In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, representing the much more pro-European Liberal Democrats, is already regretting the damage the Cameron’s decision will have.  Members of the Liberal Democrats and Labour party have condemned Cameron’s negotiation strategy and are remarking on the isolation that Britain has now been left in, without any allies outside or inside the Union. Nonetheless, as a member of the bloc, Britain has agreed to bind itself to regional regulations, employment laws and legal ruling and despite its many opt-outs, past allowances for rebates and its personal flexible interpretations of EU law, the UK must come to the realization that the EU is a supranational entity and not their privatized network of free trade profit mongering.

“It is thanks to Europe that London has got so much business.  50% of Britain’s trade is with Europe.  If the UK steps away from this, the long-term consequences will be extremely grace.” – Karel Lannoo, Chief Executive and Financial Markets Analyst at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)

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