There will be lots of
fascinating analysis of the prime minister’s speech on Europe. However, this response from the deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, Katinka Barysch, over at Comment is Free caught my eye (emphasis added):
Germany, France and other EU countries have indicated that they want to accommodate Cameron to help Britain to stay in the union. What they simply cannot do is to allow Britain a pick-and-choose membership in response to the threat of withdrawal. Why should Britain be allowed to flout some club rules but not Poland, Denmark or Ireland?
Of course Cameron’s EU strategy is driven by domestic constraints. To some extent this is true for all European leaders. However, Cameron and his cabinet colleagues have time and again called for other EU leaders, most importantly the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to overrule domestic public opinion and lead in the euro crisis. This would have been the opportunity for Cameron to show leadership by telling his party and his people where Britain’s real interests lie and what a smart EU strategy looks like.
Cameron is right to defend the sanctity of the single market as the eurozone countries move towards fiscal union and more stringent economic rules. He is also right to object to financial market regulation that would substantially harm the City of London. It is these things that Cameron should spend his political firepower on. Not on trying to get an opt-out from the working time directive or fisheries policy or other parts of a “new deal”. By adopting a strategy of blackmail he is in fact undermining his ability to fight for Britain’s interests.
It is another demonstration of the way in which the prime minister has put the interests of easy party management above those of the country. That, of course, is the very opposite of what leadership should be about.
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.