Europe: what Liberal Democrats have been saying today

Nick Clegg:

I have said for months that it would be best to avoid arcane debates about treaty change altogether and if we had to proceed down that road, it would be best to do so in a way that did not create divisions in Europe.

The demands Britain made for safeguards, on which the Coalition Government was united, were modest and reasonable. They were safeguards for the single market, not just the UK.

There were no demands of repatriation of powers from the EU to Britain and no demands for a unilateral carve-out of UK financial services.

What we sought to ensure was to maintain a level playing field in financial services and the single market as a whole. This would have retained the UK’s ability to take tougher, not looser, regulatory action to sort out our banking system.

As a lifelong pro-European, I will continue to argue within Government and with our European partners that where changes now occur, it is essential that the integrity of our open European single market is kept intact and that we work together on the long term problems of competitiveness within the EU on which millions of people’s jobs depend.

Chris Davies MEP:

Far from keeping Britain strong, Cameron has ensured that we will lose our influence at the top table.

By seeking to protect bankers from regulation, he has betrayed Britain’s real interests and done nothing in practice to help the City of London.

The fear now must be that we will increasingly lose the opportunity to affect decisions being taken that are bound to affect us.

(Note the contrasting views on what events mean for UK financial regulation.)

Sarah Ludford MEP:

What I understand is that David Cameron wanted financial services decisions to be quite rightly taken by all 27, for the European Banking Authority, which is one of the regulators, to stay in London, and for eurozone transactions to be able to carry on in the City of London as you would expect and not just have to be in the eurozone.

Those were reasonable demands, so I think President Sarkozy has not been helpful, but I think David Cameron, as I say, has been saddled with the deeply unhelpful weight of the europhobes.

Vince Cable:

And finally, Nick Clegg in this evening’s news:

UPDATE: I’ve now blogged a more detailed analysis of the post-summit fallout and Liberal Democrat reactions.

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101 Comments

  • Liberal Democrat Ministers can put as much positive spin on this as they like but the truth of the matter is Cameron as paved the way for Britain to leave the EU.

  • Philip Rolle 9th Dec '11 - 7:32pm

    Cameron has managed to postpone a referendum. Since the result of that referendum is likely not to be to most Lib Dems’ tastes, is that not a good result?

  • paul barker 9th Dec '11 - 8:05pm

    Can I reiterate my reasonable demand for calm ? What Cameron has done was the least he could to stop a Eurosceptic coup in his Party, followed by the fall of our Government. He has to work with the material hes got & so do we.
    Clegg did a great job of pouring oil & calming nerves but we have not suddenly turned against The European Project.
    We have to remember that we still have to convince most of our fellow Britons about Europe.

  • I don’t see why Sarah Ludford would have any information on what happened in the negotaitions – surely she wasn’t involved in them? Her account, and Nick Clegg (was he involved – I don’t think so) seem at odds with this Sky News piece http://blogs.news.sky.com/therealeconomy/Post:5369a454-7e07-47a1-acf3-e4388a7627b1 and others.

    Paul Barker’s comment, if he’s not being deliberately mischievous, is very worrying indeed.

  • Paul McKeown 9th Dec '11 - 8:48pm

    For all David Cameron’s bluster, this has been a dreadful failure of British diplomacy. The reports that Cameron “applied his veto” is putting a dramatic spin on the matter that is not warranted given the reporting in the European newspapers that I have read. He was simply told to get stuffed. Matters of economic survival were on the table, everything else was an intolerable distraction.

    To be honest, although the news leaves me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I cannot say that I find it surprising. I lived in Germany before and during its reunification. West Germans at the time were continually disappointed by British media stereotyping; I remember a colleague having to explain that Basil Fawlty’s, “don’t mention the war,” was actually an ironic portrayal of the stupidity of such attitudes, not an attempt to maintain them. Margaret Thatcher, though, managed to confirm German suspicions beyond all doubt, when she openly opposed German Reunification due to her belief that it would lead to Bismark reborn. Over the last few months, whenever I have opened a red top, or even The Telegraph, I have had to wade through endless tosh implying that where the jackboot and Blitzkrieg failed, industrial strength has finally succeeded in bringing German hegemony over its neighbours.

    I can only imagine that German public and political opinion has taken this as an appalling and baseless insult. It will certainly not have improved British influence one jot, nor helped the sales of British exporters.

    Such a public rebuff lessens Britain not only amongst its European partners, but also in the eyes of the Americans, the Chinese, Indian and Russians. Such damage to our international standing must be repaired.

    I do hope that, behind the scenes, Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Hague, resolve on a charm offensive, with weekends planned at Chequers and invitations to Buck House and Downing Street for Merkel and Sarkozy.

    The fact that the proposed treaty is not due for another three months gives the UK plenty of time to pour oil on troubled waters, ultimately to achieve its own reasonable objectives, without being seen as keen to tread on the toes of its partners in France and Germany.

  • As a long standing supporter of a federal Europe and all that involves (including transfer payments from the likes of Germany to poorer EU states) I deplore the outbursts of Lord Oakeshott and Chris Davies. They come across as Euro-fanatics, no more balanced in their views and pronouncement than Euro-phobes such as Bill Cash.

    The French and German leaders seem to believe that the problems of the Euro are down to City of London financiers. While the bankers undoubtedly have a lot to answer for, the fundamental problem of the Euro is that French and German banks (and to some extent other EU banks) were prepared to lend money to the likes of Greece so that they could buy German goods, with little thought as to whether the Greeks could ever afford to repay the loans if the world economy turned down. This is of course precisely what happened in 2008 because US banks had lent money to people to buy houses they could not realistically afford.

    David Cameron’s tactics leading up to today’s decision were poor, partly because of his own pronouncements when campaigning for the leadership of the Tory Party and party because of the extreme Euro-sceptics now sitting on the Conservative benches, but he and the Coalition Government were fundamentally right to veto a treaty which while technically not directly changing the regulation of financial services would undoubtedly been used by the French and Germans to weaken the City and London’s international status. If a transaction tax and tighter regulation of the City is the way to solve the Euro-crisis, then surely a tax on luxury and high-powered cars (produced by Germany) would be a major contribution to reducing global warming, while high taxes on wine (produced by France) would make a major contribution to solving the health problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption!

  • I’m disappointed with Clegg. This is in truth the first time I’ve really been angered by him since we joined this coalition.

    Unless something changes soon then I see this as the first step in the UK seceding from the EU. I almost see it as inevitable.

    I’d have to add my support to what Paul says. I am that German public, as I hold dual citizenship. I’ve known since I was a child that the UK at large is basically racist towards my German half. (Discrimination on nationality is racism according to the Race Relations Act 1976). I saw it at school with racist bullying and I notice it often enough in almost all the mainstream papers; and not just in the last couple of years. It’s so endemic most UK people don’t even see it. Sometimes this pre-occupation can result in fantastic, light hearted comedy (the Carling/Beach-Towel/Dambusters advert was hilarious) but more often it’s deliberately hurtful.

    I’ve long believed that somehow the majority of this country still think we have an empire and that we can dictate terms to the world. As a country we’re almost as arrogant as the US, but it’s long past the time where we can stand on our own. I put all this bluster down to a massive inferiority complex; one that we as a country really should have got over by now.

    All of the things that are wrong with EU institutions and all the other things could have been solved by now if the UK had taken up the offer almost a decade ago from Germany and France to form a triumvirate of the most economically powerful nations in the EU and shape it’s future. Britain wanted none of it. We could have had an unprecedented amount of influence in the EU but instead we isolated ourselves. Howmuch better could the EU have been if the UK had been at it’s heart, helping to shape it, instead of trying to leech off it. Today we took the final step and now we’re all alone; on the sidelines.

    We’ve lost a bucket full of influence. The message couldn’t be clearer to Europe. The UK is too selfish to play a part, it only looks after itself and the fat-cat bankers that seemingly manage to buy whatever government is in power and make them dance to their tune yet also brought about this whole mess in the first place.

    I think an In/Out referendum is now inevitable and given how anti-europe the population as a whole is, it will be lost and we’ll leave the EU.

    We’ll get the independence the Eurosceptics and isolationists want but it comes at the cost of any influence. We do the vast majority of our trading with the EU; that means we’ll need to obey the EU laws and standards if we want to trade. We’ll just no longer have any say in what those are.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Dec '11 - 9:57pm

    Cameron has managed to postpone a referendum. Since the result of that referendum is likely not to be to most Lib Dems’ tastes, is that not a good result?

    Eh…

    What Cameron has done was the least he could to stop a Eurosceptic coup in his Party, followed by the fall of our Government

    …yes. What Cameron has done is undoubtedly the best thing he could possibly have done for his government. Anything else would have split the Tories, and Labour would have jumped at the chance to wreck the government and the economy.

    I’m not at all sure that it was the best thing for the UK or the Lib Dems. The choices on the table were UK political/economic instability now, or later. The outcome is hard to call.

    (In no sense is the UK’s future in Europe decided. These things take years to happen, and every one of those EU political leaders is aware that Cameron’s government isn’t all that likely to survive into a second term, and a future government may take a different position. They are telling their own voters what they want to hear, not committing to a course of action)

  • @jedibeeftrix

    You have the cart before the horse.

    I’m not saying the UK is racist because it doesn’t want a superunion… I’m saying it doesn’t want a superunion because it’s racist. The Telegraph pieces Paul mentioned are just a recent example.

    Just because there might be more racism towards Germans in other countries doesn’t excuse the racism here.

    If you want scientific (peer-reviewed) confirmation, instead of mere anecdotal evidence, then I suggest you read this Durham university paper (published in 2004). http://dro.dur.ac.uk/806/1/806.pdf

    To quote from the summary: “[…] British perceptions of Germany and the Germans are for the most part negative and still dominated by images of the Third Reich and the Second World War. It has even been suggested that ‘kraut-bashing’ is the only form of racism in Britain which is still considered socially acceptable.”

    As I said it’s endemic, institutionalised if you will, and most British people just don’t see it.

    Also, Paul’s view of the likely reaction in Europe seems confirmed by this BBC summary of European reporting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16114902

    Britain, justifiably in my view, is cast as a saboteur. Thanks Cameron for destroying what was left of our already poor reputation in Europe. That’s not the way to gain friends and influence people.

  • While I would like to have seen Britain working more closely in the past with France and Germany in many areas of EU policy, the idea of a triumvirate working to dictate to the rest of Europe how it should operate is more reminiscent of 19th European politics than the 21st century.

    In fact one of the most sensible comments on the outcome of the EU submit today came from an interview with the Europe Minister David Lidington. He has pointed out that on many other issues there are wide range of views, not only within the 27 but even within the 17 Eurozone countries. For instance it was Britain and France who were the main protagonists for military action in Libya. Mrs Merkel for Germany strongly opposed military intervention. Whether or not you agree with the intervention, the final outcome significantly damaged Germany’s international standing, suggesting they were more interested in retaining their trade links with the Gadaffi regime, rather than being concerned about human rights abuses. Even after today’s EU events, most economists (except those from the orthodox German school) believe that this agreement at best buys time, rather than addressing the fundamental problems of how to generate economic growth and avoid a downward spiral of austerity. Indeed it is surely ironic that it is the former Belgium Prime Minister, and now leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt who has drawn attention to the challenges and shortcomings of the agreement, while Liberal Democrat MEPs have concentrated are carping criticism of David Cameron.

    The key challenge for Britain now is to actively engage with other EU nations to build coalitions on those issues which we consider important for the long term interests of the UK and the EU. The rhetoric of Tory Euro-phobes will not make this easy, but this is where the Liberal Democrats have a key role to play. However it will not be helped by Liberal Democrat MEPs adopting aggressive attitudes towards the Westminster Coalition’s EU stance.

  • Christine Headley 9th Dec '11 - 11:40pm

    @ Matt

    William Hague (whom I suppose we ought to believe) said on the Today programme this morning that Nick was on the end of the phone throughout the negotiations. (Someone else today recalled an occasion when a Conservative Prime Minister – there seems to be a question about whether it was Thatcher or Major – smuggled an adviser under the table during the summit dinner for ongoing advice, Mind boggles, frankly.)

  • The reaction to this has been quite hysterical and exaggerated. Has other countries ever used their veto? The UK is completely within it’s right to use it veto. The UK has never in the last 40 years been at the heart of Europe and why should we? As for influence – what significant influence has the UK had? I fail to see the logic of us being bullied into agreeing with something not in our interests because 23 other countries agree – but we better agree otherwise we lose influence and decision making. If you act like a sheep and blindly agree then you have forfeited any claim to decision making. And the doesn’t mean the UK will leave the EU at all. Why should we? I fail to see what’s wrong with a multi-tiered Europe – that’s better than a one size fits all Europe. Surely the Euro is a case in point. The Euro crisis wasn’t caused by the bankers of London so why should UK be hit by the mistakes of other countries? Look at Sweden – doesn’t have the Euro. Norway and Switzerland aren’t even in the EU but are doing very well and have good trade status. Is getting a ‘say’ at a table of 27 worth it? The French, Danish and Irish etc have had plenty of referendums over treaties and yet all 3 main political parties have gone back on there previous promises over the Lisbon Treaty. The sky isn’t going to fall through. Other European countries will continue to trade with us. It has been Sarkozy who has been bloody minded over this for his own political reasons. In the past France and Germany have broken financial regulations – so instead of scapegoating UK for their mess – they should work out how the he’ll they are going to keep countries like Greece and Italy solvent and within these new tighter restrictions.

  • @Martin
    Does this mean that Norwegians and the Swiss are Rae is because they don’t want to join the EU? Does this mean the Germans and French are not racist because some of them do? I wonder why North Africans and Turks living in France and Germany would make of that. The race card you play is a red herring. Europe has been and continues to have xenophobic divisions in all countries – but that isn’t why some people here and in continental Europe are skeptical about a ever increasing political union where the people get less and less of a say. The rabid British tabloids and the schoolyard isn’t an accurate reflection of what the average Brit thinks of Germany etc. Most kids today know little of WWII or Basil Fawlty. Basically many people want the UK not to lose more of it’s sovereignty – whether it’s to continental Europe, the US or anywhere else. Is this so hard to understand?

  • Kevin Colwill 10th Dec '11 - 12:40am

    Forget sovereignty shifting to Brussels…when are we going to get a referendum about the wholesale shift of sovereignty into the hands of the financial markets and particularly the City of London? When will any government realise that financial institutions were only ever created to serve the “real” economy that grows food, mines minerals, provides tangible services and actually makes things.
    The financial sector is useful only insofar as it serves that real economy. Allowing the financial sector to dominate to the point where it is seen as the only way we can make our way in the world is both tragic and absurd. The rest of Europe can see that if we can’t.

  • Daniel Henry 10th Dec '11 - 1:36am

    We all know Dan, which is why the comments are largely ignored. :)

  • Alastair McDonald 10th Dec '11 - 1:46am

    There is no point in having a referendum now. We are being chucked out of Europe.

    Nick Clegg should resign.

    He has allowed the rump of the Conservative Party to achieve the final destruction of British industry in the pretext of saving only one tenth of British trade, the banking industry centred in London. That industry has made its profits by selling profitable companies such as Cadbury’s to foreign owners depriving the British government of tax revenues but taking huge commissions for themselves. Moreover, these banks and financial institutions make their fees by advising clients on how to avoid tax by arranging for off shore investments, so leaving it to the hard working family wo/man to pay al the taxes. The rich get off with paying advisor’s fees to the banks.

    Nick Clegg should resign!

    Cheers, Alastair.

  • @George Kendall

    “but some contributors to this thread seem to forget this will also be true of French and German politicians.”

    Well said, they also forget that the President of France has a very difficult election next year and needs to be seen to be fighting for the needs of France (which the French are good at).

    “It may be that Germany and France reckoned that the Coalition would be unable to get any legislation through parliament”

    Or, as I’ve said elsewhere, it could be that France never really wanted a full treaty change, after all her own citizens aren’t exactly 100% behind the EU. Francois Hollande (who is tipped to win the presidency) has stated that “We do not need treaty changes. What we need to do is ensure that Europe is trusted again”. He also stated “”Let’s remember that a new treaty or treaty change would require a convention and then ratification. But, I ask you, will the markets go into ‘pause mood’ while all this takes place? Can you imagine that happening?”

    Then there is the small fact that any treaty change might not even get ratified (and I don’t mean just by the UK).

    So would Sarkozy want to fight an election when all of this is ongoing, perhaps this is also why he wouldn’t budge on the exemptions (his rival is also wants similar things and it is probably playing well with the citizens of France).

    “this whole crisis is deeply worrying”

    It is, I haven’t read eveything about the summit but I get the impression that this agreement is more about controlling the PIIGS, protecting (French) banks and creating the dream of a single Europe (oh, plus buying a little time to try and avoid total disaster). There doesn’t seem to have been much discussion on how to make Europe competitive, which means that the EU is not even close to being out of the woods yet.

    As a side note, there was a week end debate here last month called “Are Lib Dems too pro-European?”, how do you think having an MEP saying that they would go for Irish nationality to stay in the EU play with the UK population regarding being too “Pro-EU”?

  • Cameron didn’t do very well, but the reports coming in indicate that he was being set up to fail by Sarkozy, who tabled a selection of demands unacceptable to Britain right from the start of negotiations.

    The report found in the Economist suggests that Sarkozy’s intention is to strengthen his position by increasing the strength of the more statist, planned ‘Club Med’ countries at the expense of the free marketeers. Merkel’s intention was to bring Britain on board to achieve the reverse, but she was also able to shop around for allies, with places like Poland, Denmark, Sweden and the newly included fringe also being more free market than France and friends.

    Of course, Sarkozy would never have been able to get away with this if Cameron hadn’t overplayed his hand. The crunch moment, according to the Economist anyway, was when Cam tried to evade the treaty change situation by moving for a quick and dirty legal fix that I won’t try to explain. He decided that he wouldn’t water down any of his demands in exchange for his escaping the treaty change mess, so the rest of the leaders rejected his motion.

  • Philip Young 10th Dec '11 - 5:32am

    Christine Headley’s comment refers to a Nick Robinson item on BBC News: John Major was at the crunch point of the Maastrict Treaty negotiations, when advisors were told to leave the room. Major was so terrified of the decisioins he now had to make, he hid an advisor under a table covered with a table-cloth that came down to the floor, so the advisor could continue to pass him notes on what to say…

  • Simon McGrath 10th Dec '11 - 6:29am

    I wonder how many people have actually read what has been agreed:
    http://consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/126658.pdf

    Section 4 commits participants to put into place legal limits on what level of deficits countries can run and says that their fiscal policies have to be approved by Brussels.
    Two questions
    1) why do liberals think that we should give away the right of uk voters to elect governments who want to pursue (foolish) economic policies if that his what voters want
    2) How do they think cameron would ever have got this through the Commons or in a referendum ( since it is a clear transfer of power to the EU)?

  • Paul Walter 10th Dec '11 - 7:41am

    People seem to forget that even if we and Hungary had not vetoed the treaty change approach, the treaty change would still have to have got through 27 parliaments and/or national referendums. It would have been a very risky and lengthy process. For the good of EU as a whole, it is probably better that the changes are processed outiside of the normal EU structures, as Nick Clegg says.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Dec '11 - 7:48am

    @Paul walter “People seem to forget that even if we and Hungary had not vetoed the treaty change approach, the treaty change would still have to have got through 27 parliaments and/or national referendums. It would have been a very risky and lengthy process. For the good of EU as a whole, it is probably better that the changes are processed outiside of the normal EU structures, as Nick Clegg says.”

    God forbid national parliaments or even actual voters should have say.

  • Kevin Colwill 10th Dec '11 - 8:11am

    @mf…The orange book economic liberals are full of principle, trouble is they share almost all of them with the Cameron Tories. I’m reminded of the story of Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch.

    For those unfamiliar with the tale; – a fox traps a rabbit and debates what to do with him. The rabbit pleads that the fox can do anything as long as he does not throw him into the nasty patch of thorny briars. The rabbit protests so much that the fox, thinking he has the better of him, throws him into the middle of the briar patch. What the fox doesn’t know is ol’ brer rabbit was “born and raised in the briar patch”. Substitute “right wing policies” for “briar patch” and you see my point.

  • @GaffaUK

    I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but it’s one of them. Kids here know masses about WW2. Do a search for “Hilterisation of History” to see the many watchdog reports bemoaning British history teaching which seems to stop at WW2. And again, just because others are also racist and xenophobic doesn’t mean it’s right for us to be.

    You’re right that European government isn’t that democractic. If we’d made fixing that our mission and joined in the European project we might have changed that by now. Instead we’ve been content to just sabotage everything along the way.

    The most undemocratic feature of the EU is the veto. Just imagine what running this country might be like if you gave vetos to every MP, or even every citizen. Everyone with a veto is basically a dictator, able to hold everyone else to ransom; that’s not democracy. Of course our MEPs are elected in a much more democratic way than our MPs, given as they must be elected by proportional representation.

    The only real concern I have with this treaty is that it, in the words of a Newstatesman journalist “outlaws left-of-center governments”. It enshrines austerity in treaty. If you as a left government decide instead to spend your way out of trouble by creating jobs, incentives, infrastructure etc, you can’t, because the EU can control your budget and stop you. Not that Cameron would care about that; he’s the austerity czar, he’s just wants to protect his banker paymasters and suck up to the europhobes in his party.

  • This time Anon 10th Dec '11 - 9:11am

    Deeply sad. As a Liberal always proud of our lead on European issues. In Europe we could have a hand in deciding the agenda – outside – not only on eurozone issues- we will hardly be listened to. Once again we are the Johnny-come-latelies. Can the party survive this Coalition veto ? Others must answer. But I firmly believe th\at we have damaged/ destroyed our reputation. The millions who died in two world wars deserve better than this.

  • So basically, the main purpose of the Coalition is to protect the coalition. As long as Cameron is able to juggle with the various wings of his party, the Lib Dems will go along with it. Of course they will make very grumpy noises, have lots of heated debates, but the platform they stood on can just be pushed aside as unimportant, a meaningless thing the leadership says in the run up to elections to appeal to whichever voter it thinks it can hook.
    Voters ditched, policies ditched, core principles ditched, It’s a farce. That’s what I learned from the utterences of our glorious leader.

  • “I wonder how many people have actually read what has been agreed:
    http://consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/126658.pdf
    Section 4 commits participants to put into place legal limits on what level of deficits countries can run and says that their fiscal policies have to be approved by Brussels.”

    I think the reason this was not seen as a significant transfer of power to Brussels is that we already have stringent treaty obligations concerning excessive government deficits. Among other things, we have already given the EU the legal power to order member states to take measures to reduce their deficits and to fine them if they don’t comply:
    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:12008E126:EN:NOT

    In any case, this wasn’t the difficulty for the UK government, judging from what Cameron and Clegg have said.

  • It gives me no pleasure to say it, but Cameron took the right decision to walk away from Europe.

    No-one can seriously deny that the Eurozone is in the throes of an existential crisis. What is missing (and Merkel and Sarkozy are consciously guilty of this) is an objective analysis of why.

    The Eurozone crisis is not about liquidity, it’s about solvency – both of banks and of nations. And more significantly, it’s about the misalignment in the currency between Germany and (most of) the rest.

    Historically the solution to this would be for uncompetitive nations to devalue. The Euro is a straitjacket that prevents this from happening. The only “solution” being offered is internal deflation through endless austerity. This is the road to ruination.

    We’ve also got to consider the democratic deficit that is now being created. We’ve already got unelected apparatchiks running Italy and Greece. And the rules put forward yesterday limit the right of sovereign parliaments to determine taxation and spending policy. As democrats, how do we respond to these abuses of democratic accountability?

    I cannot square these circles. If there was a referendum today (fat chance of that) I’d vote to leave the EU. This is a 180 degree reversal in the position I have held since joining the party 30 years ago. We live in strange times.

  • @GaffaUK:

    “The UK is completely within it’s right to use it veto.”

    Er …………what veto?

    Using a veto means that you stopped something. Cameron never stopped anything. He was offered something, said ‘no thanks’ and the rest shrugged their shoulders an achieved pretty much the same aims in a different way.

  • In the end, whether Cameron is right or wrong is going to depend on where the Eurozone goes from here. If it all goes belly up, he’ll be hailed as a great statesman. If it doesn’t, then Frankfurt can look forward to being the main financial centre of Europe ere long. Or maybe that was going to happen regardless?

    As far as the Lib Dems go, it’s sand kicked in faces. Again.

    I wonder how much the failure of negotiations comes down to personality? The French ‘Non’ of the 1960s was much down to the poisonous relationship between Churchill and De Gaulle. Cameron doesn’t even have Blair’s oleagenous charm and his relationship with Merkozy is clearly not warm.

    One obvious point that is sometimes overlooked about Germanophobia and Euroscepticism – and one often comes with the other – is how much of it can be put down to simple jealousy of German economic success. The real ‘politics of envy’, in fact! This point needs to made more loudly.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Dec '11 - 11:15am

    Or … allowing ‘Brussels’ to police limits to individual country deficits as a share of GDP, will allow the European Central Bank (ECB) to change its policy and become lender of last resort, free to provide the very necessary monetary stimulus required in Europe.

    In ‘X’ years time when that policy has played its part in global, European and even UK economic recovery, no doubt the 26 or 27 will alter the treaty to fit the new situation.

    Here in 2011/12, with an intransigent ECB, the governments of Europe are cutting budgets without any monetary stimulus to compensate for the deflationary monetary effects of the fiscal tightening – a deeply deflationary set of circumstances.

    Look at market reactions? They have hardly moved. They knew what was going to happen and why.

    You will not convince me that Cameron et al will not have known this too, which leads us to the conclusion that ‘protection of City interests’ etc. was a red herring. Cameron’s true motivation was party political – it was these Tory politics and not national politics that our overt support enabled Cameron to pursue.

    We aren’t very clever and we always seem to be playing the present move on the board when everyone else is thinking and planning several moves ahead.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Dec '11 - 11:22am

    As I have said before, we – the UK Liberal Democrats – are missing our chance to provide Europe with a non Germanic lead. That may not be popular with those who already don’t vote for us at home, it would be popular with our core vote, it would be popular with our ‘partners’ and sister parties in Europe and it would be good for economic recovery.
    That is not me being anti-German, but it is in the nature of things that when someone has to use a big stick, those being disciplined welcome someone with a carrot.

  • Frankly, I don’t see what the fuss is about. The proposed treaty is all about the eurozone (and hangers-on), and we are not part of that. If Cameron had agreed to sign up without safeguards for countries not in the eurozone, we would have had a referendum which he would have lost. All the events in Brussels really show is how isolated Cameron is in Europe that he couldn’t even get fellow conservatives like Sarkozy and Merkel to give him a few modest concessions.

  • “Cameron took the opportunity on thursday night for the following”

    You mean he took the opportunity to demand it as his price for supporting the (separate) deficit reduction proposals and was rejected. What was the point of that?

  • @Paul Murray

    Although I don’t agree with your conclusion of voting to leave the EU, thank you for a very good analysis of the situation.

    In the old days, Greece and Italy could have their umpteen crises without threatening to tip the whole of Europe into a dark abyss. Trying to enforce Germanic rigour across Europe is deeply undemocratic.

    It will be interesting when people in the 26 countries have a chance to have their say. I was listening to an Irishman talking about the Germans the other day. It wasn’t pleasant. There is a risk of enflaming international hatred here.

  • The discussion, on R4 this morning (especially Osborne’s defence of Cameron) left me with the distinct feeling that, far from having his ‘well publicised’ moderate demands rebuffed by…… “bumptious French President Nicolas Sarkozy and domineering German Chancellor Angela Merke”………, the whole sad affair was set to appease those Eurosceptics in his own party. “…….”.A clue can be found in his decision — before the summit — to invite Tory right-wingers to dinner at Chequers last night. The guests included Andrew Rosindell, the eurosceptic who urged his boss to act “like a British bulldog”…….”Mr Cameron rose to that challenge — and there’s no way back. The die is now cast for an IN/OUT referendum.”….all quotesare from that most even handed of papers the “SUN” (I’ve used that particular ‘rag’ because that is where most of the ‘Little Englander’ mentality is fostered)…

    Here in France the emphasis is about Cameron trying to use the conference, not just for his publicised demands, but to disassociate the UK from existing agreed legislation….

    I’m sure things will become clearer, especially when the dust settles….

  • Richard Hill 10th Dec '11 - 12:49pm

    Why do I have the feeling that most people have their head in the sand when it comes to reality. The Euro zone is a disaster. I would sooner be on the edge of a disaster than in it. I think the spin of shifting the blame nearly totally on to the bankers, yes the bankers made bad mistakes,is incorrect. One of the main problems is governments overspending for years rather than raising the money they need through taxes and being honest with voters, basically buying votes. All borrowing does is take money out of the private sector to increase the public sector in a covert way.
    They always say with more growth they will be able to repay the debts but never do. All they do is use the volume of growth as an excuse to borrow more. Eventually the delusion has to come to an end, the sooner the better as far as I am concerned. The longer it is left the worse it will be.

  • “I would sooner be on the edge of a disaster than in it.”

    Yes, but there was never any question of the UK being anything other than on the edge of this arrangement.

    The question is – given that you’re on the edge of the disaster – whether you like to be allowed to participate in discussions about what’s going to be done, or whether would you rather be presented with a fait accompli.

  • Hove Howard 10th Dec '11 - 2:45pm

    @ jedibeeftrix
    I was trying to make a general point about the nature of Euroscepticism, regardless of what one may think about what’s just transpired in Brussels.

    Still don’t see how the interests of the City (and the tax revenues therefrom) are best defended by having no seat at the table under future arrangements. And I am also curious to know why it is so important that the banking authority is located in London. Genuine questions.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Dec '11 - 4:54pm

    @George Kendall

    “None of us really know what’s happened, but some of the details may leak out over the coming months. Inevitably, a lot of the rhetoric is spin and political positioning. We all know that’s true of UK politicians, but some contributors to this thread seem to forget this will also be true of French and German politicians.”

    George, I am not surprised at what has transpired, it was clearly coming as soon as Monsieur Sarkozy told Mr Cameron in the bluntest fashion a few weeks ago that Europeans were sick and tired of listening to British moaning. It is no doubt true that the British demands were reasonable and their sincerest efforts have been treated somewhat unfairly: I have no reason to disbelieve Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Ming Campbell or Simon Hughes when they say this. They come, after all, from clearly different wings, histories and perspectives within the Liberal Democrats.

    There has been something rather maladroit about British diplomacy in Europe over the last few months, something bull in a china shop, a list of demands, which however reasonable they were in themselves, were announced by a tabloid megaphone. Europe’s leaders have been engaged in a desperate struggle for the present and future prosperity of their nations; they simply weren’t receptive to that list of demands. Bad timing, poor delivery.

    What has now happened has been that European leaders have finally chosen to give the British what they have always said that they wanted. Splendid isolation and utter irrelevance.

    They say that one should be careful what one wishes for.

    Well, gradually much financial trading will seep away from London to where the money is being saved and invested. Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai. That is inevitable, nothing can be done about it, one might as well tell the tides to stop. However, powerful reasons will remain to invest in Europe, as the economies at the heart of Europe are fundamentally sound and will provide homes for pension funds and the like looking for a boring but safe return. Why on Earth would they be interested in investing in Sterling, though? Inexorably, European inward investment will move to Frankfurt am Main and Paris. The maniacs that are wishing hardest for total collapse of the Euro will ultimately be proven wrong, there is simply no ambition in France, Germany, or anywhere else in Europe for starvation on the streets. In a few years time, the Euro will bounce back, and a severe dose of German economic reality (save to invest) will result in the European periphery growing intrinsically from a sound economic base.

    The Little Englander wing of the Conservative Party is composed of loud-mouthed boors, but it is the City of London wing which has succeeded in damaging itself by achieving what it thought it always wanted. Historically, London has been the centre of global capital. Ultimately, though, that is all that it will be. History.

  • John Fraser 10th Dec '11 - 5:09pm

    @ Paul Murray
    Fascinated by your comment . I too have been pro Europe over the past 2 or 3 decades . i was an active member of the Young european Movement etc in the days when eveyone was talking about increasing ‘subsidiarity’ for decision making and giving the parliament realpowers.

    I too may well vote to leave the EU if there was a referendum tommorrow. The Euupean dream was about close cooperation of indipendant nations , not a stifling of thedemocratic will and the overcentralisation and beurocratisation of important economic decisions.

  • John Fraser 10th Dec '11 - 5:13pm

    @ Bill le Breton
    In ‘X’ years time when that policy has played its part in global, European and even UK economic recovery, no doubt the 26 or 27 will alter the treaty to fit the new situation.

    ….
    But if it had been an EU treaty Bill it would surely have been nearly impossible to alter . Is there a single example of the EU descresing their powers in the in the face of changing circumstances ?

  • Keith Browning 10th Dec '11 - 5:13pm

    Having recently returned from an extended stay in Portugal I am at a loss to understand the sudden Europhobic stance of Brits in general. I can only guess it was stirred up by the junk media. Educated Portuguese dont want to lose the euro and they blame their own equivalent of Cameron and his rich money grabbing cronies, for their problems, not the Germans or the Greeks.

    They almost all want MORE integration not less, so that their own politicians can be held to account and brought to book, and the keys removed from their brand new Mercedes, which have been bought with their share of the 70 billion euro bail-out.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Dec '11 - 5:13pm

    “I too may well vote to leave the EU if there was a referendum tommorrow.”

    I don’t like the way the game is being played, so I’ll take my ball home.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Dec '11 - 5:22pm

    @judybeatrix

    History happens imperceptibly, it changes like the seasons. The first time you notice winter, is with the first storm or snowfall.

  • Patrick Smith 10th Dec '11 - 5:58pm

    The salient thing at the Brussels Summit, was that Cameron could only play the cards he was dealt by his own right -wingers and anti- Europeans inside his Party.It is important,however, to not lose sight that thousands of British jobs depend upon good international business acumen and relations with the EU : 40%-50% of British trade and commerce are within the EU.

    It is vital to create growth and jobs, in the British Economy.The prediction of 0.7% economic growth must be improved in 2012,especially for the 18-24 year age group, so they are active citizens and can salver personal dignity in the job market.

    The DPM and Chris Huhne as former MEPs, and now at the center of the `Coalition Government’ have incalculable experience of the EU steer `mind-set’ and will be well placed to help the UK win more friends in the coming years, when the most important mega task for Germany and France is to lead the EU continental Membership to stabilise the `Euro-zone’.

    I

  • Ever since Cameron removed the Tories from the European People’s Party I have suspected that he is moving the goalposts towards ultimate withdrawal from the European Union. All that has prevented him until now has been an excuse and now he has one: he can say that the European Union is acting in a way that is inimical to the interests of the City of London and that, as a result of his principled stand, Britain will be effectively blackballed from the club and our manufacturers will become tenders of last resort amongst the 26. He can now say that Britain’s complete isolation so changes our fundamental relationship with Europe that the country must decide whether it remains in our interests to be making huge payments to the EU. Expect an announcement from Cameron soon that there will be general election in which the Conservative Party’s manifesto will contain a committment to an in /out referendum .At one fell swoop this will will enable him to lance the Conservative Party’s running boil and free the country of regulation. And it will be immensely popular (and populist) Clegg and the rest of the Liberal democrats would then not have a leg to stand on because for years they have been advocating an in/out referendum. Clever Dave. It’s the Tobin Tax wot dun it, of course, and given Dave his opportunity for withdrawal. The City middlemen exist on transactions and hate any form of taxation. They don’t want every one of their millions of transactions to attract a miniscule tax. But everyone on the left agrees that a Transactions Tax would be the most effective means of reigning in the excesses of certain parts of the financial sector and keeping these people honest. The world would benefit from the revenue too.

  • Richard Swales 10th Dec '11 - 7:00pm

    I agree with the comments about Lord Oakeshott. Why is it in the interests of the party to have people in the House of Lords taking the Lib Dem whip, who can be then quoted by the media as “Senior Lib Dems” saying all kinds of appalling things? (Note that they never bill Tory Peers as “Senior Conservatives”)
    I think the whole situation is a bit overblown, Britain doesn’t need to join this pact anyway, we haven’t missed an interest payment in 300 years because we have politicians (Tory, Lib Dem, Ed Milliband when penning Labour’s 2010 manifesto) who think long term enough to realise that it is better (better for them if you are cynical) to cut early, slower and enough – rather than later but necessarily deeper and faster – as Spain will now have to do and as the Occupy protestors (and Ed Miliband now) seem to want to do as well (it’s not clear – sometimes they seem to be protesting not in favour of “later but deeper”, rather in favour of the existence of an ever increasing number of people willing to lend the government ever increasing sums of new money – but they never make clear how the government can enact the existence of such people).
    Most of the other countries of Europe are in the position where they have to try to convince people not to call in the debts (rather persuade them to roll over the money for bonds coming to maturity to buy new ones). That these people are called “bond traders” and sometimes exchange debts in a “market” between themselves instead of having to wait till they come to maturity actually increases the attractiveness of lending money to goverrnments, which is why no government is suggesting issuing non-tradable bonds – they would find buyers only at higher interest rates. European governments’ blaming the bond markets for the lack of desire to hold their debt is pathetic.
    The strategy they have chosen to convince their creditors they are serious is to very publicly cut up all their credit cards – by putting a balanced budget amendment into their constitutions. This was happening anyway; Poland did this some time ago, Slovakia was doing it anyway. The change agreed is that now it will be Europe-wide. The trouble is that it has zero credibility – these countries haven’t agreed to reduce their deficit to 0.5 percent overnight, oh no, the current recession is a never-to-be-repeated exception, but later on it will be limited to 0.5 percent of course. In fact, everyone knows that the next time there is a recession then another exception will be declared and the 26 will agree to suspend the rules, just as they did with the Maastricht criteria (amending the constitution of European countries is a bit simpler than amending the constitution of somewhere like the US). The clue that the leaders already anticipate this is that they see themselves as being in a crisis at all. Lack of credibility with your creditors is only a problem if you are planning to extend your debts in the future – otherwise the countries could just do a technical default and choose their own pace and reasonable interest rate to pay off the existing debt, with the necessary regulatory dodges to allow the debt to stay on bank-books at face value.

    The real headline from the meeting should read “Still no agreement on eurozone quantitative easing”.

  • Emsworthian 10th Dec '11 - 7:12pm

    Another day another U turn from Clegg who clearly values his political career as much as Cameron does his but probably for different reasons. Being in the present government may work out to be the Lib Dems only chance of a bit of power for decades to come so talk of pulling away is not an option. Fast forward to the next election and you have to ask how the lib dems will make their pitch- presumably they will say they are the other sort of conservatives-the ones with a yellow posters. After 30 years a member I won’t be re-newing.

  • @jedibeeftrix

    You have a very strange idea of what constitutes racism.

    Not supporting a supranational state because you don’t want to lose your independence is a valid, if in this case misguided reason. Opposing it because you don’t want the jackbooted huns completing their goal of invading Europe this time by financial means is very racist (see various newspapers in the last few weeks, and the last few years; the WW2 trope is a leitmotif in the UK press for talking about Germany).

    It is this pervasive underlying theme in the UK about Germany and Germans that is why for the past 60 years, while politically and diplomatically relations with Germany have been generally very good, by yet the public doesn’t seem to share that attitude.

    “It is recognised…”? by whom? Where did this unsupported assertion come from? You’ve just said that divided societies are best for proportional representation. Given the socio-cultural differences then between Britain and Germany the best thing then for both is a supranational government that gives proportional representation to each.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Dec '11 - 8:05pm

    @Dane Clouston

    Hardly anything else would make me vote for Labour: the LDs proposing to leave the EU certainly would. A moronic idea, but, alas, popular amongst the light-headed.

  • “[forlorn] but……………….. this isn’t really what bothers people, not by a long shot! [/forlorn]”

    It should bother them… it’s racist!

    And if that’s not the reason, then why say it? It actually makes what’s said (in that specific case printed) worse as you’re suggesting the racism is printed instead of the actual truth; less casual and simply calculatingly, mendaciously malicious.

    Hypothetical discussion: Well, the reason we don’t want a supranational state is because we don’t want to surrender our sovereignty to a socio-cultural group that has different socio-economic priorities to our own. Ok.. so instead of printing that, let’s just be racist at the Germans instead.

    How is this helping your argument that the UK isn’t institutionally racist towards Germany?

  • @Oranjepan

    So on this count I blame the mainstream British media for professional incompetence in almost complete failure to cover Brussels and the other continental institutions which we belong to – we can celebrate our free press, but we should also critise their ignorance and unfamiliarity with vital subjects. It ain’t all xenophobia, but it is all the product of xenophobia.

    Agree wholeheartedly.

  • I notice from the SNP website that they want to remain in the EU. Could it be that an Independent Scotland would join the EU in its own right if England exited from the European Union?

  • @jedibeeftrix

    You are completely missing my point.

    You say the main reason people don’t want a supranational government isn’t because of racism. I’m not arguing that. I’m certainly not accusing you, or your reasoning of being racist.

    What I saying though is that the mainstream papers in this country decide not to print that non-racist reasoning (or not only), but instead print racist stereotypes and WW2 allegories and that this is merely a reflection of a general view in society of Germany and Germans as someone you are free to insult in a racist manner. (a view supported by that research paper I linked to, so I’m hardly making this up!). If that’s an underlying view in a country… can you deny that it has zero influence on people’s decision making?

    Do you honestly think that a country that has its media portray an entire country/people in WW2 rhetoric as out simply for total global (or at least sunbed) conquest will look as favourably on a suggestion by that country than on one from a country portrayed more positively?

  • Simon Bamonte 10th Dec '11 - 11:36pm

    Interesting article, @Martin. If true, then one has to wonder why Nick was supposedly fine with the deal yesterday, but is now fuming?! And will those who backed Clegg yesterday now fall in line? Interesting (and depressing) times indeed..

  • @Martin:

    “Nick it seems has decided to speak up….”

    Or more accurately: “sources close to Nick”.

    Given the seriousness of this issue, I wonder does the ‘source’ realise that (s)he is making Nick seem as much a pillock as Cameron is. You cannot ‘dis’ your coalition partner through an anonymous and unaccountable third party.

  • Well, Labour has been handed a gift on a plate. They can now point out that the government is more interested in protecting the interests of a few hundred city bankers rather than the interests ALL the people of the UK, particularly the few million ordinary workers in industries that export to the rest of the EU – and been under no illusion any action that weakens the ability of the government to defend their interests, such as this veto, does damage the UK’s interests.

  • @Martin
    Was the UK racist when it when into the EEC? Was it racist when the people voted yes to stay in the UK? Was it racist when it agreed to the Single European Act, Maastricht Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty? What acts of sabotage are you talking about? Was France and Ireland racist when they rejected various European treaties and if so were they acts of sabotage which resulted them being isolated? As for the Hitlerisation – At my school I wasn’t taught WWII – only by selecting modern GCSE History (which many didn’t take) did I study Germany and the rise of Hitler up to the outbreak of war BUT WWII wasn’t taught. I don’t believe this has changed much. I agree with you that if other countries are racist that’s no excuse for being racist but that wasn’t my point. You put way too much stock in tabloids and your own playground experiences as a kid as proof that the UK is racist towards Germany. My point is that I wouldn’t use Germany newspapers or their schoolyards as honest barometers as to what Germans think of us. Cameron did not use his veto because he had spend the week watching Stan Boardman jokes and Auf Wierdersen Pet reruns. Racist parties in the UK have far less a foothold here than abroad. Cameron didn’t listen and act upon the advice if his eurosceptic tories – they wanted him to negotiate bringing powers back to the UK. He didn’t do that. He stood up for UK interests – something that France and Germany have done on countless times. I have a lot of sympathy for Germany – having to pay out for all the financial mess caused by Greece etc. The real problem isn’t Germany – but the arrogance of Sarkozy. And for those who say we are isolated etc – these are the same people who said we would be isolated and be worst off finiancially if we didn’t join the Euro. History has proven them wrong on that account.

  • Martin……….. Posted 10th December 2011 at 10:48 pm .

    What happened to…….. “William Hague (whom I suppose we ought to believe) said on the Today programme this morning that Nick was on the end of the phone throughout the negotiations”…..

    and now, “Nick was woken at 4am to be told, etc.”…….

    However, I can understand Nick falling asleep if Hague was on the other end; his ‘droning whine’ is far more effective than any sleeping powder…

  • I’m not a Euro-skeptic, but I fear that the problem for th UK now is that the forces of protectionism will come into play, plus divisions within Britain. The truth is that Cameron’s stance was based on the the interests of Southern England, arguments within a Conserative pary that barely gets votes in Scotland or that far north of the Watford Gap and the lobbying of our rightwing press. I’m not even certain that The City is entirely comfortable with what has been done here.
    Nevertheless, it’s been done and that raises questions about the UK economy and free trade within Europe. If we are hit with protectionist policies from the outside, will we be forced to be protectionist?

  • I didn’t vote Tory nor Labour, I voted LibDem…None of us know what ‘exactly’ was offered, and refused, at the meeting.
    Cameron/Osborne and Hague have told us that the demands were ‘reasonable'; SarkozyMerkyl have said the UK negotiated in ‘bad faith……to (mis)quote Mandy Rice Davise, on both camps “Well they would say that wouldn’t they”
    Hague told us “Clegg was fully signed up to the veto” and “Was on the end of the phone during the negotiations”. Clegg is ‘backtracking’ and the story is that he “Only found out about it only once it was a fait accompli”

    Whatever one feels about the veto; someone is ‘being economical with the truth’

  • Hague told us “Clegg was fully signed up to the veto” and “Was on the end of the phone during the negotiations”. Clegg is ‘backtracking’ and the story is that he “Only found out about it only once it was a fait accompli”
    Whatever one feels about the veto; someone is ‘being economical with the truth’

    jedibeeftrix, So both statements are true?

  • jedibeeftrix.. Posted 12th December 2011 at 9:47 am….|Apologies Jason,

    No problem. As you say, the two versions were to be expected, hence my ‘Mandy Rice Davies’ mis-quote….

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