The EU is so far off most people’s radar, it is at times hard to get anyone beyond those intimately involved to take an interest in it. This short piece is an attempt to get one clear fact over: the UK Government is on a collision course with the EU in general, and its insouciant fascist President Herman van Rompuy. There is no crying wolf in what follows: one side or the other is going to have to climb down – and it absolutely must not be Britain.
The issue is clear and simple: van Rompuy and the federalists (now with Franco-German support) are demanding that in future, all EU members must (a) assist in the eurozone bailout and (b) show their national fiscal budget plans to a financial team (led by van Rompuy) in Brussels prior to any sight of the plans by their legislatures.
Cameron, Haig and Osborne have made the British position plain – as did the Treasury Minister Mark Hoban last week: assistance in the currency balancing fund is it as far as Euro support is concerned – there will be no further monies forthcoming; and there will be no – repeat, no – possibility of Brussels getting any sight of budget plans until the British Parliament has seen and debated them.
Mr van Rompuy is not listening to the British delegation: being himself an incurable cynic, he thinks it is a bargaining position from which the UK will shift in time. He is wrong. In turn, both Sarkozy and Merkel are underestimating the strength of negative feeling among their own electorates on the issue. Despite their travails, the Spaniards have said flatly they will not do it.
As far as I can tell, there is no backsliding going on among the UK’s senior mandarins: even the spineless FCO is sticking to ‘no more transfer of powers’.
The weak link in this chain of resistance is, of course, Nick Clegg. But I understand that he has already accepted that this would be a bridge too far for the Tories. Vince Cable, too, seems to have given Brussels the bums-rush on budget disclosure.
This is a serious crisis gathering steam; and while van Rompuy is a clever man, he is ignorant when it comes to British resolve. The Coalition is an entirely different kettle of fish to the Brown and Blair bendy-men he’s been used to dealing with so far. He confided to an associate two weeks ago that “Mr Cameron will come round to our point of view: he has no choice”. One is left wondering what on earth he imagines this corner in which Cameron is trapped to be. Herman is going to get a bloody nose, and the UK will be doing the rest of Europe a favour in delivering it.