The markets (and regular Slog contacts) have pretty much ignored Britain’s veto, and gone instead to the core issues: did we get a guarantor, did we get an expansion of bailout monies, have the EFSF/ESM funds now become formal ‘banks’? The answers are no, vaguely, and no. Nicolas Sarkozy’s puerile attempt to blame Britain for the failure of the talks even had one or two French hacks smiling: it was, after all, going so well before Dave pitched up. Angela Merkel said the output would “show the world that the EU has learned from its mistakes” and the irrepressible Christine Lagarde declared herself “very pleased with where we are”. Mario Draghi has called it “a step forward”.
Outside the bubble, things look rather different. The EU is now effectively split five ways: Britain and the other three, France, Germany, non-debtor peripherals, and the Piigs. The ESM is to be capped at 500bn euros (that’s about a third of what it was meant to be) and the IMF will have 200bn added by EU countries. The how and when of that IMF boost remains vague. This morning, stock prices slid at the opening, and the euro fell below $1.33. The eurozone seems to have let the banks off their haircuts….and got nothing in return – not even goodwill.
But being parochial for a minute here (caring far more about the UK than a shower of pawnbrokers) I’m left wondering: what did David Cameron actually veto? And what was the point of this veto – heralded for decades in Britain – if it had virtually no influence upon the final result?
These questions become sillier still if you ask, “How on earth could Britain have agreed to fiscal rules applying to a currency of which it is not a member?” The truth is that the EU power-brokers left Cameron with a no-choice choice: join the euro, or piss off. And as for William Hague’s risible claim that “we have not been left out”, the bloke is an idiot if he thinks anyone will believe that for a second. We have been relegated to the Second Division….but with all the overheads of playing in the Premiership.
In terms of domestic politics, as so often happens with Cameron’s endless games of trim-n-fit, his plan to please everyone in the Tory Party has now left it in an almighty mess. For him personally – no matter what spin he puts on it – last night’s result is a disaster: he has come back empty-handed having fired a popgun. All the things the Tory Right dislikes about the EU – social and employment legislation – will stay because we can’t get rid of it. For europhiles, there will be nobody in the room bating for Britain as from next March: so how, they ask, can our interests be defended?
My own view is simple: bring it on. However, we are now in early 1940: having declared war on Hitler, we still have Chamberlain at the helm. David Cameron really will have to go…or the Conservative Party will end up being unelectable. And the prospect of Right Wing defection towards UKIP is rather more on the cards today than it was yesterday.