The first big question on the Coalition’s EU policy: is Cameron frustrated by the constraints of coalition with the euro-fanatic Lib-Dems? Or is he secretly delighted that Nick Clegg offers the perfect excuse for putting all that difficult re-negotiation stuff on the back burner?
Politicians find it easy to talk tough in opposition, but harder to make it happen when in power.
It may seem churlish to challenge Cameron’s commitment in the wake of his courageous Veto, and I happily joined the chorus of adulation as a British Prime Minister finally said “NO!” to Brussels.
But with the cynicism of hindsight — he really didn’t have much option. If he’d to accepted the deal on the table there would have been uproar in the press and the Party. And the House of Commons would probably have voted it down. He had to say No.
Which leads us to the second big question. Can the Veto stick? The EU is a past master at bypassing and overwhelming obstructions, like an incoming tide sweeping aside a child’s sand-castle. (The classic example was their re-classification of the Working Time Directive as a Health & Safety issue, not Employment, thus bypassing the UK veto).
We may well have a formal veto on EU-wide taxes like the disastrous Tobin Tax. But Brussels will find a huge range of new QMV regulations designed to punish the City. Then comes Cameron’s tough choice. Either break EU law, defy Brussels and the ECJ, and edge towards the exit. Or accept defeat.
It seems bizarre and perverse that our EU partners seek to scapegoat the City for a monetary disaster of their own making — and one against which we have warned them for a decade. It’s equally perverse that they seek to solve the problem of debt with more debt, the problems of EU integration with more integration.
Merkozy’s “fiscal harmonisation” would not solve the €uro’s problems — even if they could make it stick (which they signally failed to do with the Maastricht criteria). Debt mutualisation would only defer the evil day. Perpetual fiscal transfers could hold the €uro together, but at the expense of making Greece a German dependency.
Without a €uro break-up, Brussels simply cannot address the structural problem of competitiveness between North and South, because that is inherent in the architecture of monetary union.
The EU is not primarily an entity, but a process. The Coalition’s policy is effectively to ensure that, for the UK at least, that process will cease. We have to recognise that having repudiated the process, we cannot indefinitely remain part of the entity. Roll on Independence Day.