How Cameron’s kamikaze act could have been prevented

Did David Cameron deliberately manoeuvre the UK into splendid isolation last night, or was it an accident that could have been prevented? The latter, if the following account from someone who followed the proceeding closely is to be believed:

“I gather that the UK presented a whole draft protocol to the Council legal service the day before the meeting, detailing various subjects in the field of financial affairs where they wished decision-taking to switch from QMV to unanimity (some in areas that have been QMV from the beginning, and some that have been QMV since the 1986 Single European Act negotiated by Thatcher). Whatever the merits, presenting such a detailed document at the last minute in that way was not likely to work: one would have expected any such request to have been sent to every government and talked through extensively with them beforehand, if it were to have the remotest chance of being accepted.

A turning point in the meeting was when there seemed to be near consensus on Van Rompuy’s proposal to use Protocol 12, which can be changed by a (unanimous ) decision of the European Council without requiring a lengthy IGC and subsequent national ratification. Germany was the one that was isolated at that point, arguing for a fully fledged treaty. Then, the President asked whether Britain would want any “compensations” in this case too, or at least whether it might not need so many  (given that Cameron had said in the House of Commons “the more eurozone countries ask for, the more we will ask for in return”: logically a lesser demand should require less compensation). However, Cameron said that his demands would be the same. Given that there was no sympathy at all for his demands, this was the point at which the Protocol 12 route, which requires unanimity, was effectively closed down and one country after another accepted a new treaty at 17+.”

Without Cameron’s spectacular kamikaze act, the continuing disagreements between Merkel and Sarkozy would have dominated today’s news. Instead, he’s achieved the remarkable feat of uniting the eurozone, but at great cost to his own country and to himself.

Judging from reactions in the UK today, the enormity of last night’s events has only just begun to sink in. The BBC started the day with a headline that read: “EU-wide treaty change bid fails”. In the afternoon, it changed to “Eurozone deal reached without the UK”. Tonight, it’s “UK alone as EU agrees fiscal deal”.

Normally sensible commentators are seriously suggesting that Britain, already out, could now try to wield its veto power to prevent the other 26 forging ahead and making use of the EU Institutions in doing so. Prominent Liberal Democrats have spoken out in support of the deal. Which makes sense: Cameron couldn’t have exercised his veto without explicit authorisation from Nick Clegg.

But will the LibDems maintain their support for the British government position when it becomes clear that the UK is heading for the exit? And will the British population think again, now that an in/out choice has effectively been made for them by the coalition government, rather than in a referendum or at a General Election?

8 thoughts on “How Cameron’s kamikaze act could have been prevented

  1. Your report ties in with other information that has leaked out since, according to which, Cameron just refused to negotiate. This is not the way in which real leaders of affairs do business: and raises serious questions over his leadership abilities. Compromise is not a dirty word, it’s a necessity of communal life.


  2. The wisest diplomatic answer from the UK at this point is to leave the EU altogether. I can’t see which contribution they could make hence forth.
    They would only be perceived as disrupters in a club they don’t belong to.


  3. It seems you are only a good European if you say YES to everything, and a bad one if you say the dreaded word NO? The Irish dared say no, and there told to go back until they said yes. The EU is an autocratic control freak that will not tolerate dissent? No wonder EU election figures of voters voting MEPs to the EP are falling like a stone off a cliff edge?

    If that is what the rest of Europe wants, well good luck to them. You can say NO if you disagree, it as a name, its called democracy?


  4. jolyonwagg1. Negotiation is not a matter of “take or leave it”, which appears to have been Cameron’s position. Meetings at such a level can only work with an element of give or take ie not give and take. Compromise is a necessity of community life. Cameron’s education appears to have missed out on this.


  5. Whoops (must not write late night comments with a digestif in hand!). My second sentence should have read:

    Meetings at this level can only work with an element of give or take ie not take it or leave it.


  6. Pingback: » Blog Archive » The Week in Bloggingportal: Summary without Cameron

  7. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Week in Bloggingportal: #We’ll meet again…(?)#

  8. Does anyone seriously suggest a British conspiracy, or that Britain sought to engineer a 26:1 result? If there was a failure to reach agreement, shouldn’t some blame be attached to the leaders of other countries who failed to recognise Britain’s legitimate concerns and craft a solution to accommodate those concerns? It should have been obvious that any solution which didn’t recognise the legitimate concerns of all 27 might result in no consensus.

    Britain’s concerns should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Britain has always been sensitive about being outvoted. It has always been wary of agreeing to qualified majority voting. It is most comfortable with requiring unanimity because that means that it can exercise a veto where its national interests so require. Many EU states have a similar sensitivity in areas they see as critical to their national interest.

    The British have also consistently demonstrated a desire to strengthen the single market and to oppose any move which might undermine its position as a financial centre. Was there any leader among the 27 stupid enough to believe that they could ignore the sensitivities of other countries (including Britain) in trying to reach a consensus.

    It is also wrong-headed to suggest that the British “didn’t ever want to be part of the club”. Apart from a lunatic fringe, noone in Britain wants to be outside the EU; and there is widespread consensus that a resolution to the Euro crisis is critical to British interests and its economy. The suggestion from some within the countries forming part of the 26 that the EU would be better off without Britain is childish and would be damaging to Britain and to the EU.

    It’s not heresy (at least in Britain) to ask whether the agreement reached by the 26 is capable of resolving the Euro crisis in any event. I sincerely hope it is, but I’m not at all convinced that the agreement will resolve the Euro crisis.

    As for the tired, old jibe about Britain being isolated in this issue – consider that a number of states expressed serious disquiet about the agreement and, even if their leaders decided to go along with the majority at the weekend, referenda and/or ratification of the agreement by national parliaments in some of the 26 states might demonstrate yet again just how wide the gulf is between the European political elite and the populations they purport to represent.

    Consider too what the agreement of the 26 may mean to ordinary people. Austerity in Ireland already means 23% VAT and the misery of high unemployment there, especially among the young. That’s bad enough when mandated by your own government; but is likely to be resented much more if imposed by unsympathetic foreigners. If the agreement between the 26 is ratified and implemented, resentment against a Euro Big Brother and increased social unrest is precisely what we should expect going forward.


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