We will find out over the next few days, but I suspect the conversation went something like:
France: “We want to impose a Tobin tax, Europe-wide” The UK: “Um… sod off, you greasy little squit”. Germany: “We’d like to impose regulation on financial services designed to move transactions from London to Frankfurt” The UK: “You two are shitting me, right”. France & Germany “No”. The UK: “Fine then, bugger off”.
Everyone is claiming either victory, or that Cameron’s made a terrible error. UKIP, because we’re not getting a referendum that for some reason they think will solve everything, STILL call Cameron a Europhile. Labour think it’s terrible that Britain is “isolated”.
Actually I think the situation is broadly what the Conservative party AND the British people want: a 2 Teir Europe, with the UK the leading member of the small “never going to join the Euro” club. These will slide towards a Norwegian/Swiss position, while everyone else forges ahead with a Franco-German empire monetary and fiscal union.
So Cameron has shot UKIPs fox who will continue to frot themselves about a referendum which is no longer needed and will fade into irrelevance. Labour will find themselves arguing that Cameron SHOULDN’T have wielded his veto and should have instead bent over for whatever the Merkozy borg was suggesting. This demonstrates Ed Miliband’s tactical and strategic ineptness, and may have cost him the poll lead.
I am not sure Cameron could or should have played it differently. But there are deeper and more lasting issues here, which may or may not cause problems further down the line. This is an epoch-making moment. It is the end of 500 years of consistent English (& 300 years of British) foreign policy towards the continent. Namely that if the dominant hegemonic power isn’t England, no other power, or combination of powers should be able to rise to dominate the continent. As I mentioned before
Since the wars with Spain in the 1500s, when England stood at the head of an alliance of anti-Spanish nations culminating in the Armada of 1588. Next, through the Wars of religion Protestant England was happy to ally with anyone including Catholic powers keeping Spain down. France was (believe it or not, after strings of stunning military victories) next up in an attempt to become the dominant power in Europe, first under the Bourbon monarchy and later under Bonaparte. Comprehensive British victories at Trafalgar in 1805 and Waterloo (with a little help from ze Prussians) in 1815 put pay to Napoleon’s ambitions in that regard. The Russians made an abortive bid but were seen off by a Anglo-French alliance in the Crimea and turned their imperial ambitions east. A long peace saw the Rise of Germany, and the brokering of an Entente Cordiale between France and the UK should Germany get uppity and start throwing its weight around. They took some stopping, and the help of the Americans but Germany was prevented from getting a massive European empire….
…1914-1918 and 1939-1945 were the same war, with a bit of time to let Fritz regroup. The hun may have been utterly defeated, but they have never abandoned the dream of European empire which has burned in the Teutonic heart since the unification of Germany under the Hohenzollerns in 1871. The hush-puppy may have replaced the jackboot but the Boche are still marching in step.
Well that nightmare is upon us. A unified Europe stares at us across the Channel and our only allies are Sweden, the Czech republic and Hungary to block the behemoth that is the Eurozone and the lackeys who STILL wish to join. Our influence in a club, which by treaty and Geography, still affects us deeply, is much, much less today than it was yesterday. The UK cannot outvote a EU17 voting at Merkozy’s whim as a block. Euroskeptics, amongst whom I count myself, should not kid themselves that this decision is without cost.
Even if we leave the European Union, we still have to deal with that European behemoth, which will remain our biggest trading partner and closest neighbour, linked by money, blood, and habit. Unlike yesterday, we have no reins with which to control the monster which a federal German-dominated euro zone will become. It will rapidly become under French influence, more protectionist and inward-looking as our counterbalancing influence will wane. This isn’t in Britain’s interest.
Britain got what she wanted and may yet regret it.