Cameron’s Euro Gamble.

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.

8 replies
  1. Charles
    Charles says:

    But the situation you are suggesting is similar to the Napoleonic Empire (UK + Sweden + Denmark + Portugal vs the rest)

    The UK has definitely had periods where one player has dominated the European continent for a period of years but, to date, these have not been sustainable in the medium term.

    Even where trade is restricted (such as the Continental System) Europe couldn't make it work.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I don't quite understand all this talk of "losing influence" that I keep hearing? What influence? Despite being one of the main contributors to the EU, the UK is consistently sidelined, derided and ignored. To the point that even a simple request to not destroy an industry that makes up 10% of our economy is quickly and dismissively thrust back into our faces.

    So again, I say, what influence? What exactly have we lost?

  3. cuffleyburgers
    cuffleyburgers says:

    Jackart – I suspect that whilst the manoeuvering to get us into this position was achieved mainly by Sarkozy as part of his re-election (sic) strategy, and that in fact the Germans are not particularly happy at this outcome because at the end of the day our natural ally in Europe is Germany and they certainly realise that, but our politicians largely under the influence of our dismal foreign office (I can't be Arsed to Capitalise them) prefer to schmooze with the frogs being naturally sleazier, lazier and more corrupt.

    So now we have stubbed out our cigar and are reaching for our hat & coat, and the Germans will be left to manage this whole shabang wth just the french – I really doubt they'll get very far and that the whole thing is more likely than ever to fall apart. The real schism in Europe is along the Rhine and my view the Germans have had enough.

    I believe that at some point in 2012 or 2013 they will revert to the DM and the french will be left with a ruined banking sector and no one to pay the bills of their over-regulated and under reformed economy.

    I believe it will be very tense indeed and that a number of peripheral nations including Nordics and Netherlands (hopefully not Belgium itself) will have aligned themselves broadly with a loose sceptical alliance "led" by the UK.

    The italians have a saying that a diverted river will always revert to its historical bed, and I think we will see the same in European power politics over the next few years.

    What Cameron achieved this week, was what all British politicians can only ever hope to achieve which is not so much to do The Right Thing as Not To Do The Wrong Thing.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    An interesting take Jackart. However have you overlooked the possibility that the 'new' EU won't just implode? Let's face it, it won't take much for them to be at each other's throats. The politicians may be unified, but when the pain hits home hard, the peoples of the countries in the EU may take a different approach. The institution of the EU is anti-democratic. Was it JFK who said "Those who would deny peaceful revolution, ensure violent revolution"?


  5. Weekend Yachtsman
    Weekend Yachtsman says:

    Good thoughtful post, thanks.

    I agree with you except for the bit about us having no reins to control the EU behemoth.

    Please expand on what reins we had before. All I could see was endless Euro power-grab-fests (variously called councils, conventions, treaties, compacts, who cares what) at which Britain was usually sidelined and always over-ruled.

    So nothing has changed except maybe, they now suspect that we might finally be growing a pair.

    You're right that this won't be without cost, but then neither was the preservation of our freedom and independence last time around. Or the time before that. Or the one before that. Or…

    It never is cost-free.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    We must restore the supremacy and sovereignty of the nation-state. Our nations are the legacy which our fathers bestowed on us and which we want to bestow on our children.
    Nationalism and a belief in one's institutions do not equal fascism as many would like us to believe.


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