Sunday, December 11, 2011
That's another fine mess you've got us into !
A lot of nonsense has been promulgated by Tory eurosceptics and even by Liberal Democrat apologists for the mess our coalition government has landed us all in. They have tried several arguments which don't work. As usual, the mantra - "Blame the French!" plays well with the public. Let's look at them in turn.
1. The government was protecting the City of London, the financial sector.
This is true but only if they were protecting them from proper scrutiny and regulation. See response by Edward McMillan-Scott, former Conservative and now Liberal Democrat MEP. Here's a flavour: "Cameron said the sticking point was the interests of the London financial sector, which has ripped off British taxpayers and stripped savers of their assets. What sharp City practices was Cameron trying to shield from the proper scrutiny which financial services in Frankfurt or Paris were prepared to yield to? Paying lip service to Europe's single market - which is of such value to the rest of the real British economy - while making bumps in the level playing field is simply ridiculous."
2. The government was proposing reasonable measures to preserve the Single Market !
Preposterous ! The UK put forward a 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 Qualified Majority Voting 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). This does not fit any definition of "perfectly reasonable" as claimed by Nick Clegg, Graham Watson and Sarah Ludford. Nor does it amount to protecting the single market since the purpose of a veto would be to block single market measures leaving each member-state to decide for itself. In any case, whatever the merits of the UK proposals, you simply cannot expect 26 other countries to bow down and accept such a document at less than 24 hours notice. Summits are usually preceded by months of negotiations. Cameron refused to negotiate about the document with the consequences we all know now.
3. Sarkozy was being unreasonable
This suggests traditional francophobia but actually the real situation is "Fog in channel- continent cut off". It wasn't a French veto. It was 26 countries disagreeing with Britain ! Do people imagine that 25 Prime Ministers always dance to Sarkozy's tune ?
4. This will make it easier to regulate the banks.
This little gem is attributed to Vince Cable and has even been parroted by some of the bankers themselves. Anyone smell a rat here ? No actual argument has been put forward and I cannot imagine how it could be true. Successful financial regulation has been resisted (by this government amongst others) on the grounds that it won't work in one country alone. To claim that European disunity will make it easier would seem illogical, Captain.
Nothing in the coalition agreement required Liberal Democrats to abandon our principles so dramatically. Nick Clegg is now trying to row back following reaction within the party. He should have got it right first time.