I’ve just been on my break at work. I had a Crunchie and a can of Diet Coke. That’s not at all relevant to the blog post, but I like to paint an exact picture. During said break, I watched the Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament on the EU summit. I have to say it wasn’t up to much.
Since his return from the summit he has tried very hard to create an image of some sort of personal victory in his battle with the EU leaders, when in fact everyone is aware that it was a failure.
In today’s statement, he claimed he’d negotiated hard over many weeks to get consensus over a 2.9% increase. Which sounds fabulous doesn’t it? Very proactive. Very go-getting… unless you’ve read Hansard in the last couple of weeks. Then you’ll see that he told the House on 20th October, so just over a week ago, that he was in fact working hard to have the budget frozen.
Another of his
marvellous wheezes declarations was the waving around of a letter signed by 12 nations plus Britain in support of the 2.9% settlement. Great. Wow. Dave’s ace at this European thing isn’t he? Well, no. He’s not. In August, 20 nations agreed a settlement of 2.9% but his letter only has 13. And one of them is us.
So somewhere in his high-powered negotiations, Cameron has managed to lose 7 nations who were supporting his settlement and then decided not to.
It seems to me that the Prime Minister was a fair way out of his depth at the summit when negotiating with Sarkozy and Merkel. He was played and now he’s trying to spin his way out of it back home.
France and Germany always wanted a settlement somewhere near 3%, and were happy for the European Parliament to be outriders with a ridiculous claim for 6%, in order for them to finally agree a moderate increase that they actually wanted with the Eurosceptics.
It’s as if David Cameron has never watched Bargain Hunt!
Cameron’s problem with Europe is that his priority isn’t the country’s relations with our continental neighbours. His priority is how he handles Europe within his party. Not only does he have his own Eurosceptics to manage, but also his new partners the Lib-Dems, famously Europhile in their ideology, as far as any ideology can be discerned these days. So now Dave has an added element to an already-tricky political balancing act. It’s an area he would hope to avoid as much as possible.
Of course, in the aftermath of the debt crisis and the Eurozone bailout of Greece, that is going to prove much harder to do. It was Germany who ensured that bailout happened and now Germany is ensuring other Eurozone countries follow their lead. Angela Merkel made a request that the Lisbon Treaty be amended to include a process to deal with bailouts in the future. This is going to keep alive discussion on the future of the EU just when Cameron would like to forget all about it.