Bow Group Chairman answers questions in leading European newspaper La Razon on David Cameron's EU veto.
- What is the significance of the Deputy Prime Minister’s message today?
Following the result of the Brussels summit, as with any time when the two parties of the UK coalition Government diverge on partisan principles, it was necessary for Nick Clegg to make a statement setting out his position. The Liberal Democrats are, and have always been, the most pro-EU party in the United Kingdom, the Liberal Democrats and their leader will therefore disagree with any decision which moves the UK further away from the process of EU decision making.
It is important to note that Nick Clegg has not been critical of the Prime Minister’s decision, but took into account the severity of the eurozone crisis, and placed the blame for the UK’s veto decision on an “intransigent France and Germany” and “intransigence from large parts of the Conservative Party”. If Cameron had not enacted a veto, due to euroscepticism in his own party, it is unlikely that the Government would have got any agreement approved by the UK Parliament. Though Clegg set out the above context, he did not come close to praising the Prime Minister’s “bulldog spirit” as has been the reaction in some quarters, stating, “There is nothing bulldog about Britain hovering in the mid-Atlantic, not being taken seriously in Washington or in Brussels”.
- Is the coalition at risk?
The veto decision in Brussels has placed strain on the coalition partnership between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, but for the reasons set out above the coalition is not at immediate risk. There are divisions, as there always were, but Clegg remains diplomatic and pragmatic in his language, not criticising Cameron directly and stating “It would be even more damaging for the country if the coalition would now break up”.
- Nick Clegg has already had problems with his party over university fees. Europe always has been a very important issue for Lib-Dems and a lot of MPs feel that Clegg has let them down again. Is his leadership at risk?
Whilst criticism of Cameron will be far stronger in the grassroots of the Lib Dems than from Clegg himself, it is highly unlikely that Clegg’s position will be under any real threat from his party in the immediate term.
- Is the future of UK now to walk alone or will Cameron go back to the EU in the future?
The UK is still a member of the European Union, and like Blair Cameron is an expert at compromise, it is therefore likely that whilst eurosceptic members of the Conservative party are satisfied, Cameron will look to make some concessions to Brussels in the future.
- Is the City worse off after the veto?
No, though there are rules at an EU level that will now be made by the 26 remaining EU powers that could effect the city, the Prime Minister’s decision continues to grant the city a great deal of autonomy and in so doing allows the city to have a continued strong influence on the UK Government’s decision making. What is of concern is what separation at an EU level means for wider UK business and manufacturing that relies on EU exports. It will not help UK exports to not have the UK’s interests represented when major decisions on the future of the EU are being made. It is likely that following the UK veto France and Germany will take steps to punish and marginalise the UK from the European markets.
- Do Eurosceptic Tories still want a referendum?
Broadly the Conservatives as a party have always wanted a referendum on EU membership, and will not rest until a referendum is called, but in the short term Cameron’s decision to pull out of the EPP was designed to assuage that desire, and his decision will put off any strong immediate calls for referendum from 'EU rebels'.
Click here for online article at La Razon.es. (In Spanish).