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EU politics: a statement of the obvious

Richard North, 04/11/2012  


Guardian 637-pyu.jpg

It takes the chief political correspondent of the loss-making Guardian in order for us to learn that IDS is saying that we don't give enough credit to David Cameron – "the first man to veto a European treaty".

When you get that profound level of ignorance among senior Tory ministers, there is no going back. You are not dealing with people of this world, people who are actually capable of understanding what is going on around them, and reacting sensibly to what they learn.

And from the mouth of the babe, we also learn that he [Cameron] "will veto something [on the EU budget] that he cannot bring back to the British parliament". These, says IDS, "are strong words compared to the last government and even governments before". Thus, Duncan Smith disagrees with the "rebels", telling Andrew Marr's Ego Show that, "He [Cameron] would love to come back with a real terms cut. I would love him to be able to do it".

But in terms of the obvious, Duncan Smith "made clear" that Britain would not be part of new governance arrangements for the eurozone that are due to be negotiated over the next few years. The coalition is agreed that moves to greater fiscal union in the eurozone are a matter for the 17 members of the single currency.

And of course that is the case, as membership of the inner core would require us to join the euro, which is not going to happen. The question that needs to be addressed is how Britain deals with its new "second class" status within the EU.

At this point, it is actually quite difficult to divine what IDS is actually saying, which is why the loss-making Guardian's chief political correspondent is talking about IDS "suggesting" things. Nicholas Watt thus retails an IDS telling us: "My view isn't that we could do necessarily outside the EU better then we are inside. It is that we can do it all. I don't see why we shouldn't have it all".

On the other hand, the people who are really determined to have it all are the "colleagues", who are seemingly not in the mood to play games with our Prime Minister.

The same loss-making Guardian is telling us that Brussels will block David Cameron's attempt to cut the EU budget, and he faces a hostile reception at the European Council budget meeting this month.

Not least, it looks as if Brussels, like Cameron, may have its hands tied. The EU Parliament is indicating that it will block any compromise deal, cobbled together to give Cameron a political fig leaf. That would leave the EU without a multi-annual settlement, requiring it to revert to its annual budget system, managing funding on a year-by-year basis - just like the member states.

All of this guarantees a degree of entertainment for the mindless hacks as we crawl into the New Year, but it doesn't really solve anything. The big question of the new treaty is being glossed over, and there is no real discussion on the implications. David Cameron's grandstanding is simply serving as a smokescreen.

The thought occurs, however, that budget pressure may firm up on the plans to create a separate eurozone budget. That much has been mooted since early October and would neatly sideline Mr Cameron and his games, leaving Britain further out on the edges than he want to be.

Sooner or later, Cameron himself is going to have to come to terms with the changing EU scenarios, whence he will find that his prolonged manoeuvring has achieved precisely nothing. The choice on offer will be accept "second class status" or get out, and the "colleagues" care not which.

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