Britain and the EU

Lord Soley

Whether as a result of political inexperience or fear of his own backbenchers David Cameron has marginalised the UK in Europe and that won’t be easily reversed. It poses a challenge to all British political parties and their leaders.
The 26 EU members will create a much closer political and economic union and they can do that by adding new treaty arrangements and shared policies. Britain will not be able to veto that.
A future British Prime Minister will have to sign up to the new arrangements with only minimal change or accept that we are going to be an outsider in the EU. It is perfectly possible to make a case for Britain outside the EU but it has enormous implications for our future policies and how we are seen in the world. Sadly Cameron does not recognise this. The veto was a political act – not an act of statesmanship.
The continental countries see the EU as a political choice that deals with Europe’s fractious past. Alone of the warring countries of the two world wars Britain was neither defeated nor occupied. It makes the British more sceptical of political union. We are an island nation and we have close international links especially with the English speaking world. So we are and always have been ambivalent about too close a union. This is not caused by the anti-European press although they aggravate it. It is a fact of British life that has to be addressed. The continental Europeans after the Second World War wanted Britain in (with the exception of France under De Gaulle). Now they are fed up with our foot-dragging and critical comments from the side lines. There is good reason to believe they now think that Britain will never be a full member of the EU.
If Cameron is still Prime Minister in five years’ time then he will have to accept that we can have little influence on future European policy. If it is another Prime Minister with a more pro-European approach they will have to accept that joining the Euro and the inner circle will have to be done on European terms.
If the Euro sceptics in the Tory Party are still in control then Britain will be manoeuvred out of the EU into an associate membership status.
The Labour Party in opposition is not going to get away with saying that Cameron messed up. They have to talk about a strategy for a Labour Government. Do they say that Britain has to join at a later date? And if so, what terms can they hope to negotiate? If they stay on the side lines do they opt for an associate status? What of Britain’s economic and political future? Are we to attempt a larger Switzerland model or choose a closer relationship with the US – an option not entirely without friends in the Republican Party?
Britain needs a statesman at the helm now and there is no sign of one riding to our rescue. My best guess is that Britain has now cast the dice and the result will be a nation linked to the EU by an associate agreement. It won’t happen overnight but in my judgement it will happen.
The Liberal Democrats? Well whoever thought they would end up being passively complicit in a Britain outside the EU! Nick Clegg has little room for manoeuvre and there is no sign of statesmanship there either.

18 comments for “Britain and the EU

  1. Gareth Howell
    10/12/2011 at 8:50 am

    “The veto was a political act – not an act of statesmanship.”
    Of sabotage. Spanner in the works.

    “We are an island nation”
    Please! nation STATE, or is the noble lord looking forward to the 6 ‘nations’ rugby?

    “we have close international links especially with the English speaking world”
    And thoroughly domineered by the American English one, at every pico-second of the day.

    “little influence on future European policy.”
    It is such a complicated triumvirate, the PM must get very detailed advice before he does make such decisions but decisions he does make, and they ain’t good.

    There is nobody in any party at the moment
    with obvious leadership qualities except Vince Cable, and, larf larf, he is too old for the job. Menzies Cambell would have been good too, but there again there is no point
    shortening your life for a big wage, for a little bit of it.

    We do have to make the decision soon to join the Euro, and it will have to be on
    a minority holding in the ECB. While there is “crisis”, it is not a good time.

  2. Dave H
    10/12/2011 at 9:00 am

    From what I can see, he’s decided that they can’t have an EU treaty without the UK, merely an agreement between governments, and said at one point that he’d use various EU mechanisms to make sure this was the case. Sooner or later one of the signatories is going to breach the agreements and will get away with it because there will always be exceptional circumstances. When it comes down to basics, there is no easy way to impose fines or sanctions on an errant nation.

    The EU as it has become is a bureaucratic, wasteful dictatorship and needs a good kick up the rear and a permanent derailing of the Brussels gravy train. It needs to be able to run its accounting to a standard where the auditors are prepared to sign off the accounts, and be much more accountable to the citizens of EU countries. To me, the proposals that Cameron rejected would take us even further into a dictatorship so I’m glad he did what he did. It may be that we have it harder for a bit, but freedom always has a price.

  3. Shazzyrm
    10/12/2011 at 10:34 am

    Cameron doesn’t want to lose his power now he’s got it. That’s what this was all about really. He’s used to geting his own way.
    I’m sure the back benchers and the banks of London will be happy with him but it’s a scarey feeling for the rest of us, to be left out in the cold like that.
    He looked very uncomfortable sitting by himself supping his water and you could also tell he was very angry with the way things had gone and a little humiliated. I don’t think he expected so many countries to back the EU like that and thought his bulldog tactics and spoilt schoolboy charm would get him his own way like it probably has always done before.

    The rest of the EU this time was the parent and put their foot down. You can’t blame them.

  4. Croft
    10/12/2011 at 12:02 pm

    “Britain needs a statesman at the helm now and there is no sign of one riding to our rescue.”

    And that means what exactly? I often think people call for statesmanship when they want a politician to do something the speaker agrees with but the electorate doesn’t. Perhaps you have a different criteria? Would joining the Euro or leaving the EU both without a referendum be leadership in your terms?

  5. maude elwes
    10/12/2011 at 3:53 pm

    The interesting move this morning is, the FT and the business sector is not well pleased with the Cameron tantrum. And I have to add, what an idiot he is to act like that. Is he of Russian decent? ..Talk about cut off your nose to spite your face.

    What we need is men experienced in the art of political deals. As well as those who know what they are talking about. Sadly, we have at the helm two juveniles not yet ready for leadership.

    We need a man like Heseltine. He has learned the lesson of tantrum and the outcome if you give in to it. He is the single voice of reason we have today.

    This is a sane man’s manoeuvre. And what a pity we are run by a mess of Uncle Sam worshipper’s.

  6. Gareth Howell
    10/12/2011 at 6:56 pm

    The Labour Party in opposition is not going to get away with saying that Cameron messed up. They have to talk about a strategy for a Labour Government.

    Labour should make a firm commitment to joining the Euro at an early date, go over our resistance to it, whilst Gordon Brown was at the helm,and decide how we should renew our commitment to joining it.

    Why are there still objections to it, on both sides of the house.

    It is only money. We could join and leave the Euro with every bit as much enthusiasm as the Greeks.

    The history of money more locally with banks of Scotland, and East Anglia, but particularly in the USA, where some banks dealt in tobacco bales as currency, make it perfectly clear that having cash money with the sovereign’s head on it is no more nor less usable than that with the relevant Euro designations.

    The minority holding in the ECB is a red herring. ok so it would be a minority holding. So what!

    Get on with it! Join it! Let’s see some new and interesting cash currency on the streets of the UK.

  7. Rich
    10/12/2011 at 10:11 pm

    What was Cameron supposed to do? I genuinely don’t understand the Labour position here. German wanted an EU treaty change, but France did not. Both countries want to tax and regulate the financial sector in a way that will disproportionately affect the UK. Cameron had to have those red lines in any negotiation on an EU treaty change. Since France didn’t want that anyway, they were always going to oppose the British position to force a separate treaty. So how would still being in the EPP or building relationships or any of those things I’ve heard Labour politicians saying have stopped the French, notorious for always acting mercilessly in their national interest, from acting in their national interest?

    • Twm O'r Nant
      13/12/2011 at 12:26 pm

      “Both countries want to tax and regulate the financial sector in a way that will disproportionately affect the UK.”

      About time too! Tax profits on futures and derivatives in a big way!

      • Rich
        13/12/2011 at 11:26 pm

        Except that the taxes would benefit the EU, not British tax payers, so it would harm Britain, and the regulations would be drafted in the interests of the EU and the Euro, not of Britons. Without a transaction tax simultaneously being imposed in the US and other major financial services countries, the EU’s proposed tax would devastate British banking interests, which is something France and Germany don’t care about, and to an extent welcome.

        So spouting populist drivel may feel good, but it isn’t actually helpful.

        • maude elwes
          14/12/2011 at 1:55 pm


          And of course the US really did all it could to annihalate the Euro didn’t it? And now the UK is once again, hanging on for the US crumbs to fall. This bunch we have, delusionally, believe we have a ‘special’ relationship. Yes, and that relationship is called ‘murder on the dance floor.’

          These clips tell a great deal about the downfall of the Euro. Fear by the US for the state of its dollar, it being severely in hock to China. And now the UK jumps into the US nets, that is suicideal.

    • maude elwes
      14/12/2011 at 12:21 pm


      And I don’t understand the thinking of Uncle Sam’s politics either. You know, blow those evil Empire’s to oblivion if they don’t follow our corruption closely. Our Democracy is the way to take the poverty stricken to the workhouse. Then we can really get a few slaves on the run.

      However, you really don’t seem to have a grasp on Britian and the need for European unity do you. Odd how you wouldn’t take kindly to the US States separating and becoming 50 different countries….

      If we leave the EU nothing will change for the public except more pverty. They may like to pretend that all those little matters they have been selling on immigration, political correctness and wights and measures will change one we leave. But they are going to be very disappointed when they find Cameron is a duplicitous on this as Cleg was to his voters.

      If we leave the European Union what our public are calling for and against, will not change one iota.

      Here is something you should read, if you want to understand our political mentality. But I doubt it will help, as Americans so despise social security and all that goes with it. Don’t they? Freeloaders the lot of them. Frying them isn’t good enough.

      The title of this piece is: Hands off our greedy bankers.

      • Rich
        15/12/2011 at 6:37 am

        I have to wonder about your sanity: “blow those evil Empire’s to oblivion if they don’t follow our corruption closely”? What the deuce is that supposed to mean?

        The US wants the Euro to survive and for Britain to be a central part of the EU even more than the Lib Dems do. The US didn’t do a damn thing to the Euro. If the banking crisis, which was (despite European self-righteousness) not just a question of things happening in the US, exposed weakness in certain European countries and in the Euro itself, that is certainly not the fault of the US or its banks.

        As for having a grasp on “Britian and the need for European unity”, I’m afraid you have trouble reading. The whole point of my post was to probe the Baroness’s reasons for saying certain things could only be accomplished through further political union with Europe. I did not suggest that any other path would be better, but sought an explanation of what was said.

        I proposed that Britain leave the EU, but even if I had, it would be worlds different from a break up of the US into 50 countries, so I don’t know what (or whether, even) you were thinking.

        Finally, “But I doubt it will help, as Americans so despise social security and all that goes with it. Don’t they? Freeloaders the lot of them. Frying them isn’t good enough.” Why are you chauvanistic and insulting? Why do you assume that every American opposes social welfare and supports the death penalty? As it happens, I am in most respects to the left of most Democrats and find the death penalty repellent. Finally, no, I am not going to take an opinion piece in the Independent to stand for the whole of the British polity. I read articles from the BBC, The Guardian, and (yes) The Independent every day and listen to various BBC radio news programs (via podcast) daily or weekly and regularly read Hansard. I really do think those give me enough of a sense the British “political mentality” without taking your recommendations. It’s funny, but you are, in your own way, very similar to the silly stereotype of an American (in all the worst respects) that you believe is actually a fair representation of us. You are unable pay more than the most cursory attention to what people actually say and to see the world except through an extremely warped prism, replacing thought and knowledge of the real world and how it works with a simplistic, almost cartoonish world view. I truly pity you.

        • maude elwes
          15/12/2011 at 7:09 pm


          Not half as much as I pity you, if this last post of yours is a true analysis on the American political leanings you cling to.

          And as far as you considering yourself left of the Democrats, now there’s a joke. They are to the right of our right wingers, so to be sane at all you would have to be considered a communist in the US to be middle of the road or left of middle in reality.

          I don’t read papers for a grip on the US and its thinking. I have much first hand knowledge on an hour by hour basis. We are not all little Englanders here you know. We have a passport owning public here, not simply ten% of the population.

          And sorry to tell you, if you feel you have a grasp on British political leanings from reading our papers, et al, then you really have a very one sided input.

          You had me rolling on the floor with this. So typically American.

          And, Americans are not akin to me at all. I speak my mind and do not adhere to the strict political correct clap trap you people embrace closely to your heart. Except when you dare in secret to expose what you really think and feel. In the main, you are a terrified bunch of subjugated individuals so steeped in fear of losing your jobs, you would lie down and accept anything from those who lead you to this demise.

          Listen to your own post, the American bankers are not to blame, they didn’t start it, you in Europe did. Oh, give me a break. Take off the blinkers and do something about the state of ‘your’ country.

          • Rich
            16/12/2011 at 10:01 pm

            Poor deluded Maude. You think yourself an expert on anything and everything, but you don’t actually read. Instead, you live in a bizarre little bubble where even the Guardian is a right-wing rag. You also think that following parliamentary debates gives me no insight into the broad base of British political culture. Okay, then.

            You are a fool if you truly believe the problems in the Eurozone are the fault of US banks. The problems were always going to be exposed, and, moreover, they are entirely the fault of the Eurozone countries. No one made them sign onto a monetary union without a fiscal union, and no one made the poorer countries ignore the fiscal rules or made the richer countries turn a blind eye towards them. The mental gymnastics required to blame the wrongs of Greece and Germany on the US and Bank of America can only happen in a brain like yours, which is so blinded by Anti-Americanism that your beliefs little relation to the real world.

            If you truly believe that someone on the left wing of the Democratic party is to the right of someone on the right wing of the Conservative party (or even BNP), you are clearly have no understanding of American politics. (Not surprising since you admit you don’t bother to read anything.) Actually, given what you’ve said here and elsewhere, you probably don’t have a very good grasp on British politics, either.

            No one said you are all little Englanders, but you do seem perfectly willing to ignore the fact that most Britons want to rewind the EU to simply being a Common Market or to disband it altogether. Only a minority want further integration. Though, I assume since you think the media are all far-right nutters, you probably dismiss polling as lies.

            Your penultimate paragraph is complete drivel. Where the hell do you get off? “I speak my mind and do not adhere to the strict political correct clap trap you people embrace closely to your heart.”? How could you possibly gain the impression that Americans don’t speak their minds? What “strict political clap trap” are you talking about? This country is more divided that it has been in a century, and we are constantly speaking our minds to eachother, and in terms that are less and less polite as the years go on.

            “In the main, you are a terrified bunch of subjugated individuals so steeped in fear of losing your jobs, you would lie down and accept anything from those who lead you to this demise.” Again, on what planet does that make sense? The people who have lost their jobs or are afraid of losing them are angry in the extreme. Do you think the Occupy movement started in Europe?

            In the end, your opinions, especially on America, are worthless and bear all the marks of being mere repetition of what some other fool is telling you. A left-wing, British version of Rush Limbaugh, perhaps. But, by all means, have the last word because it is obviously important to you.

  8. MilesJSD
    11/12/2011 at 4:36 am

    “Britain To Become Switzerland-like Safe Haven for World-Berserk Money Laundering !”
    I can ‘see’ such headlines coming –

    or might Baroness Deech be in-first already, with her wooing of Australia and, well why not the whole ‘old’ Commonwealth too, following the possibly-timely funeral-cortege of the now late Queen’s Governor General Sir Zelman Cowen ?

    “…and there is no sign of statesmanship…”

    try the long late Australian statesperson Dorothy Green’s
    “the Purpose of Education should be to make people self-governable”

    and then follow my previous advice to go alone into some self-directed-lifeplace-learning, by buying and carrying out the instructions contained in
    “Awareness Through Movement” (Feldenkrais);

    “Wisdom of the Body Moving” and “Somatic Psychology” (Hartley);

    “Six Thinking Hats” (de Bono);

    “How Top Win Every Argument” (Pirie);

    “Natural Vision Improvement” (Goodrich);

    and both
    “Lifestreams” (Boadella) and
    “Anatomy of the Spirit” (Myss).

    It bears repeating that any comm-unity is only as effective and sustainworthy as the individual members thereof.

    “The world is in a mess,
    Whatever shall I do ?

    God in greatest wisdom says
    ‘Just build a better you’ ”

    and thus without waiting for magic external-education to be gifted down upon us, we need to begin daily progress in the direct knowledge of what is both healthily-sustainworthy and longterm-effective and, as you and many others of us progress in such self-education, best for one and ultimately for all.

    “The purpose of Government should be to help people to become self-governable”; OK ?

  9. Gareth Howell
    11/12/2011 at 11:54 am

    It is unreasonable to expect to be allowed to make decisions about the Euro zone without being a member of it, except for the fact of the articles of the Lisbon treaty.
    The question is,

    “Is there a liquidity problem or a solvency problem?”

    Fund managers are still trying to persuade themselves that it is a liquidity problem.
    It is not it is a solvency problem, and as such there will be


    There was far too much for the last six until 2008, and we are paying for Gordon Brown’s proud boasts, of expansion, which he knew all too well would come back to haunt us all.

    It is a great pity that we did not join the Euro during that time. I’ve campaigned for it, along with most other committed Europeans throughout the last 20 years.

    If we had joined it, the present political crisis would have not occured; the question of solvency and liquidity, certainly would have done.

    End of story.

    Thanks to Newsnight special for the, as always, accurate explanation of it.

  10. DanFilson
    14/12/2011 at 9:43 pm

    I voted No in 1975 as I thought the EU that Edward Heath had taken us into was a club whose purpose was set by the founder members and those who had already joined before us, and whose rules were structured according to a governance concept not especially appropriate to a growing membership nor transparent in its operations. It lacked both strength and democracy.

    However the No campaign lost, and whilst I might rue that, I resolved that the issue of membership was settled and thereafter we should make the best of being part of a wider union of nations. I always thought it possible the issue of ‘states rights’ would create tensions as in the USA and hopefully would not require a 4 year civil war to resolve.

    My view is that the USA would not be the economic force that it has been in the world for the last century if it comprised 50 states each pursuing individual foreign policies and each possessing a separate currency. The dollar has enabled a free trade area straddling the landmass between the two great oceans, and the peoples of the USA have benefited, though not without some hiccups along the way. So, I hoped, the Eurozone would also take us. But the Eurozone was flawed by a lack of co-terminosity with the EU, and the latter by an accession to membership of nations whose economic development was well below that of the existing members. Add to that an absence of economic regulation across the EU (to say nothing of joker leadership by the like of Berlusconi and bare-faced fraud and misrepresentation by Greek authorities) which presaged strains would one day blow the Euro apart, if not the EU itself. And so it proved.

    Lord Soley rightly asks about Labour’s stance in all this. I sense that Labour is slowly moving towards – indeed being pushed there by the Conservatives with some pleasure – the role of federalism advocate whilst the Conservatives seem happy to be nationalist ‘states rights’ advocates. These will be the party lines for the next few decades. I had, and still have, a distaste for the non-federalists in the USA, sensing that in their wish for ‘localism’ what they actually desire is not to join in acceptance and enforcement of standards and rights for all. In a like way, I sense the Conservative form of nationalism is essentially in order to avoid regulation, standards, rights and responsibilities. That is essentially a selfish position. The U.K. should abandon its blue water role, what is left of it, and take up being an effective member of the European community of nations, hard though it is to work with others.

    • maude elwes
      16/12/2011 at 12:16 pm


      You are so right on this matter.

      How is it the obviously intelligent understand this, but the dense don’t seem to get it? They’re akin to the remedial class. Alternatively, the fish in the goldfish bowl that never learns their horizon is a glass punch in the snout.

      However, my comment is, the Europeans, which I am sure includes us, on this matter, are now sanctioning Croatia for the Union.

      Can you believe this? Here we are with a group of nations, some of whom were/are clearly not fit for purpose, and because of it, have brought this wonderful concept to its knees, yet again, they want to repeat the same mistake.

      The goldfish syndrome all over again.

      Where are the French, Germans and British, when it comes to a matter of common sense.

      Europe is not ready to accept any group, other than a saviour at this point. Croatia and a liability we cannot afford. What should be happening is a complete overhaul of the present group. And a plan to strengthen, adjust and commit to the prosperity of these, before even looking outside the existing twenty seven.

      Get rid of the lunatics you are harbouring in the back rooms and let those who know how to lead take the job on.

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