In a joint statement after meeting in Brussels on Friday, David Cameron, Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso highlighted the ”importance of prioritising the decisive action needed to ensure the stability of the Eurozone, as well as fast-tracking measures to stimulate growth and jobs”. This short statement required reading at least three times before I understood what it meant. For such a convoluted explanation of their intentions, I was expecting radical reform, sweeping changes.

Instead, we learn that our European leaders recognise that the stability of the Euro is important, and in an ideal world stimulating growth and jobs would be a bonus – hardly ground-breaking ingenuity.

…Cameron is not willing to commit to changes that a European rescue might require…

In many respects the statement exemplifies the coalition’s half-hearted attitude towards the European Union. If ever there were an example of such calculated fence-sitting it is in the current relationship with Europe.

That the United Kingdom is not part of the Eurozone is perhaps making Cameron’s job more difficult right now. Despite the fact that the collapse of the currency would be disastrous for the economy, Cameron is not willing to commit to changes that a European rescue might require, as they would certainly be a hindrance UK. Apparently making pointless statements such as the aforementioned is a reasonable alternative.

Merkel instead calls for a more unified, collective response from member nations…

Being swept aside

If the UK were part of the Eurozone, Cameron would be taking this crisis more seriously, aligning himself with Angela Merkel rather than seemingly resisting her and clashing over two key issues: Germany’s refusal to allow the ECB to bail out struggling countries and Britain’s refusal to accept a tax on financial transactions, the Robin Hood Tax or Tobin Tax.

As a clear-cut representation of his attitude towards the EU, Cameron doesn’t appear to recognise the need for collective responsibility, the requirement for nations to work together in finding a solution to the crisis. Germany understandably doesn’t want to use the ECB as they already contribute 30% of its funds. Merkel instead calls for a more unified, collective response from member nations, something that Cameron is not willing to do by refusing to accept the Robin Hood Tax because of the effect this will have on foreign investments into the UK.

Investments from China and India would bypass London for New York and Tokyo…

Perhaps Cameron should be applauded for prioritising the UK over Europe, it will certainly win him votes in opinion polls in the short run. But in doing so, he is missing the point entirely over Europe. As Volker Kauder, a member of Merkel’s CDU party has stated, “Our message to the British (is they) cannot be only looking for their own advantages without being ready to make concessions”. Granted, George Osborne and Vince Cable have talked about how suicidal this tax would be on the UK’s economy and they are probably quite right. What they are doing to offer constructive alternatives that do not decimate Germany’s economy is not so clear.

There is no doubt that the financial transactions tax would hinder the City of London’s ability to compete with other international financial centres. Investments from China and India would bypass London for New York and Tokyo, and the UK economy would take a serious hit so it is quite understandable that Cameron and Osbourne oppose it. Surely, this is as clear an indicator as ever that Britain’s future does not lie in the Europe Union. In the short-term the commitment to collective responsibility must be respected and a solution must be found to avoid the effects of the worst debt crisis for centuries, Britain’s economic survival depends on it.

But perhaps Cameron’s deliberate nonchalance up to this point is an indicator that he too resents the EU. What he can gain from it no longer outweighs what a hindrance it has become.

 

About The Author

History undergraduate at King's College London. Main interests in diplomacy and international relations but also enjoy writing about home affairs.

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