Sunday, December 11, 2011

Britain becomes the 'lonely man in Europe'

Prime Minister David Cameron's veto of a European treaty may further isolate Britain and lead to economic chaos in the future, key members of the coalition government have warned.

Speaking on the political shows that dominate Sunday morning's news channels several politicians were vociferous in their criticism of the Tory party leader. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was particularly critical saying that Britain had become "the lonely man in Europe."

"I'm bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last week's summit, precisely because I think now there is a danger that the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the European Union," Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "I don't think that's good for jobs, in the City or elsewhere, I don't think it's good for growth, I don't think it's good for families up and down the country." [FT]

Nick Clegg said he had "told the PM this was bad for Britain," but Cameron appears not to have heeded such advice, and instead followed that of his Eurosceptic backbenchers.

Others both inside and outside the party were also airing their concerns. Former Liberal Democratic Party leader Lord Ashdown described Cameron's actions as "a catastrophically bad move." Business Secretary Vince Cable said it had put Britain "in a bad place."

"I am not criticising the Prime Minister personally," Cable told the Sunday Telegraph, but added that, "Our policy was a collective decision by the coalition. We finished in a bad place."

Meanwhile even some members of Cameron's own party seemed worried about Britain's future with pro-European Ken Clarke calling for a meeting with the PM. However, David Cameron had gone to ground over the weekend, taking refuge in his country retreat, surrounded  by Eurosceptic supporters [Independent].

The strongest voices of condemnation came from the opposition with Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander calling the Prime Minister's veto a sign of weakness. "David Cameron's isolation is a sign of weakness not of strength," he said, adding, "I don't believe it makes sense to wander away from Europe."

"Britain this morning is more isolated than at any point in the 35 years of British membership of Europe," Alexander maintained. "It is not in Britain's national interest for decisions to be taken without us even at the table and it's a direct result of David Cameron spending more time negotiating with his own backbenchers than with our European partners."

Speaking on Sky News the Shadow Foreign Secretary said Cameron had "repeatedly burned bridges" over recent weeks, making any agreement between Britain and Europe less likely. But by cutting Britain off from future negotiations would not be in the country's interests, he said. "You can't negotiate Britain's position in an empty room," Alexander insisted, and said that further isolation would be bad for jobs, exports and Britain's economy.

There are fears amongst some commentators that the situation could even break up the coalition, something which Nick Clegg said would spell "economic disaster" for Britain [Daily Mail].

Nonetheless, there remains a broad sense of jubilation amongst eurosceptics. Polls conducted by at least one British newspaper showed significant support for the Prime Minister's actions. The Mail on Sunday published the results of a poll conducted by Survation which indicated that almost two-thirds of voters thought Cameron was right to back out of the EU accord, while 48% said Britain should leave the EU altogether. Survation interviewed 1,020 people online on the evening of December 9th, and on December 10th just after the summit. A poll by ComRes, carried out just before the summit for the Independent on Sunday, showed 52% of Britons thought the euro crisis provided an ideal opportunity for the UK to leave the EU [Business Week].

Many of Britain's newspapers are Eurosceptic, and there was no shortage of support for Cameron and his stance in Europe [Breitbart]. The Daily Mail lauded the Prime Minister with the headline "The Day He Put Britain First", while the Daily Express speculated Britain was "close to EU exit". The Sun was just as brazen in its anti-European stance with its headline "Up Eurs" [Sky - papers]

The international press was more focused on the economic fallout that patriotic jingoism. "Europe united" the International Herald Tribune proclaimed, "minus one" [IHT - PDF].

"Europe's worst financial crisis in decades is leading to a transformed European Union under German auspices, relying on more federalism and central oversight over national budgets to enforce greater fiscal discipline," the IHT asserted. "Twenty years to the day after European leaders signed the Maastricht Treaty, which formed the basis for the currency union that created the euro, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe was finally closing the circle." And outside that circle is Britain... "the lonely man in Europe".

More reports BBC / Sky News / Telegraph / Guardian / PA / Reuters / Reuters / Reuters / Washington Post

tvnewswatch, London, UK

No comments: