By Volkhonsky Boris
A rift between the UK and the EU following the decision by British Prime Minister David Cameron to veto EU treaty changes has hit the headlines.
The decision of the UK to isolate itself has not come as a surprise. Britain became part of the European Union later than the other leading European economies. So far, it has not joined the euro-zone or the Schengen zone. But still it was the first time for the past 29 years when British Prime Minister has used his right for veto. What pressed him to do so? And what will the consequences of this decision be?
The European leaders came to Brussels on the 8th and 9th of December to discuss the deteriorating monetary and financial system of the European Union. The ravaging crisis hit Greece, then spread to Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal, and is now hanging over the leading economies of Germany and France.
The European Union had two options. It should have either renounced the introduction of the single currency as a failure, or it should have attempted to speed up the integration which would strengthen bureaucratic ties between the member states. In the second case, the European Union would turn into a federation with every member state delegating part of its sovereign power to some supernational bureaucratic structure. This would mean that the leaders of the European Union would have the opportunity to impose their will on the rest of the members.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Nicolas Sarcozy managed to twist the arms of the small states, but failed to do the same with the UK. First, that was because the UK, which is not part of the euro-zone, has been hit by the crisis less severely. Britain is unwilling to bail out Greece and other distressed economies. Secondly, the very fact of delegating some powers to the European Union functionaries would be completely at odds with the British traditions.
Besides, no one can predict how efficient these measures of rigorous control would really be. Many analysts say such measure would only be able to delay the failure of the system. But when it is finally there, the effects of it would be much more devastating than if the euro-zone abolished the euro right now. In any case, the intents voiced by the EU to fine those states that will go beyond the budget cap are strange. As if the fines could solve the problem.
So Mr. Cameron has the legitimate right to say that he vetoed treaty changes because they were not in the UK’s national interests. According to the latest polls, about 57 percent of the British are supporting the Prime Minister on this issue.
Yet his use of the UK’s veto in Brussels has strained the relations between his Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat coalition allies.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was absent from the Commons on Monday when the prime minister updated the MPs on Friday’s EU summit and on his reasons for using the UK’s veto to block EU-wide treaty changes. The opposition claimed that the prime minister had not been able to persuade his own deputy”. Mr Clegg said afterwards he “would have been a distraction” if he had been there.
Yet the question remains. What will the policy of a government uniting Euro-pessimists and staunch supporters of the European integration be in the future? Trying to keep the coalition intact, Mr. Cameron will make some concessions from time to time. The growing anti-European sentiment in the UK could lead to even more anti-European forces accessing the power in the future. This could result in the EU’s breakup and in Britain’s further isolation.