I think the paper is underestimating the deep and powerful forces that will push back against any departure of the Britain from the EU. As David Cameron himself said, “Of course this does represent a change in our relationship. But the core of the relationship—the single market, the trade and the investment, the growth, the jobs that we want to see—that remains as it was.”
Still, the forthright rejection of an EU treaty by a member—and a major member at that, and against the strong pressure of the other EU members—is a historic first, opening up new possibilities.
Consider this angle. Though Liberal Democratic leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg supports Cameron’s move, many Liberal Democrats are “outraged” by it. It seems likely that the party could ultimately threaten to quit the governing coalition over the issue. However, that would not necessarily cow Cameron into yielding. He might well calculate that the Lib-Dems’ exit from the government would be balanced by the huge increase of support Cameron would receive if he maintained his anti-fiscal union stand.
BRITAIN CLOSE TO EU EXIT
Saturday December 10 2011 by Macer Hall
BRITAIN took a massive step towards quitting the EU yesterday when David Cameron defeated a bid by Brussels for more power.
In a historic stand that plunges our membership into serious doubt, he became the first British PM to veto an EU treaty.
It is a significant victory for the Daily Express Crusade for the UK to exit the European bureaucracy.
The PM declared at the end of a bitter summit row in the Belgian capital yesterday: “I think I did the right thing for Britain. We were offered a treaty that didn’t have proper safeguards for Britain and I decided it was not right to sign that treaty.”
His defiant “no” in the face of a bullying Franco-German plot won widespread applause last night. And jubilant Tories insisted that the rift with the Brussels bureaucracy now makes a referendum on our EU membership unavoidable.
Tory MPs were last night understood to be preparing a “hero’s welcome” for the Prime Minister when he returns to the Commons on Monday.
Mr Cameron said his decision to block the bid for a powerful new “economic government” in a treaty binding all 27 EU nations was essential to protect Britain’s interests.
It raised the prospect that Britain will be isolated by standing alone outside a new continental bloc dominated by the 17 eurozone nations. Embittered Eurocrats were understood last night to be plotting “revenge attacks” on Britain.
One EU official snapped: “This is going to cost the UK dearly. They have antagonised everyone.”
But Eurosceptics hope that the dramatic developments will mark the start of the unravelling of Britain’s ties to Brussels.
Senior Tory MP Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said: “I hope this is the beginning of a robust new Euroscepticism in the Government. This makes an EU referendum far more likely.”
Former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “We are seeing a new balance of power in Europe arising out of the eurozone crisis and we are also seeing how the French and Germans intend to use it—pretty forcefully in their own interests and ignoring the interests of others.
“David Cameron has to protect Britain against that, he did exactly the right thing.”
The summit collapsed in rancour in the early hours of yesterday morning after EU leaders refused to accept Mr Cameron demands for “safeguards” to protect Britain’s interests in the treaty overhaul.
Fraught negotiations at the summit in Brussels dragged on for more than 10 hours until breaking up at 4.41 am. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had championed sweeping new powers for Brussels to help shore up the struggling euro, including penalties for countries that run up massive debts and strict Brussels scrutiny over national budgets.
Mr Cameron had offered to back the treaty changes in return for guarantees that would protect British interests such as the City of London.
But sources said the exchanges became heated as the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to surrender.
At one stage, a furious Mr Sarkozy was said to have been physically restrained by aides after losing his temper.
Mr Sarkozy said: “We were not able to accept (the British demands) because we consider quite the contrary—that a very large and substantial amount of the problems we are facing around the world are a result of lack of regulation of financial services and therefore can’t have a waiver for the United Kingdom.”
And in a swipe after the summit, Chancellor Merkel said: “I didn’t think David Cameron sat with us at the table. We had to get some sort of agreement and we couldn’t make compromises, we had to meet tough rules. But that won’t deter Europe on other issues.”
Mr Cameron insisted that he remained committed to keeping Britain in the EU. But he also made clear he was ready to consider withdrawal if our new relationship with Brussels threatens British interests.
“The membership is in our interests and I’ve always said if that’s the case I’ll support our membership,” he said. “Of course this does represent a change in our relationship. But the core of the relationship—the single market, the trade and the investment, the growth, the jobs that we want to see—that remains as it was.”
He ruled out a referendum, arguing it was unnecessary as Britain had not signed up to a new treaty. But he acknowledged it was unprecedented for a British PM to veto an EU treaty.
He admitted he had faced relentless pressure to back down from other EU leaders. “You are obviously in a room with 26 other people who are saying ‘put aside your national interest, go along with the crowd, do what will make life easy and comfortable with you there in that room’, but you say no.” Even some Labour MPs yesterday acknowledged that Mr Cameron’s refusal to surrender could ultimately spell the end for the EU.
Former Labour Europe minister Denis MacShane said: “There is now little point in Britain staying in the EU.” But London Mayor Boris Johnson, who joined the call for a referendum earlier this week, said: “David Cameron has played a blinder and he has done the only thing that it was really open to him to do.”
But Labour risked losing touch with millions of voters yesterday after leader Ed Miliband said: “It’s a terrible outcome for Britain because we are going to be excluded from key economic decisions that will affect our country in the future.”
Deputy PM Nick Clegg backed the PM’s position but many Eurofanatic Lib Dem MPs were outraged.