I’m not sure what to think yet of David Cameron’s decision this morning to withdraw Britain from the new financial system being put in place in Europe. I’m deliberately not using the phrase ‘wielding his veto’, partly because the news is rather over-using it today and partly because, as the Economist has pointed out, vetoing something means stopping something from happening. That isn’t what he has done, because the rest of Europe has just carried on without us. So it’s not really a veto.
In many ways I am sad to see the UK become less integrated with Europe. I don’t want our country to become isolated and to lose influence on the global stage by returning to being a single nation, even if we are above averagely rich. I have always been proud to be a European, and proud of our status as one of the ‘more important’ European countries with more financial and military clout than some of the others.
At the same time, I have never regretted that we didn’t join the euro. At the time it was set up (I was a bit young to understand it properly), my view was that it wasn’t sensible to tie our fairly strong economy to that of other weaker countries, and to lose one of the strongest currencies in the world in the name of integration. Although I didn’t know much more about it than that, the last few years seem to have proved me correct in some regards, as not being too closely bound to the economy of Greece hasn’t seemed like a bad thing at all, and having our own currency gives us more economic options than they have had (such as devaluation). So I still don’t regret that we didn’t join the euro, not at all.
While I am sad that some people see this as the start of our withdrawal from Europe, I also wonder about what the effects would have been if David Cameron had said yes. Greater control of our budgets by a European authority; penalties for running too high a deficit; closer links to other countries whose economies may yet implode. I wouldn’t have been very happy about any of those. So it seems like regardless of what the outcome of last night’s negotiations had been, I still would have found something to be upset about.
And although President Sarkozy has implied that the Brits were being pig-headed and selfish, I can’t help but feel that the French have always been quick to ignore any EU regulations that they didn’t feel suited them, knowing full well that they were too important to be properly punished by the rest. This deal is much more beneficial for France than it is for the UK, so of course he was going to try to ram it through.
There isn’t very much we can do now other than wait and watch the other nations thrash it out, and wonder what role we’ll end up having at the end. It is a shame though that compared to yesterday I already feel a little less European.