David Cameron may have slipped off a couple of continental Christmas card lists this week. But that’s not bad, it saves trees. He also salvaged the festive feel good factor with Eurosceptic backbenchers, still grumbling into their gin after the EU membership referendum debacle.
Essentially, the Prime Minister used his veto to scupper an otherwise unanimous decision over European treaty reform, aimed (albeit with debatable accuracy) at safeguarding the beleaguered Euro. Not the only leader to voice concerns, David Cameron was, however, the sole signatory out of a potential 27, not to sign up. Boldly putting our money where his mouth is, perhaps, or finding both feet already there?
Very few on this island would really want financial edicts from Brussels. The euro-club has whimsical membership rules, and with some party-goers more solvent than others, it’s likely the bar bill would always be split, regardless of who had been the most thirsty. Worse still, some at the table don’t have a bean, so the major bean counters will either have to compensate, or capitulate. In that instance, if the Euro project falls apart, Cameron’s uncompromising stance will be vindicated. If the Eurozone weathers the storm, however, the bedraggled survivors, and the UKs main trading partners, may well remember who was unwilling to share their wellies when the waters were rising.
What seems curious about the Prime Minister’s mercy mission to protect the City is his timing. Insiders say he waited until the eleventh hour before he flopped his list of demands on the table, allowing virtually no chance of a diplomatic outcome. A congratulatory claret quaffing session at Chequers with his backbenchers was already booked, which seems a trifle previous, as most leaders will have cleared their diaries for a full weekend of well-meaning waffle. Not our David. He said he would play, but only if he could pick the ref, choose the ball, move the goalposts, and their mums had to wash the kit. No surprise then that he was in a taxi by 5am, and with a festively frosty Angel Merkel to keep him company… Oh, to have been the driver.
The headlines heralded a differing domestic reaction, loosely split on party lines, but also founded on how diluted you like your British Bulldog spirit. No man is an island, but this week one man represented ours, and burnt some pretty big bridges. Time will tell if we needed them.
A major sour taste in Cameron’s mouth was the proposed financial transaction tax, and with good reason, few enjoy chipping in for a meal they have little chance of eating. We know. Many of us have not so far relished the increase in VAT, and look set to derive less pleasure still from the austerity buffet served up to pay down the deficit resulting from the banking crisis, and successive governments failure to regulate the financial services industry.
The Prime Minister was committed to protecting the City, granted, it contributes around 10% of the UK tax income. Parents also want to protect their children, but that doesn’t mean giving them the car keys. Of course, they might say if you don’t let them play with power tools on the motorway they’ll move to Hong Kong. But that assumes that their wives’ happiness, kids’ education, and quality of life as they know it, is entirely up for sale for a slightly better percentage. If that were so, I wouldn’t trust them with the cars keys at any age.