What’s gotten into you? Cameron laat het uit zijn handen vallen

11 december 2011

Het was weer een stevige week, met een mooie combinatie van activiteiten. Branchebrede kwaliteit, strategisch beleidsadvies, HRO; alle kernthema's van dit moment kwamen weer langs. En deels onverwacht: ook de politiek. Verwacht: Asje van Dijk, voormalig gedeputeerde van Zuid-Holland werd geïnstalleerd als burgemeester van Barneveld. Gefeliciteerd! Onverwacht: een andere gedeputeerde werd genoemd als minister. In een procedure die tot nu toe vooral uitblinkt in onzorgvuldigheid, maakt het dat ik er niet op zal reageren voordat echt alles wel of niet definitief is, maar dan kom ik.

En ondertussen is er natuurlijk deze week ook nog iets gebeurd dat om commentaar schreeuwt: het uit het verband stappen van Groot-Brittannië. Ik ben een groot fan van Cameron, maar nu vind ik dat hij het uit zijn handen heeft laten vallen - met enorme gevolgen. In de jaren 2002 - 2010 heb ik met enige regelmaat gepubliceerd op de website Conservativehome. Mede op verzoek van die redactie gaf ik vanuit Nederlands perspectief regelmatig commentaar op de positie van de Conservatives. ik stopte ermee rond de tijd dat zij de regering inkwamen en wij er zo'n beetje uit donderden. Vandaag heb ik weer een tekst ingezonden. Of ze hem plaatsen weet ik niet, want de site vertegenwoordigde altijd al de anti-Europese vleugel. Maar goed, ik moest het kwijt. Hieronder de (Engelstalige) tekst. Daaronder, voor de liefhebbers, een inbreng van Andrew Lilico op conservativehome, waarin hij een aantal intrigerende vragen stelt over de opties die de Britten nu hebben om op door te gaan. Een nieuw 'Brussel'?

What's gotten into you? Dutch despair at British tactics

We are natural allies. When push comes to shove, the Dutch and their governments have almost always preferred the alliance with the British above one with either the Germans or the French. It is less than two weeks that we saw a great photograph of Mr. Cameron and Mr. Rutte, our prime minister, talking with each other on board of a train and in complete accord with each other.

Last Friday Mr. Rutte emerged from the Europe top looking cool and collected. Asked about the English position, he simply said: ‘They asked too much’. And just like that, the alliance was over.

And not just with the Dutch. Even the Hungarians did not go with you in the end. If there has been one country in favor of a large EU, it has been Britain. You pushed for it, even though many would have preferred a slower integration. With 27 countries, you probably thought that would dilute the power of the other big countries. And now you are the country outside the group. Who do you think to impress with that? What are you doing it for?

In the press, the reason that was mentioned most was the way London as a financial center was threatened by extra oversight measures. Cameron came as the champion of the City. Really? If so, that starts off as a public relations disaster. All too obvious in the eyes of the European audience the City has not mended its way since the banking crisis of 2008. The champagne started flowing again, bonuses were given, many of them earned with betting against Greece and other weak countries. Even if, like me, you recognize the need for a well-functioning open market for financial services, the City still seems a place that has not learned its lessons. And on behalf of that City Mr. Cameron comes riding into Brussels? I am really, really worried that it will turn out to be more than a public relations disaster. Early Friday morning I tweeted that ‘if I were a banker I would start making my career in Frankfurt instead of London.’ Reading the media over the weekend, I am worried that the move by Britain’s government will in the end have more impact than Black Monday had. Britain can do without the Pound; London cannot do without a City.

In a way you played into the hands of the Germans when you played this financial card. The fear of the Germans is ultimately not about inflation, it is about ‘moral hazard’. Certainly Frau Merkel’s outlook is Christian-democratic, not liberal. The liberals won't thank me for saying this; but it is about taking care of the next generation, not just of tomorrow. Aligning yourself with the City underscored that the British are not facing up to that hazard. In a way it emphasized that this is a battle of two rationalities: a political rationale versus a financial market one. If so, Britain placed itself on the wrong side in the eyes of the main parties, along the way making it possible for France to strengthen its ties to Germany. By not being a member any more of the EPP, Mr. Cameron was not there when the real discussion were held at the EPP-meeting in Marseille in the two days leading up to Brussels. Representatives of the Dutch Christian-democratic party delegation mentioned intense exchanges while in Marseille. Your point of view could not be expressed. Mr. Cameron set himself up for a disappointment that could have been prevented.

The struggle for Europe and the role of the Euro as its coin is far from over. There is a realistic scenario in which Britain watches while the rest of Europa sinks in a monetary abyss. If so, damage will still be severe, but the British will probably be spared the direct impact of a defaulting European economy. But that is poor comfort when we all know how interconnected our economies and legal systems have become. I would dearly have Britain around in order to safe Germany from its own rectitude. Austerity may save wealth, it does not create it. But for the moment I do believe Frau Merkel will have history at her side. Which I think is a good thing too. But the truth is; the Netherlands will always need the alliance with Britain to foster free trade and stay true to cross-Atlantic policies within the European context. And speaking from my own perspective, and as I’m convinced many of my countryman, Britain has always been seen as much more of an example to us than any other country. I cannot help but feel that early Friday morning Mr. Cameron walked away from that.

Peter Noordhoek

Andrew Lllico; A few questions about our new European arrangements

Okaaay. Well, that's set the cat amongst the pigeons. A few questions, in no particular order:

  1. Are we going to buckle in a couple of weeks, and sign up despite the show last night?
  2. Having been so adamant that we had to have an opt-out from financial regulation that we vetoed a Treaty, but not got such an opt-out, what will happen next time an EU Directive we don't agree with something in comes before Parliament for passing? Will we pass it or not? Can the government really vote in favour of such a Directive having exercised a veto to try to resist? But if it doesn't pass, aren't we in violation of the Treaty?
  3. Can the Eurozone Plus group use the institutions of the EU, such as the Commission and European Court of Justice, without our say-so? And yet, since these things are all physically located in Eurozone Plus group countries, how can we, as a matter of practicality, prevent this?
  4. If we don't sign up and won't pass Directives and can't control the EU institutions, have we now de facto been ejected from the EU, or have we de facto renegotiated out relationship with the EU, or have we de facto ejected the other 23 Members from the EU?
  5. If the "EU" now really consists of us, Hungary, the Czechs and perhaps the Swedes, will we be asking the Norwegians and Icelanders to join soon?
  6. If the EU is now just us four, what is the new name for the EU bogeyman? It presumably can't be "Brussels" any more, since Belgium isn't in our slimmed-down EU. Should we move Brussels somewhere - Prague, perhaps?
  7. Also, what's the right name for the "EU4"? "Europe" seems a bit grand for such a small proportion of the continent. Shouldn't we rename it "The Fourth British Empire" or something?
  8. Couldn't this have been avoided if Cameron had renegotiated properly at an earlier stage? (I think so.) Surely if we'd sought a proper renegotiation during the 2010 Treaty amendment negotiations, matters could have been sorted more amicably?
  9. How signed up are the Lib Dems to this, really? And if they' are prepared to go along with us de facto leaving the EU (or whatever we call this) "on the hoof", why couldn't they have gone along with a properly planned renegotiation?
  10. How stable is the new Eurozone Plus group? Do the Bulgarians really believe the Germans are ever letting them into the euro? If the UK can be de facto kicked out of the EU, why not others - how long does anyone expect the Greeks to stay in?
  11. Will any of these questions be resolved before the euro collapses totally? Does the new Treaty really provide a basis for saving the euro?
  12. Will the SNP now call a snap referendum on Independence, arguing that Scotland should be in the Eurozone Plus Group rather than the Fourth British Empire?
  13. Do we need a referendum on being kicked out of the EU, to see whether the British voter accepts that? Or is it okay to present that as a done deal? Might the British voter want the chance to un-veto British participation in the new Treaty?
  14. What is the Labour Party's policy on any of this? And does anyone, frankly, care?

(Conservativehome, 11-12-2011)

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