David Cameron’s “I am a Eurosceptic, honestly” remarks in the aftermath of the EU summit last week were uttered in a plaintive tone. As though the PM realized that he had been rolled over by experts and no amount of spin about the EU budget could cover up the fact. The attempt to present the securing of a 2.9% increase in the budget as a victory wasn’t wholly convincing. It’s the kind of figure Germany and France were always going to demand, against the 6% wanted by Europhile elements in the European parliament. But more intriguing, and more likely to cause Cameron trouble longer-term with the breed of younger Tory eurosceptics in London that is currently displacing an old-guard that doesn’t seem to have got very far advancing its cause in the last two decades, is the opportunity he has missed on reshaping the EU.
Cameron’s priority on Europe has been, as it has been throughout his leadership, that it shouldn’t flare up and cause him a problem. In coalition with the Lib-Dems, he now has even more reason to avoid the issue. Around him are former Eurosceptics, such as William Hague, who are prepared to go along with the European project (as currently constituted) in return for a quiet life and the perks of office.
But it’s been obvious for a while that the tectonic plates are shifting in the EU. The sovereign debt crisis was only dealt with because Germany agreed to underwrite the temporary arrangements put in place to allow for a bail-out. Angela Merkel was always going to come back and demand that permanent arrangements be put in place, and that other members of the single currency start to play by German rules…Last week Cameron indicated that Merkel could get the changes she wanted to Lisbon etc, in return for… er, nothing…
I’m not one of those who subscribe to the idea that Mr. Cameron is some sort of closet europhile, but I am one of those who believes that when it comes to dealing with Britain’s ‘partners’ in the EU, the prime minister is hopelessly, shamefully out of his depth.
And this is the politician who some Republicans see as a model for a reshaped GOP? Remarkable.