Cameron’s reluctance to agree to changes in the EU treaty without receiving a rather limited quid pro quo in return has outraged many in the EU’s ruling class, and the pushback has begun.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph Bruno Waterfield has some details:
Martin Schulz, the German MEP who will become the president of the European Parliament early next year, predicted that Britain could be forced to quit the EU.
“I doubt in the long term whether Britain will stay in the EU…The EU can, if necessary, do without Britain, but Britain would have more difficulty without the EU.”
As a reminder, Britain’s net annual contributions to the EU stood at around $15 billion in 2010.
To understand the sort of man that Schulz is, let’s look back at one of his earlier appearances in the Corner, which included this extract from a story by Daniel Hannan back in 2009:
Last year, a Dutch anti-corruption MEP called Paul Van Buitenen reported widespread malpractice in the use of MEPs’ allowances. Some of the behaviour he had unearthed, he said, would result in criminal convictions. The Parliament’s response? To repress the whole story. “We’d like to publish the report,” said one official, “but if we did, no one would vote in the European elections.” And so the two big groups, the European People’s Party led by Joseph Daul and the Party of European Socialists led by Martin Schulz, voted to forbid publication.
But back to Waterfield:
Elmar Brok, a senior German Christian Democrat MEP close to Chancellor Merkel, said the EU “must now marginalise Britain, so that the country comes to feel its loss of influence”.
This is, of course, the same Elmar Brok who reportedly threatened the Irish with “disastrous consequences” if they did not agree to a re-vote on the Lisbon Treaty, the same Elmar Brok who (Daniel Hannan reported earlier this year) was keen that a new Eurozone bailout mechanism should be designed in the way that it could be approved “without referendums in certain member states”, and the same Elmar Brok who allegedly faced a spot of bother from his local tax authorities until (phew!) the EU parliament granted him immunity.
And then, writes Waterfield, there’s this fellow:
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the Green MEPs in the European Parliament, which has “co-decision” powers over EU financial services legislation, has called for an offensive against the City.
“Now, we must put pressure on the British and force them, by implementing tough regulations on financial markets, to decide if they want out of the EU or if they want to stay inside,” he told Der Spiegel.
Cohn-Bendit is, of course, the “Dany le Rouge” who emerged as one of the key leaders of France’s May 1968 revolt. He may have since changed his political color (sort of), but he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is still not too keen on that whole democratic nation-state thing. To take one example from many, back in 2004 he argued for a pan-EU plebiscite on the proposed EU constitution on the grounds that some pesky small countries might dare to hold things up. His plebiscite was, he argued, “the only way to move away from the principle of unanimity, which will lead to a blockage…we are now in a situation in which Luxembourg, Malta or Cyprus could block the whole EU.” That, of course, would never do.
That Cameron now finds himself opposed by thugs like Brok, Cohn-Bendit and Schulz should, if nothing else, reassure him that he has right on his side. It also ought to alarm citizens in other EU nations who may not like the direction in which this saga is heading.
Growing popular hostility to the EU across Europe might come to Britain’s aid. Democratic obstacles to the Euro-Plus treaty are beginning to materialise in Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Denmark, while parliamentary opposition in Finland, Latvia and the Czech Republic may also sink the deal.
“Might” remains the operative word, but still…