Stiffen the Sinews, Prime Minister
Written by PROF. JULIAN LINDLEY-FRENCH
Dear Prime Minister Cameron,
We are both off to Brussels today. You are going to attend some minor event at which you are expected by your German and French hosts to play a minor bit part. I will be attending (and you will love this) a meeting on the cost benefits of a common European defence policy. Who says our Continental friends lack a sense of humour!
The EU Brussels Summit will be the most important European moment since Maastricht when the Treaty on European Union 1.0 was signed. Over the years it has slowly been expanded and now its tentacles reach into all aspects of British life. Each iteration of Euro-spread has seen a British prime minister draw a line in the sand only for it to be washed away by the oncoming tide of European regulation. Having made its strategic choice not to join the EU-defining single currency back in 1991 Britain’s semi-detachedness is no longer defensible. Either Britain joins the Euro or leaves the Union. There is no middle ground anymore and you must understand that is the reality implicit in this tous azimuths summit.
Indeed, what you will confront in Brussels masquerading as an attempt to save the confounded Euro is an attempt to effectively change the Union into an Empire. You must at all costs resist this. Your premiership depends upon it. What is at stake in Brussels is a precedent over the use of power by two EU member-states via the denial of sovereignty to the rest. This is a defining moment towards which the entire European movement has been travelling since its founding back in 1950.
Sadly, in the spin apparent on the airwaves and in the column inches you have instead decided to retreat and then mask your failure from the British people. You insist that because no formal transfer of power will take place between London and Brussels no referendum need be put to the British people. This is legalistic mumbo-jumbo and you know it. Implicit in fiscal union is a profound shift of power from London to Brussels via Berlin and Paris. The implications of a shift of power are just as fundamental as any formal transfer of power…in fact more so.
You say you will not make any “unreasonable demands” and that this is not the time to negotiate. When will there be a better time to negotiate? Do you think Germany and France are not fighting like mad for their narrow national interest? Of course they are. Indeed, their collective strategy is to a) give the impression that there is no alternative but their joint leadership – there is; and b) to pretend that Britain is irrelevant – Europe’s second or third biggest economy (depending on exchange rates) and largest financial market. And yet you seem to imply that somehow it is not cricket for Britain to fight for its national interest. They will laugh at you in Brussels. As President Sarkozy said this week, “…it is a joke, David”. As you old Etonians would say “play up, Mr Cameron”.
And here is the rub (I will indeed become Shakespearian). Yes, saving the Euro for now is an important mission, but not at the expense of Britain’s sovereign will and strategic influence and you must realise the distinction between the two. This is about power and you must enter that room in Brussels clear in your head that you will not sell Britain’s crown jewels. Indeed, the real mission is not to save the Euro per se, but rather to resolve the financial crisis caused by the appalling duplicity of those who established the single currency. That can only be done at 27. If Berlin and Paris insist on a separate treaty of the 17 Eurozone countries then it is a power grab – pure and simple and should be seen as such. Behind it will be a principle of German and French power leadership in Europe that Britain must resist today just as it has always resisted.
By all means be constructive where you can but in return you must insist on a new relationship for Britain with the EU built on a set of quid pro quos. The more Germany and France insist on other EU member-states ‘opting-in’, the more you must insist on ‘opting-out’. The more EU state sovereignty Berlin and Paris want to bring under their control via the supine European Commission the more you must insist real power is ‘repatriated’ to London. Specifically, you must demand an end to the German and French-inspired Commission attempts to impose their statist ideology on the City of London. You must also insist that the Working Time Directive no longer applies to Britain and all aspects of the Treaty on European Union that deny Britain real control over its borders are also repatriated. Above all, if they go for full exclusion of Britain from all aspects of EU economic governance you must make it perfectly clear that you will call an in-out referendum. For that is what is at stake. The alternative is taxation without representation.
If you think that distasteful and too narrowly self-interested then just go to the web-site of the European Court of Justice. There you will find a page devoted to member-states breaking their treaty obligations when it suits their national interest. Germany has twice as many cases pending before the Court as Britain and France three times as many. For all the talk emerging from Berlin and Paris about the need for ‘discipline’ you can bet your bottom Euro that it will not apply to them. And remember, you have many more friends on this side of the Channel than you seem to realise if for once you can think strategically rather than tactically – your biggest failing. The mere sight of you fighting will galvanise other Europeans thus far intimidated by the German-French fait accompli.
I am not wont to quote Henry V but I think this summit warrants a little paraphrasing, Prime Minister. “In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of ‘jaw’ blows in our ears then imitate the action of the Tiger”.
Stiffen the sinews, Prime Minister.
PS I will let you know how our talks about a common European defence policy get on. Don’t hold your breath!
This article first appeared at Lindley-French’s blog.