Britain and the EU

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In People & Media

Cameron’s use of his veto during the recent summit in Brussels, where he blocked a new treaty to help the Euro crisis may well be the start of a process that will see the UK leaving the EU. However according to The Economist magazine Mr. Cameron played his hand very poorly:

Mr. Cameron’s veto was self-defeating. He may have briefly basked in his backbenchers praise, but if his aim was to protect the city and the single market, he has failed. Both are threatened more by Britain’s absence from the summits of up to 26 leaders that will now take place than by Britain’s participation in a treaty of 27 that placed no constraints on it.

Cameron’s inapt handling of the summit, and subsequent spats with France, are startlingly when one considers that only recently his government signed a strategic military partnership with France. This alliance involves the two countries constructing and operating aircraft carriers together to save funds. It would seem to be irresponsible for a Prime Minister to sign up to such an important strategic partnership and than quickly fall out with the other country involved, especially when there were no issues of national importance at stake, only petty party political ones.

Long term damage for the UK. There are serious dangers as a result of last week for the future of the UK union rather than the EU. Cameron’s bungling will have an impact on Scotland, but Scottish voters are much more pro-European than their cousins to the South. However the Scottish viewpoint was simply ignored by Cameron. Considering the situation from a Scottish perspective, leaving the UK and joining the EU as a separate nation can only enhance their power and influence in the world. Despite what the English tabloids might state, the UK is probably in a much weaker position now. It is a pity as the UK could have instead provided strong leadership which would counteract its growing irrelevance.

The EU. It is doubtful that Cameron’s veto did any long lasting damage to the EU. It has brought matters to a head and confirmed what other countries long suspected; the UK is not a ‘team player’. When urgent action was required to help the European project, the UK government chose to support a small bunch of narrow-minded backbenchers rather than the continent as a whole. A country displaying such a narrow minded strategic vision deserves to be sidelined.

The implications for Ireland. At first glance it may seem better for Ireland that the UK remains a full member of the EU as the only land border we share is with the UK. But this is complicated by the fact that if the UK left the EU, Ireland would have the huge advantage of being the only English speaking and common law country remaining in the EU. This would mean additional inward investment for Ireland. Presumably if the EU continued on a path of closer union, and the UK remained out, many multinational companies could relocate from the UK to Ireland over time. Ireland would still have an input in writing and updating all the necessary EU regulations for goods and services whereas the UK wouldn’t, so presumably British companies would prefer to lobby the Irish government rather than any other EU one, as we share a common language and history. What a change that would be for Ireland, 100 years after independence from the UK!

The nightmare situation, albeit unlikely, for Irish interests would see the UK breaking up, with England leaving the EU and Scotland and Wales joining both the EU and the Euro. They would then be competitors with Ireland for inward investment and thus would have removed the Irish unique selling points for inward investment.

However it is a time of flux and who knows what will happen next.


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