Friday, 9 December 2011

Cameron’s premiership defined

Last night the Prime Minister decided enough was enough and vetoed a change to the Lisbon treaty. Britain will now stay outside of any new treaty agreement reached. (Initially alongside Hungary, Sweden and Czech Republic. A briefly held together European gang of four which quickly became one). The 26 other EU states will now to seek their own fiscal agreement involving deep integration around public spending and tax. 

While the finer details are yet to emerge there can be no doubt that this is the defining moment of David Cameron’s premiership. His coalition partners and the Labour party will be deeply unhappy. But how will it resonate with the public? And what exactly has the PM vetoed? At the moment it seems the PM has put Britain firmly outside the tent to borrow an analogy from Lyndon Johnson. 

How this decision reverberates will be crucial to the health of the Coalition. Our Polyglot DPM will be facing some difficult questions from the integrationists in his party over the coming days, weeks and years. He has already said he regrets the lack of a consensus deal and added, “as a lifelong pro-European, I will continue to argue within Government." 

The Labour Party’s initial reaction is to suggest that Cameron has put party before country and that this development is a sign of weakness not strength. They suggest that if the PM had decided to accept new Treaty changes the chances of getting it through Parliament would be almost impossible given the size of the recent Europe rebellion he faced. Ed Miliband claims he would have negotiated a better deal for Britain. At the moment it’s hard to see how without signing up to a new treaty. 

This remains a fluid situation and it is not easy to tell if the PM did the right thing but he has certainly taken a gamble. It will be difficult for the PM to claim "Game, set and match to Britain" for some time. What is clear is that the right wing of the Conservative party will be emboldened and the case for further withdrawal will be pressed hard. It would appear the biggest winners of this treaty rejection are the Euro-sceptics.