Hara-kiri, British style

December 12, 2011

The opinions expressed are his own.

The UK’s self-immolation beggars belief. The government’s clumsy attempt to extract concessions from euro zone countries in their time of need has set off a chain reaction which could undermine Britain’s interests and even drive it out of the European Union.

It’s not clear what David Cameron thought he was doing at the European summit in the early hours of Dec. 9 when he demanded vetoes on financial regulation in the EU. Was the prime minister asking for something he knew was unacceptable so that he could return to Britain and parade as a hero in front of the euroskeptics in his Conservative Party? Or did he just vastly overestimate his negotiating position, thinking that the euro zone countries were so desperate to save their single currency that he could bounce them into accepting the British demands by presenting them with a take-it-or-leave-it offer in the middle of the night? If it was the former, Cameron was cynically putting his personal interests above those of the nation; if the latter, he was just extraordinarily inept.

Cameron did little to win allies for his position, not even circulating his list of proposals in advance of the summit, according to Reuters. Even worse, he put Britain in the position of seemingly being prepared to blow up the single currency if he didn’t get his way. In fact, Cameron didn’t have the power to stop the 17 euro zone countries from agreeing to sign a new treaty committing themselves to fiscal discipline. They just sidestepped the existing EU treaty. What’s more, they got all nine of the other countries which are part of the EU but not the single currency to sign up too. So all Cameron achieved in the middle of the night was to irritate Britain’s partners massively and isolate the UK 26-1.

Where does London go from here? One approach would be for Cameron to carry out his next threat: to try to stop the euro zone countries from using the European Commission and the European Court of Justice to police their fiscal discipline on the grounds that these institutions belong to all 27 countries. It’s not clear whether this is a legally winnable position, but pushing it would certainly make Britain look petty and further antagonize other European countries.

Meanwhile, members of Cameron’s euroskeptic wing will find it hard to hide their desire to see the single currency wrecked — something that could further madden those whose livelihood depend on it.

Unnecessary battle

None of this was remotely necessary. The euro zone countries weren’t trying to impose fiscal discipline on Britain, only on themselves. In fact they weren’t trying to impose anything on the UK. True, France has often seemed like it wanted to undermine the City of London’s position as a financial center. But until now, it has had zero success because the UK has always managed to assemble enough allies to support its position. In future, though, that can no longer be guaranteed. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy may find he has allies if he wants to push through regulations that disadvantage what he calls his “British friends.” The risk of an inner club acting as a caucus and imposing its wishes on the UK has increased significantly.

The danger extends beyond financial services. Britain has been the main campaigner for free markets within the EU in recent decades. Although it hasn’t achieved everything it wanted, there have been notable successes such as creation of the so-called single market. Germany which, in some ways, is closer to Britain than France in its economic thinking supported these initiatives. But Angela Merkel isn’t going to be so keen to do the UK favors after Cameron snubbed her. The same goes for Italy, whose new prime minister Mario Monti, was a natural ally for liberalization given his passionate advocacy of the single market.

The British PM, meanwhile, has been reduced to the pathetic position of saying that the Netherlands, a fine but rather small country, will protect its interests in the single market. But even the Dutch finance minister has said: “The situation for the UK is very serious…..If you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t participate.”

The biggest worry is that a vicious cycle develops — in which the euro zone squeezes the UK off the top table because of its lack of cooperation, London behaves increasingly like a spoiled brat because it is frustrated by its lack of influence, and this further antagonizes the big continental powers. Life could ultimately become so uncomfortable that Britain leaves the EU.  It would then lose the automatic right of access to the world’s largest  market. Although the rest of Europe might still let British business and finance operate on its side of the English Channel, it would largely dictate the rules of engagement.

Such an outcome would be disastrous for the City, British industry and UK foreign policy. Why would the United States, China, the Middle East and India want to deal with London if it had no friends in Europe? It would also be harder to persuade foreign business to locate in the UK if it had only second-class access to the single market.

Not all lost

But it’s not too late to retrieve the situation. The business and financial community can and should put pressure on government to find some face-saving position that allows Britain to move on in harmony with the rest of Europe. Something along the following lines might work: the UK would reverse its opposition to the existing EU mechanisms being used to enforce fiscal discipline on the euro countries while also saying how much it wanted to support them in their time of need; the other countries would then say how what they were doing would in no way undermine the single market while also asserting that they had no intention of imposing any new taxes on the UK, including the so-called Tobin tax on financial transactions, unless London wanted them. The euro zone wouldn’t actually be giving anything away as the UK already has a veto on new taxes. But such a declaration would sound good.

Getting to such a position wouldn’t be easy given that Cameron would have to eat his words and France would have to be persuaded to let Britain back into the fold. But Sarkozy may no longer be France’s president in five months; and the UK government may not be totally impervious to argument.

One pressure point are the Liberal Democrats, the minority partners in the coalition. They think of themselves as pro-Europeans and are aghast at Britain’s far from splendid isolation. Their leader, Nick Clegg, who is also the deputy prime minister, foolishly backed Cameron’s negotiating strategy without thinking through how it was likely to play out. He has now performed a U-turn, saying he is “bitterly disappointed” at the outcome. That, of course, is not the same as leaving the coalition. The LibDems will be reluctant to go down that route because they are scared of being slaughtered if there is a new election. But the chances of a collapse of the government have definitely risen.

Another pressure point, paradoxically, may be Boris Johnson, the euroskeptic Mayor of London. Cameron may well have hardened his line on Europe because he didn’t want to be outflanked by Johnson, a hugely popular figure in the Conservative Party. But the summit’s outcome isn’t in the interest of the City and therefore isn’t in the interest of London. If bankers can bring this point home to Johnson, who is an old friend of mine and whom I informally advise from time to time, he may soften his line — allowing Cameron to take a more accommodating position too.

Salvaging the situation will be tricky. But Britain doesn’t have an interest in being at loggerheads with the rest of Europe or vice versa — especially when the region’s worst financial crisis in a lifetime is still raging.

PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (C) looks at Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) at a European Union summit in Brussels December 9, 2011.  REUTERS/Yves Herman


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A sane analysis Mr. Dixons is. Bagehots blog in the Economist throws some further light on the PM’s odd behaviour: what a way to handle a nations destiny.

The EU has much work to do as it is, so why not treat the subsequent political travails with Tory extremists and dissapearing Libdems as strictly local news, unimportant but for those directly affected?

Posted by Beethoven | Report as abusive

Your suggestion for a face-saver is a good one. But the idea that Cameron blundered is politically naive in the extreme. If he’d come back with a treaty to sign without very visible concessions he’d never have got it through parliament or a referendum. Nor would he be seeing massive public approval for his actions.

Certainly there are some risks in the present situation, but there are no risk-free options at present. At least if it all goes wrong in the EuroZone he won’t be blamed.

Meanwhile reflect on the fact that the Eurozone is currently about 22% of world Top 30 GDP but in 2050 it will be about 12% (according to HSBC forecasts). The Anglosphere will maintain its present 37%. East Asia will rise from 23% to 36%.

Go figure.

Posted by NBeale | Report as abusive

Excellent and understated. Cameron looked looked politically motivated prior to the UK’s last general elections, and he looks politically motivated now. Politics first, principle second… So perhaps sufficient political pressure, and sufficient reflection during daylight hours after a good night’s sleep, will open some room for Cameron to partially reverse his position… If not, then I fear that Britain may be heading for another 10-20 years of kicking, screaming and shouting, before finally joining the “European club” again, like they did when the community was first created. I hope it doesn’t come to this, but a decade or two of being properly shut out from the negotiating room would probably be enough to show the British why they need a good attitude toward their neighbours…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Both the article and other posts seem to take for granted that full integration of European countries is a desirable goal. I am an Englishman in Prague and they do things differently here. For example, bureaucrats take great pride in being as unhelpful and as unpleasant as possible. Czech friends assure me that this is a hangover from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, somewhat reinforced by half a century of communism.

The European Union is, essentially, a bureaucracy. Democratic control is minimal and the overweening nature of the institution grows daily. Like many others, I can see benefits in free movement of goods in Europe but see no reason to encourage the mania for further integration. The price in lost freedom is simply too high.

Of course, those who have been bitten by the Eurobug love to tell scare-stories about the howling desert Britain will become if it doesn’t say ‘yes’ to every new Europlan. But thank God we did not adopt the Euro!

So let’s acknowledge that there is a very substantial and well-informed political movement in Britain to preserve our libertarian norms, which are so alien to much of Europe. Somehow, according to supporters of further integration, now is _never_ the right moment to say ne plus ultra. But from the sceptic’s viewpoint, some sort of resistance to the juggernaut is long overdue.

However convinced the integrationists are that they are the ‘insiders’ whose world-view will inevitably prevail, many of us perceive a growing revolt everywhere against these supposed ‘elites’ who, at the moment, seem to be leading Europe into a major economic depression. I think that soon the tumbrils will [figuratively?] be rolling for the wannabe aristocrats of the United States of Europe. How very richly they deserve their fate.

Posted by JohnWL | Report as abusive

Maybe I’m dense, but why do all the Euroskeptic Brits say ‘thank god we didn’t switch to the Euro’? Because there is something bad in a currency that has risen from US$0.70 to $1.35 whilst the pound has fallen from $2.25 to $1.50? Oh right, a drastically falling currency is a strength in this market b/c it means you can export better. Well wtf does the UK export except crap cars and scheming financiers?

The loss of freedom argument doesn’t hold water either, because the only overriding laws that the Masstricht and Lisbon treaties tried to imposed were to limit the size of govt budget deficits. If those laws were ACTUALLY imposed there might not even be the mess we have now!

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

The ultimate revenge Europe could take on British Conservatives would be to choose Tony Blair as their next president.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Of the two alternatives: political aggrandizement or ineptitude – the former appears to the logical. The underlying question: which self interest is driving an obvious strategic misstep? Need we go further than the self-interest of the financial industry and those who promote it?

Posted by OFA7 | Report as abusive

Thank you for such a clear appraisal , of a situation that looks almost unsolvable .
We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t . I think its wrong for Brussels to be able to impose it’s laws on countries that are many miles away . We need to look clearly what this is doing to people on the ground . The feedback from Greece is very distrubing , the fiscal Austerity measures that are being imposed on Greece and will also be imposed on other EU countries soon are doing alot of damage . The fact that we are in this terribly debt crisis in Europe , United Kingdom , America . Has to be firmly and directly attributed to the workings of the financial institutions especially the American ones . The Fiscal restraints that the EU members are asking for make sense , the overall spread of the debts are to wide and to deep in the system to unravel all in one go , this will take many years to sort out .
The national sovereignty of member states , now seems to be directly tied up and related to there being a member of the Euro , this has sinister undertones and , i can understand the sceptics in this country which has a history of defending itself from European dominance , be it Spain , France , Germany .
Its Ingrained in the British mentality to mistrust and fear European dominance , in any way shape or form . It only works for us when we can buy our second homes abroad , enjoy a strong pound and have a good time in warmer climates .
But this issue also has negative comebacks for the UK as a whole , if we kick those closest to us and think we can just go it alone then we might as well haul the anchor up now and just drift in the colder regions of the planet .
Its the ineptitude of Cameron , Osbourne as diplomats and smart politicians that sickens me , he would as your article pointed out got everything he wanted ,and still be friends ready to Parle another time with the team from France and Germany over a truly delightful supper of the best of British , and he in turn would of been asked to come back for the Foie Gras and the oeuf Anglais . Instead he’s made enemies at a time when we all need to help one another .
It must be something to do with that good old English Public school attitude , it’s the stuff we don’t need to much of right now .

Posted by pundit1 | Report as abusive

To CDN_Rebel, Amen and thank you. I am so tired of the “euroskeptics” from the UK.

Posted by ofilha | Report as abusive

Never underestimate your enemy’s ability to make as many or more mistakes than you. Cameron is a fool, and a clumsy one at that, but the points about the increased concentration of power in Brussels are on target. But 24 countries beyond France and Germany are now going to find it hard to live with their new owners, and they know the benefit of having a counter to that alliance (even assuming that Germany doesn’t eventually slash France’s throat). This latest is a marriage under duress, it will not be a happy one, nor one that will last.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

All it means is if the financial industry doesn’t get it’s way, they’ll set up shop in Asia and do the same thing. They just need to go somewhere where they have a license to steal.
Unregulated finance is killing the global economy just to keep a few insiders rich.

Posted by guillone | Report as abusive

I guess Turkey could be the next runner up!

Posted by Intriped | Report as abusive

Cameron and Osborne are useless.

They fail to compare favourably to Gordon Brown.

Even Ed Milliband looks like a better bet.

A truly bizarre performance from Cameron. While the pools might look good now wait until a factory closes because of our isolation.

Euro philes/realists should push for an in out referendum. Britons may describe themselves as Eurosceptic, they do NOT vote for eurosceptic governments

Posted by Dafydd | Report as abusive

Right. Cameron pales in comparison to Eurosocialist Gordon Brown, the guy the Brits just voted out for expanding the welfare state and pushing the UK closer to bankruptcy. At least Cameron has a spine. Where is Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

Posted by PeterLocke65 | Report as abusive

May I as a citizen of Europe just say that I hate what is being done to my country by the EU and that we never signed up to this. I am deeply unhappy with the Merkozy steamroller and I doubt it will survive a vote by any Euro country. Although our economy currently depends upon ECB handouts I never want to surrender our sovereignty without a vote to do so. The British PM has made a brave move – and I thought a veto meant that the plan was thrown out – not that the rest go on without them? What has happened to the original EU rules? I am very worried.

Posted by pavlaki | Report as abusive

I love Europe having lived and worked in France and Germany all my life. Clearly Hugo Dixon has not lived in Europe. He certainly doesn’t understand the cultural differences between countries with a tradition of democracy and those without. The democratic deficit will come to haunt the Euro members at which point people will realise that the UK’s desire for a loose trading arrangement is something that is preferable to the bureaucratic monster now growing in Brussels. May I suggest that Master Hugo Dixon write an essay: ‘Contrast and compare Racine with Shakespeare.’ Start here…

Posted by robinson99 | Report as abusive

The UK should really form an Anglo-Saxon financial union with the US and any other country keen to protect the interests of big banks at any cost.

Posted by K-dub | Report as abusive

The UK should really form an Anglo-Saxon financial union with the US and any other country keen to protect the interests of big banks at any cost.

Posted by K-dub | Report as abusive

Hugo i think the unelected eurocrats have done enough to blow up their currency and union anyway. One of the first lessons in psychology 101 is about “sunk costs”. if you have a lemon do you keep pouring money into it or work out that it is not working and cut the strings and move on. I guess David Cameron worked out that you have a lemon.

Posted by andytime | Report as abusive

All this lefty talk about disparaging Cameron’s reaction to the Euro debacle as if Europe is an exemplar of sound monetary and fiscal management.

Fact is the Anglosphere – despite it’s travails – is doing a better job organizing itself in face of the crisis. Canada, Australia, UK and, yes, even the US, is in sounder financial condition that the socialist nutters running Europe.

It seems that they are hell bent on proving Thatcher right: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”.

Posted by eleno | Report as abusive

I ask you: How could a responsible British government allow it economically critical financial sector to be regulated by the same people who have made such a hash of the euro. Does anyone think they are competent to do that? The euro-zoners are demanding the right to regulate the financial sector of the economy of non-euro Great Britain as part of a program to save the euro-zoners from the mistakes of their own financial self-regulation. Why should Great Britain trust them with the City of London? Would you trust them with Wall Street?

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

@Intrepid: The latest maneuvers (in addition to the Euro currency crisis) substantially reduced the chances of Turkey joining the EU in the near future. France is against Turkey’s accession.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

@Bob9999: The questions you raise are yet to be resolved in my mind… Where can we find the details of this new treaty? Does anyone know? Merkel and Sarkozy are saying that its provisions only apply to Euro-zone countries anyway, and those preparing for joining the Euro currency area.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Mr. Dixon, thanks you for an excellent article. The world is in a state of hysteria right now and it is good to see some people still thinking. But I am afraid that this clumsy step from Cameron can be forgiven, but will not be forgotten. It’s about showing trust and loyalty in a time it is needed. It will take a long time before the UK could play any significant role in the eurozone again.

Posted by FBreughel1 | Report as abusive

How will Europe avoid the entire southern tier bleeding Germany dry until there is some sort of financial collapse or Germany creating a New Reich with budgetary control morphing into political control from Berlin? What are the other possibilities? In either case, the UK will be better off from the sidelines.

Our example here in the USA is a cautionary one. Power becomes more and more centralized and the limits on it are more and more academic rather than practical. It very much appears as if large countries are incompatible with electoral limited Government. But then limited government may simply be becoming extinct.

In any case, the EU looks like some variety of train wreck.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

David Cameron is one hell of a lucky guy. He will go down in history as the British Premier who ended the European Union and created the United States of Europe by just one veto. But his real luck is the chance he has created for the United Kingdom to resurrect like the Phoenix to its ‘Rule Britannia’ glory by his veto of the EU treaty. All he has to do is to look in the eyes of his challenge and don his mantle of true leadership.

Posted by 4gevalley | Report as abusive

@matthewslyman: If there was no intention for the financial regulation provisions to apply to countries that intended to stay out of the euro, then it would have been very easy to provide assurances to Great Britain. The fact that assurances could not be provided suggests that a broader scope of EU financial regulation — something not limited to the euro zone — was being proposed.

Posted by Bob9999 | Report as abusive

I am curious, Hugo, of the impact on the Common Agricultural Policy if the U.K. is not there to counter France. French agriculture without generous subsidies is a French political comedy. That’s all due for revisit in 2013.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

Highly intelligent and worthwhile analysis. Regrettable no one was being quite so cogent before the summit, possibly because the complexity of the negotiations loomed so large. All the acrimony was (and is) deplorable. Extraordinary that everyone has lost sight of where the trouble actually lies: with Wall Street miscreants, specifically, that need to be kept in check. Best to follow your sage advice. 2011 is almost over; we are well and good into the 21st century, better than 10% complete. It is time to face up to the new arrangements. Even the Russians are finally trying to face up to reality, instead of untenable old cant that has outlived its usefulness.

Posted by MariaAshot | Report as abusive

@ JohnWL – has to be ‘prisoner of mother england’ post of the day

so an englishman in prague and the civil servant didn’t lick your boots or defer to your middle class pretensions

they probably read you as a whinger, a prisoner of mother england adrift in the world of cultural otherness

so little englander, from the land of shopkeepers, you are the burden that needs to be lifted from the shoulders of gross brittania

Hugo, a good article, but little england’s JohnnyWalkerLabel tory dypsomaniacs are the dead weight and bode ill for a rapprochement between Continental Europe and the balkanised minority wielding their foghorns in the City::London

Posted by scythe | Report as abusive

This analysis is too catty and personalising the issues, the whole Euro experiment is falling apart, its contradictions, one size fits all, solution to economics shown to be the simplistic dream it always was. The Euro boosters have shown their anti democratic tendencies (avoid referendums at all cost).
You dont need a single currency to have a single free market, all you need is free trade – so Nixon why pretend its so? The future of Sarkozy and Merkel is looking as grim as the Euro.

Posted by BaronDAC | Report as abusive

I wonder if Sarkozy ( if he is still around) will accept the scrapping of the common agricultural policy or if he will argue that it is a ‘special case’ – a bit like what Cameron has just argued for the City. Pots and kettles anyone?

Posted by pavlaki | Report as abusive

The whole point was the EU (namely France) wanted to impose a financial transaction tax which would have disproportinately hit the UK via the City. A tax which would have been levied and collected by the EU by-pasign the UK Govt completely.

All this to bail out bankrupt French (and it looks like German) banks, because the ECB is not allowed to print Euro’s.

What was the cry during the American War of Independance, ‘no taxation without representation’. This is as true now as it was then

Posted by jaris | Report as abusive

More to the point on the CAP, there are other agricultural countries that would claim part of that pot. France has a very hard time sharing with others, and an equally hard time cutting government benefits. With no one to counter them save the Germans who will be concentrating on manufactured exports, the French will be working very hard at reserving more for themselves. Hungary, Poland, Denmark, others may find their new stability hard bought.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive

I think the likelihood of the eurozone nations emerging from this cosy, sensible-sounding ‘fiscal compact’ with so much as the right to paint their own lamp-posts without EU permission is on a par with my chickens preparing cold fusion. This whole euro-crisis is a sham and a scam, deliberately engineered by the EU, through its policy of massive handouts and easy loans, to bring the eurozone nations to their knees so they would cry out for rescue at any cost. They will be rescued, but the eventual cost, without a shadow of doubt, will be the cessation of their existence as independent nations.

Are we seriously expected to believe that the massed ranks of expert EU economists were incapable of predicting the virtual certainty that such an ill-matched currency union would collapse? They knew full well it would only work under the aegis of a political union, which it was clear the people would never accept. So they came in through the back door. Those strutting on the EU stage may be buffoons, but the ones pulling their strings are not.

I have no idea of the financial and political implications of Cameron’s decision, but I’m sure I can safely say that few ordinary Brits would want to be ruled by these deceitful and callous dictators. And there can be little doubt that all the EU members will, sooner or later, be sucked down this euro plughole.

Posted by SleepyJohn | Report as abusive

Are we really prepared to embark on a new Cold war in defence of the distortive excesses of the financial sector? Why learn to love your cancer before you have even attempted the cure ?

Posted by mrfrog | Report as abusive

Mr. Dixon has a short memory, it was Britains wise decision to NOT use the Euro! The British economy is better adapted to handle its’ economic affairs better than having the EU dictate it’s economic policies as the losers in the EU have done in eurozone in Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, France and the latest Belgium! Just like Germany, Britain doesn’t want to be the ‘Paymaster’ in the EU! Mr. Cameron is spot on with his opinion and consistency to stand up to the bullying of his sovereign country!

Posted by WaryAmerican | Report as abusive

If the last 3 years of economic depression have taught us anything it is that bankers don’t like to fail ALONE. They like to be TBTF, preferably in groups, that threaten to implode the death star as it were (sorry for the star wars analogy) if they are not coddled.

So in this light of banker behavior, how did cameron help the City of London’s cause by standing alone? Big mistake. I don’t know what the so called TOries are smoking, but carry on gentlemen, you are p*$$*ing on your own shoes.

Posted by kiers | Report as abusive

At the risk of oversimplifying, fundamentals are essential to any operation, private, public or combination of the two. The rapid intake of financially delinquent partners into the Eurozone who refuse to take the most timid steps against overt corruption, blatant tax evasion etc. will prove to be it’s undoing. Brussels-inspired euroregulation is already wiping out hundreds of highly localised industries in France (and other euro countries I imagine)that have existed for centuries. In whatever form it may be expressed, A blunt ‘NO’ to Europe in its present form is long overdue.

Posted by mindlessthug | Report as abusive

The UK is a net contributor to Euroland, even more so now, thanks to Tony’s generosity. It always amuses me when I see the blue flag and gold stars extoling the largess supporting various projects. Any loss of income from the UK might even suggest that the expensive absurdity of the Bruxelles/Strasburg commute (which has some obscure French rationale) could be cut, to the great relief of MEP’s?

Posted by javamann | Report as abusive

Trash Talking seems to be popular in Europe.

Here in the US, it’s an art form for ghetto youths …. …..

With the Entitlement Mentality so ingrained (this includes overpaid bureaucrats), it is inevitable that government revenues (i.e. taxes) will be inadequate to support the huge nonproductive “idle force”.

Posted by RickZ | Report as abusive

The last time I had a complete physical, the Internist advised me to dispense with salt, eat no fried foods, and cut back on red meat. I can maintain my good health by following his plan or go the way of many 45-55ish friends by gaining lots of weight and having a cardiovascular incident before I reach 65, the choice is mine. The Greek austerity measures that are a requirement for help from Germany and France seem to march in unison with what my doctor advised me to do. Changing a culture of corruption, bribery and gross overspending may be a rotten adjustment, but it’s the sole way Greece can become independent and possibly no longer needing to hold out a beggars cup at every EU meeting. If one were dealing with similar styles of governing a union of economies might work, but the differences in Icelandic, Spanish, Greek, French and Duetsch approaches to what one would consider responsible varies way too much. Isn’t it possible to allow for cross European free trade without adding another layer of EU centralized government to each members in place governments, ie the common market? I have traveled on business through the UK most every major country on the continent in addition to 23 years in the post Iron Curtain new democracies, that doesn’t make me any kind of expert but I think I’m acquainted with each countries differences. As many have posted, calling the UK a Europeon country doesn’t seem fitting, Britain to me is an Anglo country closer to the US than the French or Spanish.And yes, the American banks without the proper regulation burning through Federal guaranteed money was a plan for world disaster.

Posted by ParkerWest | Report as abusive

My rural relatives in Espana were “instructed” to grow corn for ethanol and plow up ancient olive trees by EU planners. Olive oil is one of nature’s best gifts; ethanol from corn may actually cost more to make than the value of the end product. God save us from CENTRAL PLANNERS!

Posted by ScottishRefugee | Report as abusive

The UK does not use the EURO so is not in effect IN the Euro. The UK will fare much better than the those in the EURO because it can print its own money just like the US. History will show that the UK made a brillian move on this even though it was probably by accident.

Posted by tomsawyer | Report as abusive

This article is way overblown. The UK does a lot of trade with the EuroZone – but most of it is with Ireland. Ireland is also the only EuroZone country for which leaving the Euro is a realistic possibility at all. (Greece ain’t goin’ anywhere, despite the scare stories put out in the media.) So relax. Chill out. If the UK eventually leaves the EU, or is forced out, it will be fine casting its lot with the USA and telling the EU to shove it.

Posted by Andrewp111 | Report as abusive

Why would the United States, China, the Middle East and India want to deal with London if it had no friends in Europe?

Please excuse the current occupant of the White House – he is an idiot, a criminal and a major proponent of world socialism (and the spread of so-called “moderate” Islam – make NO mistake about that). He does not represent the majority in America who know that the UK, despite its regular bellyaching about American violence and “backwards” thinking, is still the most trustworthy partner we have politically or economically. From an outsider’s perspective, Britain has gained almost nothing from joining the “Eurozone”. If anything it seems like the whole point was to spread the cost of socialism around and to further disguise the mad schemes of the moneylenders. It certainly did NOT create a more robust trading bloc..as we now realize, most of the paper gains over the past five years were a finely-crafted illusion. The end result is that rampant financial fraud and unsustainable socialism brought the entire house of cards crashing down. The UK is right to demand more oversight and a bigger voice – or to get out as quickly as possible before they end up as crippled as Greece.

Posted by psycros | Report as abusive

I am no economist, and am an American. Could it be that Great Britain is best off strengthening the Commonwealth, and trade with the it and the USA? As well as the rest of the world? It seems that might be a better course. Is the Commonwealth just an afterthought? Please educate me.

Posted by ronwagn | Report as abusive

Uh… guess again, Hugo. The sooner the UK is out of the EU the sooner they can start steering their own ship. The EU was the equivalent of the idiotic mergers we saw in the last decade where giant companies, that were each crumbling under their own weight, would merge. Somehow, they wanted shareholders to believe that the two would somehow be better off with even more diluted oversight, short term integration issues, and turnover as their smartest employees jumped-ship.

Our sad Humanist culture likes to indulge in the Utopian fantasy that everything is better once “we have become one”. Unfortunately in the sphere of governance, the more people that fall are under central governance, the more severe the disconnect is from those who actually govern. This leads political types to start bending the rules and cooking the books (because they can). It also leads to class warfare as the the elitist Technocrats slide into numb apathy for those people that suffer under their policies. We now see where that has led the EU. More government means more trouble, period.

Hara-Kari? No. In fact this is probably a good sign that in the long run, the UK will be in a position of leadership when the rest of Europe has finished burning to the ground.

Posted by Twinspeedr | Report as abusive

It may be late in the day, but how much do the financial class wish the British taxpayers to pay again for Europe, 2 World wars have cost a 3 rd of the globe. Our war debts just have been paid off, Europe’s debts were forgiven twice, the ones Germany took out and owed as reparations and the Marshal plan loans. Britain’s were not, including the ones paid to the IMF in the 1970’s and the NHS loan in 1947.

Britain has paid twice as much in to the EU as it withdraws, It has paid in to the ECB rescue fund and has completely covered Iceland and Ireland’s banking collapse.

This cow can now only moo, having run out of milk. But this cow never voted to be part of the United States of Europe only the common market. You forgot that and so has the EU, that is the source of the refusal to pay out 30 billion on demand.

Posted by DavidK | Report as abusive

For a completely different and much more optimistic British view see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424 052970203391104577122330360675426.html?m od=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion

Posted by BillBoy | Report as abusive

Time will tell if Hugo is really as ridiculous as he looks.

Posted by Maxwells | Report as abusive

>>Well what does the UK export except crap cars and scheming financiers?>>

Don’t forget Heinz Tomato Sauce . . .

Posted by PLT2 | Report as abusive

Hmm. A lot of words, but little sense.

Why should Britain, which is struggling with its own financial problems but still has complete control over its own currency and is thus trusted more in world markets, give anything to the Eurozone countries for free?

They are right to extract a political cost for the supposedly sober and staid industrial way of doing things that Germany, France, and Italy like to go on about.

Everyone knew, wink wink, that most of the Eurozone countries barely qualified to join the Euro, and a few like Greece (and arguably Italy) outright lied or misrepresented their positions. France has had a budget deficit since 1974, and thus is no master of household finances.

Germany, though strong financially, had other reasons for tying the rest of Continental Europe to itself.

And so, while weaker countries sapped financial strength from the industrial heart of Europe via transfers, they also engaged in financial behaviour that was and is still obviously absurd.

Retirement in your 50’s? Ridiculously generous social programs that are not paid for with anything remotely considered adequate profit-making economic activity (i.e. actual businesses that make stuff), or in the case of Italy and Greece – is anyone seeing a trend here – behaviour that is outright criminal by the citizens of those two countries in their efforts to avoid taxes and yet expect everything.

The Euro should and will fail, and expect nothing from Britain to prolong the agony.

Posted by Kadath | Report as abusive

Seems to me that the Thatcher/Reagan Conservatives won the Class War they waged on the Working/MiddleClass.Starting with the Bush jr. Neo-Cons their next goal is to commit National Hara-kiri and imo they will use the resulting state of Financial Chaos and National Bankruptcy ,as a reason to fold Social Security Insurance,Unemployment Insurance,Medicare and other programs paid by the Commons via Payroll deductions.

Posted by 19javaman40 | Report as abusive

Looks like the UK’s PM is as doddering and old slave to corporatism as the US’s neo-conservative wing of the GOP.
God save us all.

Posted by datlgirl | Report as abusive

Hugo, we know you are still, many years later, impressed by your wonderful education, your glorious credentials, and impeccable ability to instruct your fellow Britons in how to understand government economic policy, and how to correctly take our place in your slightly marxist, left leaning, vision of HugoTopia, but we don’t buy it.

At least David Cameron is starting to position the UK in the right direction, and eventually while, admittedly getting a lot of flack from leftists, who appear to despise their own country, many of us wish him success in all his efforts to right the ship of state. Personally, I thought of selling my Greek and Portuguese bond instruments to set you up in sunny Greece, where you would thrive in the arms of an all encompassing EU form of nirvana, but when I last checked, the value of these EU assets was zero, much like the value of your tabloid type comments.

Posted by Waffenburg | Report as abusive

The common sense theory is: If something doesn’t work you should throw it out and start over. What happened to the theory that you should “cut your losses” and not “throw good money after bad”? Haven’t those criminal banksters sucked enough of your blood?

Posted by botsallover | Report as abusive

Cameron appears to be just extraordinarily inept. It is no wonder Britain is still so unpopular in the EU. I do not believe he will come off as anything other than an irratant.

Posted by RobtAlan | Report as abusive

Hugo doesn’t get it. Thank goodness for Cameron. The first bit of positive news for decades. Hugo belongs to a peculiar group of people who think Britain should be absorbed into Europe. Our politicians should be answerable to us, not Europe.

Posted by brainmanagement | Report as abusive

Heath took us in Cameron MUST take us out costs too much in cash jobs State pensions loss of company identity best food of ours goes East We gain nothing but European troubles

If David thinks we will be voting for him next round he is as dumb as a box of rocks.

What a complete Whackadoodle!

Posted by nrssutton | Report as abusive

Amazing that there are still Brits (I assume Huge really is British) that look upon the EU as a “good thing”. About time Mr Cameron or anyone else for that matter, said “enough”.

This was the best news I had heard associated with the EU for quite sometime.

Posted by SymonTheDymond | Report as abusive

I think this article is too parochial.

The response to US assertions of global jurisdiction has been the formation of national cooperatives in South America, Africa and Asia. Here in Europe we have the EU. This is the trend of history but it goes unmentioned.

There can be no future for UK on its own. Either we become Europeans or we apply to join NAFTA. Reinvigorating the Commonwealth is a non-starter now the former dominions have established their own foreign policies. I cannot see a third way, can you?

Posted by RBHoughton | Report as abusive

I’m so sick of hearing about debt.

First, is it British or Britons? I imagine the second is likely slightly insulting.

Secondly, first language English speaking nations should worry about ourselves and let the others live in the squalor they caused.

Posted by Williaminmd | Report as abusive

Bully, for Cameron!

Posted by OlleoBuggii7 | Report as abusive