Guy Verhofstadt: A bad deal for Britain, and Europe

There is a greater risk of France and Germany reaching bilateral deals

Related Topics

Last week's European Council meeting formalised the marginalisation of the UK. David Cameron's decision to veto all 27 member states from taking the necessary steps to closer fiscal union, forced the other 26 countries (including nine non-eurozone countries) to forge ahead on their own. It was both incomprehensible and a huge strategic mistake. Incomprehensible because Britain was seeking exemptions from Europe's single market's rules to ringfence the City of London from tighter EU regulations on reckless banking activities – a key plank of the strategy to tackle the causes of the financial crisis. Mr Cameron was also seeking to ensure that the EU supervisory authorities would not have more influence than national regulators. Yet, to do so would have been to deny the very basis of the single market.

Strategically Mr Cameron's defiance may have pleased the home crowd but his action backfired spectacularly. The single market in financial services will still go ahead via a new treaty, but minus the UK. Far from protecting the City and Britain's wider economic interests, Mr Cameron may have actually achieved the opposite.

The episode will further sour relations and undermine British influence on a range of areas. Since the 1950s, Britain has been the reluctant member of the club. But it has yet to learn that this reluctance will not prevent EU nations from developing closer ties to address new geopolitical challenges. The UK will continue to play catch-up or worse, if Eurosceptics succeed in winning the hearts and minds of a people fed a diet of misinformed, nationalistic nonsense via large swathes of the popular press.

Mr Cameron's veto may also have unwittingly brought France and Germany closer together. The risk of further bilateral deals which the European Commission is unable to referee on behalf of all 27 states and the single market, is now greater. Merkozy was never a marriage made in heaven: they see the need for fiscal union from different national perspectives – one as a means to greater discipline, the other as a route to more budgetary solidarity – but at least they agree on the goal. And having the troublesome British out of the way, rather than constantly holding things up, probably serves both.

Whatever a new breakaway treaty does, it must conform to the basic principles of democratic accountability enshrined in the EU institutional structures and decision-making procedures and not establish new ones. It also means respecting full parliamentary accountability. Future historians, however, will likely identify the Brussels summit as a turning point in the EU's evolution. One can only hope that this does not end with the gradual dissolution of all that has been achieved over the past 60 years.

Guy Verhofstadt was Prime Minister of Belgium 1999 - 2003. He leads the Liberals in the European Parliament

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are