Leading article: Cameron's surprisingly constructive approach

Share
Related Topics

They gave David Cameron bacon and eggs in Brussels yesterday. But will the Prime Minister return the favour by offering the British public a continental breakfast? Can we expect Mr Cameron to be a leader who makes the case for Europe in Britain, rather than one who tries to define himself through battles with Brussels? In short can we expect a positive and constructive relationship with our European partners under this Government?

Despite Mr Cameron's Eurosceptic background and his provocative decision to pull the Tories out of the mainstream European People's Party while in opposition, the initial signs have been surprisingly positive. Mr Cameron has visited Paris and Berlin before making the British prime minister's traditional pilgrimage to Washington; a small gesture perhaps, but not an insignificant one. And in advance of yesterday's summit he promised a "very positive, a very engaged, a very active role in the European Union". There was no mention of "repatriating" powers or securing opt-outs from existing EU treaties.

The business of yesterday's summit itself went relatively smoothly. Mr Cameron had no real trouble signing the agreement on better European co-ordination on bank regulation and reducing budget deficits. This agenda actually suits Mr Cameron nicely. A pan-European levy on banks will help lessen domestic resistance to his own planned levy. And the Prime Minister clearly feels that European fiscal austerity helps vindicate his own hawkish stance on the UK deficit. The one point of potential conflict yesterday – the idea of Britain being required to submit its budget to Brussels in advance for scrutiny – was easily defused because Berlin and Paris were divided on the subject.

Of course, fortune has smiled on Mr Cameron. There are no new contentious EU treaties in the pipeline and this has been a period of distraction for France and Germany – the traditional motors of EU convergence – with the ongoing crisis in the eurozone. And despite the conspiracy theories circulating in British Eurosceptic circles, there is no great desire in European capitals for deeper political integration; if anything the forces are pulling in the opposite direction.

The pro-European influence of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats in the coalition has helped to blunt Mr Cameron's euroscepticism. Yet this is likely to be one progressive attitude from the Government that cannot be entirely blamed on the Prime Minister's coalition partners. Mr Cameron made a strong speech in the election campaign in which he made it clear that he did not want any bust-ups with Europe. And indeed why would he? The Prime Minister has witnessed two previous Tory administrations suffer near nervous breakdowns on the issue of Europe. And his administration has enough problems to deal with without picking fights abroad, much as the right wing of his party would like him to.

There will almost certainly be friction down the line. The Common Agricultural Policy and the EU budget are traditional conflict points. But the ongoing economic and financial emergency across the eurozone and the wider Continent puts these old battles rather in the shade. Even the most dogmatic Eurosceptic can grasp that another slump on the Continent – or a fresh banking crisis – would be terrible news for Britain's recovery. The threat of economic meltdown has a wonderful tendency to concentrate the mind.

Mr Cameron seized an opportunity to neutralise his own party's right wing when the electorate delivered an indecisive election result in May. The fissile economic situation in Europe has delivered another. Mr Cameron needs to be similarly decisive in taking it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters