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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009  

Being sensitive to mental health need not lead us to downplay the horror of what Lubitz did

Will Gore
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing