Leading article: Resolving the euro crisis must be the PM's priority

Britain's best interests are not served by being pushed to the sidelines in Europe

Share
Related Topics

The most telling part of the latest euro-saving deal is the explicit statement from Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy that, in the event that their proposals cannot be signed off by all 27 members of the European Union, an agreement between the eurozone 17 alone will do. It is a message that David Cameron must keep in mind.

While relative calm in the financial markets suggests that the plans for closer fiscal union may have some promise, there is still a long way to go. Thorny questions of treaty change, constitutional requirements and the writ of national sovereignty need answers. Efforts to find ways for EU leaders to accept the new rules without triggering time-consuming and unreliable referendums may come to nothing. France and Germany may find their compromise to be not as reliable as it seemed. But there is at least the hope of progress.

It is here that Britain comes in. And the situation is far from encouraging. Fortified by talk of treaty change, the Tory right's calls for the repatriation of powers are rapidly escalating into demands for a referendum. As far as they go, Mr Cameron's attempts to resist the pressure should be commended. He has said repeatedly – and rightly – that Britain's best interests are served by saving the euro. He also lost little time in slapping down Iain Duncan Smith's Eurosceptic rabble-rousing. But the chorus refuses to be quieted: Boris Johnson and the Northern Ireland Secretary are just the latest to weigh in. In the face of historic events in Europe, the Prime Minister hardly needs such distraction. Nor is it clear where he will find the political strength to deal with it.

More concerning still is that even Mr Cameron himself seems to think he can take Britain's usual unconstructive approach to the EU. The overwhelming priority must be to resolve the sovereign debt crisis and ensure the future of the eurozone. But ahead of Friday's crucial summit, the Prime Minister talks of his "practical and focused" requirements as if he has the power to dictate terms. As has been made so clear this week, he does not. Without him, the eurozone 17 will go it alone.

Britain's interests are most certainly not best served that way. Closer fiscal policymaking by the 17 members of the eurozone will directly affect the single market, and the UK cannot afford to be left out of the decision making. Nor is hastening the creation of a "two-speed" Europe in our interests, not least because most other non-euro states want to join the single currency in the future. The risk is of ever-greater isolation, both political and economic.

That is not to say that Mr Cameron's concerns about the regulation of the City of London have no basis. As well as accounting for 10 per cent of the economy, the finance sector is exactly the kind of highly skilled, worldwide service industry which Britain's post-industrial economy needs to keep pace with globalisation. But now is not the time for to-the-death battles over banks' capital requirements or financial transaction taxes. Vital though the City is, saving the euro and securing Britain's place in Europe are more important still.

For too long, Britain's relationship with the EU has been characterised by recalcitrance and special pleading. We demand to be included, then refuse to be bound by the rules; we want all the advantages of the single market, but reject the political project our counterparts share; we decry a two-speed Europe that might erode our influence, yet refuse to countenance joining the euro. It is an attitude that cannot continue. The current crisis is, in part, about the members of the single currency being forced to accept that there is a price to be paid in return for the benefits. The same is true of Britain in Europe. Now, more than ever, we cannot afford to be sidelined.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 25th Awards Gala on 11 November 2013 in Washington  

Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?

Grace Dent
 

Our political landscape is not changing anywhere near as much as we assume it is

Steve Richards
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible