FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Freezing Out Britain

by BINOY KAMPMARK

There is much more in the way of European chatter taking place in that troubled part of the world.  Discussions held at the Brussels summit on Friday saw the 27 countries of the EU attempting to forge an agreement in an effort to create what would effectively amount to a new financial arrangement.  It ended with an agreement being hammered out that involved all but one member – Britain.

Of those, the 17 euro countries have agreed on a rather stern set of measures.  And on the surface, they seem revolutionary.  A ‘fiscal compact’ is on offer, binding members to abide by budget rules and suffer penalties if in breach.  A few points too note: regulations involve a 0.5 percent of GDP on countries’ annual structural deficits, and ‘automatic consequences’ for countries whose public deficit exceeds 3 percent of GDP.[1]  While there will be no EU treaty as such, there will be a treaty between participating governments.  The European Stability Mechanism would also be put into place as a permanent arrangement by July 2012.  The fiscal policemen are well and truly in place.

Of those who were involved, troubling issues will remain about the issue of Franco-German control.  Where will the ‘outer’ powers figure in this re-arrangement of European power?  What will be the association between member states and other bodies in the EU, including the European Commission?  These are questions that will only be answered in the long term.

The sole dissentient here was Britain.  Prime Minister David Cameron came up with a rather feeble explanation. ‘We were offered a treaty that didn’t have proper safeguards for Britain, and I decided it was not right to sign that treaty.’[2]  The safeguard sought was a protocol allowing Britain a veto on financial-services regulation.  It was refused.  Charlemagne, the ever perceptive commentator in The Economist, described Cameron’s response as affecting ‘Europe’s great divorce’. ‘So two decades to the day after the Maastricht Treaty was concluded, launching the process towards the single European currency, the EU’s tectonic plates have slipped momentously along the same fault line that has always divided it – the English Channel.’[3]

Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle reiterated the use of the plates metaphor in the New York Times, calling Friday ‘a day of historic, seemingly tectonic shifts in the architecture of Europe’.[4]  The putative victim in all of this is Britain. Germany and France become the central figures, with Britannia shut out.  Labour leader Ed Miliband described the move as ‘the catastrophic decision to walk away.’[5]  What Britain had done was abdicate from relevance, allowing ‘the 26 countries to make crucial decisions without us.’

There are two aspects of this Cameron’s decision.  On the one hand, Cameron is right to be have reservations – most of the countries, both inside and outside the eurozone, have them.   Britain, however, wishes to be special, having a special affinity with euro-skepticism.  A valid point can be made about the erosion of member sovereignty.  The emergence of a new style of ‘dictator’ – the technocrat – is not something to be cheery about.  In the era of the Roman Republic, before the term ‘dictator’ went to seed at the hands of Julius Caesar and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, individuals like Cincinnatus were appointed by the Senate for brief periods to steer the state in times of emergency within a strict time frame, then retire back to the plough.  One wonders how these current financial arrangements of financial imperialism will work.

There are also domestic hurdles to overcome in specific countries before the agreement will take effect.  The Republic of Ireland requires a constitutionally mandated referendum over a transfer of powers to the EU.  The Czech Republic, Sweden and Hungary have qualified their support by having to seek parliamentary approval.  Nor does the arrangement say much on the stabilizing of the euro, generating money or cover the issue of joint-issued bonds.

The other aspect of Cameron’s decision is that it is potentially weakening.  If one is in the mess, one can at least have a role in righting it.  Britain, given its heavy involvement in finance, can hardly claim to be an immune and virtuous island separate from the chaos of the continent which is its greatest export market.  A claim might well be made, as it has been by financial analyst Max Keiser, that London ‘is the world’s capital of fraud’, having been the conduit for the AIG, Lehman Brothers and Jon Corzine multi-billion dollar scandals.[6]  It is hard to see how not being part of a ‘European solution’, however problematic, can be in its interest.  Europe’s problems will not go away, and Britain risks become an outvoted power, an appendage rather than a participant.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
Cole A. Turner
Go Away, Kevin Spacey
Ramzy Baroud
70 Years of Broken Promises: The Untold Story of the Partition Plan
Binoy Kampmark
A New Movement of Rights and the Right in Australia
George Ochenski
Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional
Nino Pagliccia
The Governorship Elections in Venezuela: an Interview With Arnold August
Christopher Ketcham
Spanksgiving Day Poem
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail