Britain Marginalizes Itself in EU (12/9)     Print Email

The outcome of the Brussels summit on December 8th and 9th is a disaster for the UK and also threatens the integrity of the single market, says a well-reported article by Charles Grant, head of the Centre for European Reform, a European-minded but independent think-tank in London.


For more than 50 years, a cardinal principle of Britain’s foreign policy has been to be present when EU bodies take decisions, so that London can influence the outcome. That tradition has been broken, at least for the foreseeable future, by poor British policy at the EU summit.

Britain’s so-called veto – which has not stopped anything from happening except for Britain – was wielded by Cameron because he could not obtain special protection for the financial interests of the City, London’s rival to Wall Street. Cameron was right to seek to protect the interests of Britain’s hugely important financial services industry, Grant writes, because most financial regulations are decided by qualified majority vote, and there is a risk that new EU rules could damage this vital national interest. But, he adds, "Britain has never yet been outvoted on a significant piece of EU financial regulation. If Cameron had been prepared to compromise on his demands, he might have been able to secure a deal.”

The ineptness of British diplomacy in this situation (and the powerful factors at work in the rest of the EU, largely at the instigation of France and Germany, are analyzed in Grant’s post-summit article, “Britain on the edge of Europe.”

-- European Affairs