British Leader Under Pressure: Cameron Insists EU Membership 'Vital' to Britain

British Prime Minister David Cameron, under fire in Europe for blocking a key EU treaty change, defended his move on Monday and said EU membership remained 'vital' to the UK. He faces pressure from euroskeptics who want Britain to quit the bloc -- while his pro-European coalition partner is fuming.

David Cameron addressing the House of Commons on Monday: "We are in the EU and we want to be." Zoom
AP

David Cameron addressing the House of Commons on Monday: "We are in the EU and we want to be."

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday defended his decision to refuse to join the other 26 European Union member states in a fiscal union, and dismissed growing calls in his Conservative Party for Britain to leave the EU, saying remaining in the bloc was vital to Britain's national interests.

"Britain remains a full member of the EU and the events of the last week do nothing to change that," Cameron told parliament during a debate on last week's European Union summit. "Our membership of the EU is vital to our national interest. We are a trading nation and we need the single market for trade, investment and jobs."

"We are in the EU and we want to be," he added.

Cameron's decision not to take part in an EU treaty change aimed at tightening fiscal rules for euro-zone member states has isolated Britain in the 27-nation bloc and opened a rift in his government coalition with the pro-European Liberal Democrat party.

Cameron said he voted against amending the Lisbon Treaty to enshrine new debt rules because his call for safeguards for the financial sector had been rejected by EU partners at the summit. He added that he had not sought the safeguards just for Britain but for the whole EU, to protect the competitiveness of banks. "The right answer was no treaty," he said. "It was not an easy thing to do but it was the right thing to do."

Financial services are a particularly important sector for the British economy.

Cameron has won applause from euroskeptics in his Conservative Party for wielding Britain's veto in a move that will force the other EU members to negotiate a separate treaty to enshrine fiscal discipline in a bid to tackle the euro debt crisis.

'Bad for Britain'

But Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said on Sunday he was "bitterly disappointed" by the outcome of the EU summit and that he had had told Cameron it was "bad for Britain."

However, Clegg denied that the coalition could now collapse. "It would be even more damaging for us as a country if the coalition government were now to fall apart. That would create economic disaster for the country at a time of great economic uncertainty," said Clegg.

Clegg criticized Conservative lawmakers who are now pressing Cameron to follow up his veto with a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

"A Britain which leaves the EU will be considered to be irrelevant by Washington and would be considered a pygmy in the world when I want us to stand tall and lead in the world," Clegg told BBC television.

European politicians and commentators have been venting their fury not just at Cameron's actions in Brussels but at decades of British obstruction in EU matters. Many commentators in Europe and in Britain, as well as Britain's opposition Labour Party, have said that Cameron has seriously damaged Britain's interests by isolating the nation in Europe.

'English Right Is World's Stupidest'

On Monday, the head of France's financial sector regulatory authority, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, said Cameron's actions proved the British political right is the world's dumbest.

"For a long time it was said that the French right was the world's stupidest," Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of France's AMF regulatory agency, said in an interview on France Inter state radio.

"I think the English right has shown it is capable of being the world's stupidest, in serving purely financial interests and not the national interest. That's regrettable because we need our British friends in Europe."

On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy blamed Cameron for the political rift. "There are clearly two Europes," Sarkozy was quoted as telling Le Monde newspaper on Monday. "One that wants more solidarity among its members and more regulation. The other which is attached only to the logic of the single market."

Sarkozy added that the legal basis of a new accord to enforce debt and deficit rules in the 17-nation euro area with quasi-automatic sanctions and intrusive powers to reject national budgets would be worked out before Christmas.

"In the next fortnight, we will put together the legal content of our agreement. The aim is to have a treaty by March," Sarkozy said.

'Europe Will Go On Without You'

German mass circulation Bild, a veteran of many tabloid spats between Germany and Britain, weighed in on Saturday with the headline "Bye Bye, England. Europe will go on without you."

In a tongue-in-cheek commentary, Bild wrote: "Dear British, Europe without you is like fish without chips, like London without driving on the left, like beer without foam. But you must decide now. Do you really want to be a lonely island and do everything differently? If yes, be honest -- and get out of the EU altogether."

It emerged on Monday that the British government may yet deepen its isolation by obstructing plans to agree a separate treaty on budget discipline.

British May Obstruct Planned Treaty

Cameron's office said it was not clear how EU institutions such as the European Commission could be used under two different treaties -- the Lisbon Treaty and the planned new treaty among the other 26 members.

"There are issues that are raised by this, about institutions serving two masters -- the euro zone and the European Union -- and we need to look at those issues very carefully," Cameron's spokesman Steve Field told reporters.

"If you have the institutions serving the 27 and serving the 17, there is potential for conflict of interest," he said, adding that discussions on the new deal would likely continue for many weeks.

Meanwhile, it became evident on Monday that the summit deal had failed to restore market confidence, with the euro and share prices sliding, and bond yields for Italy and Spain rising again, ending a market rally triggered on Friday by EU leaders' decisions.

Traders said the ECB intervened to buy short-term Italian debt after yields on Italian and Spanish debt rose sharply. Despite all the plans for tighter euro zone debt rules, there was still no prospect of a "big bazooka," no provision of unlimited funds, to satisfy the markets, investors said.

cro -- with wire reports

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1. Membership Vital to Britain?
cymruambyth 12/12/2011
I really do not think Britain has a place in the European Union anymore and the sooner we withdraw from it, the better. With the money we save, we could re-introduce industry, trade with our commonwealth partners without fear of being sucked into treaty after treaty which will NOT benefit us as a nation as us British people have seen in the past. Being members of the EU has crushed us, oppressed us and we have begun to lose our unique identity in the world. Cameron did the right thing and I hope he sticks to his guns and doesn't give in like a spineless jelly.
2.
harryenglish 12/12/2011
Sarkozy defends French Farmers (& CAP), and Merkel defends German Heavy Industry, so why the big deal in Cameron defneding the City of London? By the way, it has no impact on the survivability of the Euro.
3. A view from the UK
zummerzetboy 12/13/2011
Here's a copy of my latest letter to my Member of the UK Parliament. Although couched in terms some might call jingoistic I hope it will provide amusement to readers of Der Spiegel and perhaps pause for thought on the direction of current policies. Once More Unto the Breach, Hello again Greg. You may feel I'm inundating your inbox but I do so unashamedly because of the severity of the problems we face. I've now found how to register for membership of Spiegel's forums and have posted, with additional comments, the remarks copied previously to you as a letter to the editor. I've also posted under another heading the message at the end of this e-mail. I do hope you've taken on board the need to get the Foreign Office positively involved in these matters, and to do something about the BBC's hopelessly biased coverage - why do I pay a tax in the form of a licence fee to an organisation that belittles my arguments and opposes my interests?. If ministers and officials won't do what the people want we'll do it ourselves! The attitude "We won't bother because I'm due to decorate the bathroom this weekend" has been replaced with "How dare they - we'll fight them on the beaches .... etc etc" As for flip-flop Clegg, Huhne et al, in an earlier era they would have been hung, drawn and quartered for Treason. Ed Milliband and Ed Balls are dead in the water but David Milliband could still be dangerous. Cameron could probably win a snap election if one were called now but I wouldn't recommend it because his Veto would then be seen as an Opportunistic decision for domestic purposes only. "Go for Gold" as the saviour of "Democracy in Europe"! - and tone down or eliminate the argument "I did it to protect London's Financial Services Industry" "Dave's" actions (whether mistaken or not by being based on an apparent defence of the City that very few would agree with on its own merits), have indeed stolen some of UKIP's clothes as I advocated earlier and ignited support across Europe - as is clear from the comments on Spiegel articles if you have time to look at them. That theft, coupled with his continuing insistence that membership of the EU is in our interests, is a perfect combination for completely transforming the EU into a democratic confluence of states acceptable to all - it just needs overthrow of Merkozy by democratic methods in their own countries, disbandment of the present European Commission and Parliament, and the institution of a European-wide democracy with elections for supra-national positions and strong safeguards for regional centres who trade freely with one another and the rest of the world. Instead of "Europe", I'd call it "Utopia", but this time I'd hope it would come about because "Dave" is more effective than Thomas More ever was. Regards, Michael Additional posts on Spiegel Great to see so many challenging the "European Establishment" (ie Merkozy and their followers)assumption that totally undemocratic "Dizscipline" is the answer, eg: proposed ESM Treaty - "give us any money we think we may need at 7 days notice or have your elected government replaced by technocrats of our choice". And, by the way, "we demand the right to be free ourselves from all taxation and to have immunity from any legal action brought against us" Thank goodness the UK is isolated from these monstrous proposals. And no wonder Cameron used his Veto,in defence of the rights of all European citizens. He made a tactical mistake in basing his opposition on seeking exemption for London from a tax, applicable to all Eurozone centres including Frankfurt and Paris, that would disadvantage them vis-a-vis New York, Singapore, Shanghai etc, and this has been seized upon by his critics. But his essential opposition to the proposed ESM Treaty was in the interests of all Europeans in all countries. See my post (if it gets past Spiegel's moderators (censors ?) under the "Possible price of Merkel's victory" for ideas on how the current crisis might still be solved. As for Cohn-Bendit - (In his 1975 book Le Grand Bazar,[1] he described himself as engaging in sexual activities with very young children at the kindergarten. In 2001 Cohn-Bendit said that the account was invented for purposes of "verbal provocation", and that “I admit that what I wrote is unacceptable nowadays”.[2]) - "once a terrorist, always a terrorist", or perhaps he wasn't, in which case -"once a revolutionary provocateur, always a revolutionary provocateur".
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