Europe'sáNext Crisis: Britain Losing Allegiance to the EU

By Ralf Neukirch, Christoph Pauly, Christoph Scheuermann and

Part 2: An Ugly Fued

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At the end of September, Cameron announced, almost as an aside, that his government intends to withdraw from a Europe-wide system of cooperation among judicial and police authorities. The decision affects more than 130 regulations, which also include the European arrest warrant. If Great Britain's intentions are serious, it will become much more difficult for German authorities to apprehend criminals who have fled to Britain.

If Cameron also wants to bring other powers from Brussels back to London, it will openly contravene the preamble of the EU Treaty, which the British ratified. In the preamble, all member states pledge "to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe."

The Europeans are unwilling to grant the British further special rights, and the next conflict is already taking shape. Last week, 11 euro-zone countries resolved to introduce a financial transaction tax. The French and the Germans, in particular, were tired of waiting for the British. Officials in Brussels now fear that London will attempt to block the tax.

But it isn't the case that the government in London is keeping itself out of the affairs of the euro zone. When Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne vociferously called for the introduction of euro bonds, for example, he inflamed the dispute between the north and the south.

'Regrettable'

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton must also contend with her fellow Britons' repeated interventions whenever she or other EU representatives seek to issue statements on behalf of the EU at the United Nations or elsewhere. The government in London has even deployed a team of legal experts to find arguments to block joint EU statements.

For instance, the British insist that discussions in the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva have nothing to do with foreign policy. Instead, London argues, such discussions relate to healthcare policy, over which Brussels has no control. The EU and its predecessors "have over six decades contributed to peace and reconciliation," the Nobel Committee wrote. But at the moment its member states are engaged in an ugly feud.

People in Brussels and in many member states are so upset about Britain's behavior that a scenario is becoming conceivable that all sides had hoped to avoid until now: If the many opponents of Europe among the Tories prevail, the European treaties will have to be renegotiated.

Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commission President Barroso had already planned to do so, but on completely different terms. They wanted to convene a constitutional convention, which they hoped would ultimately lead to something like a United States of Europe. The visionaries wanted to create the position of euro finance minister, and they also imagined a shared foreign and security policy, even to the point of combining all of the member states' military forces.

No Illusions

Now it could happen that a convention initiated by Great Britain will achieve precisely the opposite result, namely the division of Europe. This, at least, is the fear that has senior crisis managers in Brussels worried at the moment. Greece's financial problems are no longer at the top of their list, but rather the possible departure of one of Europe's largest countries.

No one in Germany wants this, but no one with any political responsibility has any illusions about London's European policy, either. "We find it regrettable that England is taking certain steps without us," says Rainer BrŘderle, the parliamentary leader of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP). But he also knows where Germany's policy priorities lie. "We must eliminate the birth defect of the euro, and we need a stronger political union." And that, apparently, will only be achievable without Great Britain.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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1. European integration and the UK
Trojan Horace 10/16/2012
Whilst the article is essentially correct in its general thrust, it would be wrong to represent this as "Britain's position." The Conservative Party has been split down the middle over Europe for decades with its ageing, retiree, grass roots the most prone to populist opposition. But as a party it can't command more than a third of the electorate's votes. The Liberal-Democratic party, which keeps Cameron in office, with its minority support, is almost completely and enthusiastically Pro-European - and the Labour party is fairly solidly Pro-European, barring some of its leftist rank-and-file, which together with measured attempts not to enrage the minority electorate on the right of the conservative party, tends to make it sound more sceptical than it is in practice. Overall, assuming there were a referendum, it's likely the opinions of the British public wouldn't differ much from those of Germany. The difficulties of the Euro, through too enthusiastically and too rapidly, allowing economically troubled, economies into the EU, have provided a good whipping boy for the European Project's detractors. Mistakes have undoubtedly been made. However, to call the principle of further closer integration "dead" would be premature. It may sit on the back burner but things change and a week is a long time in politics. Let's see. Ironically it's actually been Britain's economic, structural weaknesses that have precluded it from full participation in the Euro, rather than the ideologues of the Thatcherite tendency. the EU's biggest detractors have been from fearful editorials in the Us in media outlets like the Wall Street Journal. No prizes, with the dollar perilously in difficulties, why there are those in the US who ever enjoyed the little local difficulties of the Greek default. It would be sage for Der Spiegal not to allow themselves be infected by that position. In the last economic analysis the American consumer votes with their wallet for German products and to say they would love to have a manufacturing base as robust, would be understatement.
2. Future of EU
RichardMcC 10/16/2012
Not surprising that we come to this point. The Euro project was a misstep. A great idea which in practice has benefited Germany which put its house in order thanks to Mr Schroeder but not the irresponsible ones who mismanaged their affairs and now have austernity imposed. Now we see the design flaws and propose more centralised control, the UK cannot stomach more loss of sovereignty. Where does that leave everyone else? Will Germany resist that, without the UK, the French will make the EU more dirigiste, socialised and anti-American? Will we get more Europe without popular support and imposed by stealth. Most member states do not allow citizens a vote on Euopean issues. The few that do get the wrong answers, France and the Netherlands voted against constitutional change. The proposed Treaty was relabelled and voted into law against the will of these voters. Precisely where are we going with ever closer Union is never debated. Germany can feel comfortable with its economic success but do Germans realise the EU and the Euro have anything to do with it. If they were allowed to vote, what would the outcome be?
3. Europe's next crisis...
saltedporkpie 10/16/2012
Do this really matter? By which I mean, if the UK voted to leave and the other EU members didn't want such an obstructionalist member anyway then surely 'everyone's a winner'. Trade, diplomacy and cultural connections will continue as before, and the other members can pursue their dreams of ever greater integration without hindrance. For long standing historical reasons (both good and bad) the UK has fundamentally different view of the Project. That is not a good thing or a bad thing, it just 'is'.
4. "Britain" Losing Allegiance to the EU
Eurasius 10/16/2012
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines Great Britain as: "England, Wales and Scotland". I am not sure that the title of the article is strictly correct, and wonder if it should not have read "England Losing Allegiance to the EU". From what I understand of opinions of people from Scotland expressed in the opinion sections of articles in newspapers, people in Scotland are not hostile to Europe or to European people. On further reflection, I am not even sure the title "England Losing Allegiance to the EU" would have been correct either, since I do not believe England has ever had any allegiance at any time to EU or its prior incarnations. President de Gaulle was surely correct, England is too tied to USA to ever have been considered a valid candidate for membership of the EEC. Perhaps the most sinister behaviour of England in the period of its membership of the EU was to force EU to accept full membership of Turkey, a country which the Financial Times of London estimated at the time (2004) would have, when eventually admitted to the EU, a population of over 100 million; a Middle Eastern country whose culture is not European, and a country whose immigrants into European countries have proved most difficult to assimilate.
5.
Willy Waucht 10/16/2012
Quote Overall, assuming there were a referendum, it's likely the opinions of the British public wouldn't differ much from those of Germany. Unquote This is precisely the problem. If there were to be a EU wide referendum tomorrow how many of the EU paymaster countries would vote to stay in this slightly dented project? I think national politicians would struggle to convince the voters from Germany, France and the UK that they are on the right path. It is more likely to be enough is enough. We are of course discussing the word never to be mentioned in Brussels, Referendum. In the last UK election the Conservative party polled 36% and they avoided talking about Europe at all. Fast forward two years and polls suggest nearly 50% of the electorate would vote against membership of the EU in a referendum. I leave you to translate how the labour party would adjust their often fluid politics to cover that position. Do bare in mind that the UK polls are based on the British electorates view on the current position. Would anyone like to forecast their views and attitude to a future EU as forecast in the Spiegel article? Answers on a postcard to 10 Downing Street. London SW1. Willy Waucht
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