The British are a self-obsessed lot. Since the EU summit, press coverage has been almost entirely devoted to our veto over a new treaty. Selfishly, We wanted to keep our right to determine British fiscal policy. We didn't want to trade it to gain a 27th share in deciding the fiscal stance of countries like Slovenia. Some call that isolation, others might call it sanity.But what about our dearly beloved European partners? Shouldn't we spare a thought for them?
Their proposed inter-governmental agreement locks them into a very restricted budgetary framework.If the spirit of the agreement is implemented, then European countries will be running balanced budgets for at least 20 years. Since every EU country is running a large deficit right now, this must mean deep expenditure cuts and higher taxes. Moreover, Countries that fail to comply with the new fiscal compact should expect painful sanctions. It will be two decades of gruel and hard tack for the continent.
There is a delicious irony for the Left in Britain. They complain that Cameron has isolated Britain, that he was outmanoeuvred by the French, and that he has done irreparable damage to UK interests. At home, they protest that the coalition's fiscal adjustment strategy rests on cruel savage cuts in social protection, along with growth-destroying tax increases.
The left is unwilling to give Cameron any credit for keeping the UK out of an agreement that would have envisaged a more rapid fiscal adjustment. Would it not be better to be out of a fiscal union that would signal the end of the British system of social protection? After all, what is more important? Protecting the vulnerable in Britain or saving the Euro?