UK’s Cameron: Caught in the Syriza/Tsipras Trap
Why Britain won’t get a “new deal” from Brussels and Europe.
- David Cameron now finds himself in the same predicament politically as his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.
- Britain’s true moment of denouement will come when Cameron is told there won’t be a special deal for him.
- Britain, in effect, cannot be treated better than Greece. The rules, after all, are the rules.
- The EU’s rules are those of a club – which means they are to be respected by all members.
Who would have ever thought that the outcome of the British elections would be that Britain’s reelected Prime Minister David Cameron now finds himself in the very same predicament politically as his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras?
Mr. Cameron promised the British electorate something on which he ultimately cannot deliver – a better deal from Europe. That is his price for preserving British membership in the European Union. Tspiras and Co., too, wanted a new European deal (although one that, on substance, would run in the very opposite direction of what London has in mind).
Voters now expect Cameron to make good on his word to renegotiate Britain’s deal with Europe. This effort will prove to be a non-starter – and consequently lead to great disappointment in England.
Why negotiations will fail
There are two principal reasons why it will be so: First, the EU’s rules are those of a club – which means they are to be respected by all members. If any people in Europe should have an innate appreciation of what it takes to be a club member and follow the rules, it is the British – by far the clubbiest of all European societies.
Second, Mr. Cameron will find out soon to his utter dismay that, just like Alexis Tspiras did at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, he will end up unifying those who might be his allies in principle against his mission and his cause.
The Brexit debate will thus have a stunningly similar effect on the EU as Mr. Tspiras of Greece had before. In the Greek case, the French and the Italian governments initially leaned over backwards to help him and express solidarity with his cause. Now, they have turned away from him, basically in disgust.
Cameron will find the same result, although vis-á-vis a different set of partners: The Germans and the Nordic countries are generally sympathetic to the cause of an economically dynamic, less bureaucratic Europe.
These countries will find that Mr. Cameron will overshoot his targets. They also realize that any deal cannot apply to just one country – and it must be made as part of the rule-making in the club.
Britain’s true moment of denouement will come when Cameron is told there won’t be a special deal for him – that Britain, in effect, cannot be treated better than Greece. The rules, after all, are the rules.
That means that Cameron will only “succeed” in the most cosmetic matters, to give him a (barely) face-saving way to change his course.
This forces a very real choice onto the British Prime Minister: Essentially having failed to bring home real “bacon,” he would schedule a referendum to keep up his campaign promise, while arguing for staying inside the EU anyway.
The basic fact is that the country has very limited economic options. An island nation in a cold, damp part of Europe, its economy and wealth generation – at least the parts not derived from being servile to Russian oligarchs and Saudi princes – is heavily dependent on membership in the EU.
Time for a wake-up call
The reasons for applying a tough line to Cameron’s demands ultimately have to do with forcing a moment of realism onto Britain. For Europe’s long-term future, and that of the UK itself, it is far better to force a decisive vote in the minds of the British people about where they stand.
The special status game has been going on for many decades. So has the fence sitting. Neither game has strengthened the British economy. Membership in the EU has, even if English nationalists don’t want to accept that fact of life.
The preposterousness of Cameron’s endeavor to get a new deal is also clear from the extensive, over 3,000 page study – the Balance of Competences report — which his own government conducted about the benefits of EU membership. Covering all 32 policy areas of the EU, they were found to be so plentiful and well-balanced that the Cameron team promptly decided to bury the study.
The choice of being inside the EU or on the outside of the EU is a sovereign choice of the British people. They should choose and finally come to terms with their own destiny. The eternal inclination to sit on the fence is not good for any nation.
As it turns out, Britain’s options – not least at a time when Washington is mightily unimpressed with its British cousin – are far more limited than the elites in London let on.