Hey Saint Jude: The Lost Cause of the UK in the EU

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/12/2011 01:54:00 PM
For non-Catholic readers, the apostle Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. (He too features in a lot of trinkets as a commercial racket arising from this fame). Over the past few days, I've been thinking of him in relation to the plight of Britain in the European Union. For, the strains of UK membership in Europe are appearing once more. From chafing against contributing to the system of agricultural subsidies known as the Common Agricultural Policy to not joining the Eurozone, Britain's independent streak has always rendered it a less than fully fledged member of the EU in the eyes of many.

By now, I am sure that you have heard of how Britain has managed to further marginalize itself by effectively vetoing an EU treaty change that would entail more enforceable limits on the fiscal deficits Eurozone member countries can run. Which, of course, is churlish since the British famously have not adopted euro currency. nor do they intend to join the eurozone for the foreseeable future despite many of the Conservative Party old guard being quite keen. It is thus odd that British PM David Cameron wanted more guarantees on this occasion that the UK would obtain opt-outs on stricter financial regulations which could hurt London's status as a global financial centre since it's not the main agenda.

Among the things the UK vetoed are the following:
  • a cap of 0.5% of GDP on countries' annual structural deficits
  • "automatic consequences" for countries whose public deficit exceeds 3% of GDP
  • a requirement to submit their national budgets to the European Commission, which will have the power to request that they be revised
Again, it's curious that a chronic go-it-aloner would request to do so when it comes to topics that primarily don't concern it. There's also the matter of what happens to EU financial rule-making now with the UK choosing to isolate itself. Consequently, the British will have no say in drawing up EU-wide regulations but may be compelled to accept whatever the other 26 (or 25 if you also exclude the Euroskeptic-led Czech Republic) come up with anyway:
Just as important, the U.K.'s banks are now worried that the ill-will created by Mr. Cameron's stance means the U.K. "won't even have a seat at the table" the next time financial regulations are negotiated under existing rules, said one lobbyist for the City of London.
The Liberal Democratic-Conservative coalition faces a pretty stern test. The Lib Dems are more pro-Europe, with their leader having met his (Spanish) wife while working in Brussels. While he may want to keep them in the coalition for obvious reasons, you have to wonder how they can keep this coalition together in relatively harmonious fashion until the next scheduled election in 2015.

In any event, the party poopers here are easily identified.