Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Clegg did his best over Euro debt

Some Liberal Democrat members were informed by a senior parliamentarian in the party soon after the Brussels "veto" that Nick Clegg had worked hard on keeping the UK in the dialogue which aimed to secure the viability of euro economies. The deputy PM had not only been in constant touch with David Cameron, but had also in the weeks before the Brussels conference spoken to many other heads of government in the EU. It is gratifying that his role has been made public by Sir Graham Watson MEP here.

There is also confirmation of the miscalculation made by the prime minister:
Aware of the difficulty Cameron was in with Conservative backbench sentiment, Nick Clegg worked hard over a six week period to try to prevent such an outcome. He met or spoke to the prime minister every day over the last three weeks to convince him of the danger and to help him devise a strategy to manage it. He also spoke to many other EU leaders. What he had no control over was how the PM would play his cards in the meeting.

By most accounts, Cameron got off to a bad start. Not having been present at the European People's Party pre-summit meeting in Marseilles (since his first act as party leader was to withdraw the Tories from the EPP), Cameron had little sense of the mood within Europe's majority. At Thursday night's supper he spoke strongly against regulation of financial services (particularly the hedge funds which finance the Tory party), which cost him sympathy among leaders who feel such regulation to be necessary. When offered by the chairman, later, a choice between agreement among 17 on closer union on the basis of Protocol 12 (which requires no treaty change and therefore remains within the existing treaty framework) and a new intergovernmental treaty, Cameron said it made no difference to him. Finally, just before 4am (when he could reasonably have asked for a postponement of business until later in the morning) he presented a list of demands to move the basis of decision making on financial services legislation within the single market from qualified majority voting to unanimity 'to protect the city of London'. He had clearly decided to go all in and, unsurprisingly, his bluff was called. At the press conference to explain his stance he was visibly shaken.

Mr Cameron may be an expert on PR, but he clearly overestimated his abilities as a negotiator.

No comments: