The Euro Deal: EU’s Closer Integration; UK’s Isolation

Leaders of 23 European countries desperate to save the continent's shared currency agreed in all-night talks Friday to surrender some sovereignty in a new treaty - but failed to get all 27 European Union members to join in. Photo courtesy of Sky News.

Summits. With all the fanfare and hours of squabbling, you have to give it to the European Union. They do it best and they do it often. With the gruelling negotiations on addressing the looming Euro tragedy one can’t help but as why oh why must the EU’s answer to everything be to call a pow-wow at which they can take yet another group picture to set on their mantelpieces?

The recent summit in Brussels had all the features you’ll expect from an EU Summit. There’s the French-German double act that always fights over who gets center-stage and the spotlight, there’s a lot of huff and puff, the least common denominator  unable to get the children to play nice,  and, of course, the English who ended up ignored by all the other kids in the playground.

When a big club who is more talks and more and more and more and more before acting (then some will change their minds and then talk some more and more and more) like the EU, looking grumpy in the corner will not in anyway serve your country’s interests. Acting like a petulant child who refuse to play with other kids when not all his demands could be met will do nothing to except guarantee that none of it ever will be and will have absolutely no say about it. For all countries of the EU, this looming tragedy is a very real and urgent concern and the best way to make sure their country doesn’t go down in flames is to make sure they have a say in what the others can or can’t do. And at least three (Hungary, Sweden and Czech Republic) of the four came to their sense.

And for the first time in EU history, Britain did exactly what its European neighbors fear it would. To draw a big line between them and the rest of the EU. And for the first time in EU history, the Conservatives came closest to accomplishing their EU goal: to get Britain out of the EU. Tony Blair said it best: “It is time to resolve once and for all whether this country, Britain, wants to be at the centre and heart of European decision-making or not; time to decide whether our destiny lies as a leading partner and ally of Europe or on its margins.” For all his faults and the mutual dislike between him and other EU leaders, Gordon Brown knew how to suck it up, compromise and keep Britain in the loop. Well, that may be because he’s got David Miliband as Foreign Secretary. And now David Cameron clearly made his choice. He wants the sidelines, the margins and in splendid isolation. Brilliant.

William Hague even tried to down play it. But make no mistake. This deal is bound to have a major impact in the future of the European Union. There will be automatic sanctions against those countries that overspend. The monetary union has moved towards being also a fiscal union. The historic agreement has little to say about debt, about the absence of growth, about the European economies that continue to grow apart. What is clear, however, is that this is a big step towards closer integration and that at least 17 members (lead by Germany and France) are willing to get there with or without the others. And the nine other seems to think that it is in their best interest to stay close. And Britain wants to be that guy in the corner. This dysfunctional family is becoming more like a family and a whole lot more dysfunctional.

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