British Prime Minister David Cameron was embraced by conservatives and euro-skeptics after rejecting a European Union agreement aimed at stabilizing the troubled economic union. Yet the tone of the New York Times news coverage is that he blundered, “isolating” Britain by failing to accept the accord’s requirements, including that members submit their budgets to the EU for approval even before being considered by their country’s own parliaments.
Sarah Lyall and Julia Werdigier reported from London Saturday, “In Rejecting Europe Pact, Cameron Is Isolated.”
When he rejected a new European accord on Friday that would bind the continent ever closer, Prime Minister David Cameron seemingly sacrificed Britain’s place in Europe to preserve the pre-eminence of the City, London’s financial district. The question now is whether his stance will someday seem justified, even prescient.
Mr. Cameron refused to go along with the new European plan of stricter fiscal oversight and discipline hammered out in Brussels this week, in great part because of fears that the City would be strangled by regulations emanating from Brussels. He evidently felt he had little choice, and given the virulence of the anti-Europe sentiment in his own Conservative Party, few were inclined to argue that point.
“I said if I couldn’t get adequate safeguards for Britain in a new European treaty, I wouldn’t agree to it,” Mr. Cameron said in a news conference. “What is on offer isn’t in Britain’s interests, so I didn’t agree to it.”
Lyall and Werdigier cited left-of-center critics, then his fellow national leaders.
But many experts questioned Mr. Cameron’s decision to take such a hard line, abandoning Britain’s traditional strategy of acting both within and without the European club.
It was clear after a marathon session on Thursday that Mr. Cameron had alienated his continental counterparts. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, told reporters, “I really don’t believe David Cameron was ever with us at the table.” Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, at one point snubbed Mr. Cameron in a hallway, refusing to shake his hand.
Saturday’s lead story from Brussels by Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle, “German Vision Prevails As European Leaders Agree on Fiscal Treat – Britain Is Left in Isolation as Euro Zone Adopts Tighter Spending Controls,” also emphasized a country pushed to the sidelines:
Europe’s worst financial crisis in generations is forging a new European Union, pushing Britain to the sidelines and creating a more integrated, fiscally disciplined core of nations under the auspices of a resurgent Germany.
The big loser in Brussels was Britain, which had endorsed the 1991 Maastricht Treaty on European integration but opted out of the new euro common currency to preserve its economic and monetary independence.
Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative and self-acknowledged “euroskeptic,” was isolated in his refusal to allow the German prescription of “more Europe” -- to give teeth to fiscal pledges underpinning the euro.
Mr. Cameron was perceived as having made a poor gamble in opposing the push by Mrs. Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, embittering relations and possibly damaging his standing at home. Though some other countries, including Denmark and Hungary, initially shared Britain’s skepticism of the German-led agreement, only Britain ultimately rejected it.
And on the front of Monday’s Business section, reporter Landon Thomas Jr. saw potential financial harm in “A Stark Step Away From Europe – In Britain’s Bid to Shield Banks, a Threat to Its Influence.”
Has Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain hurt his country’s powerful financial services industry more than he has helped it?
Some in Britain worry that Prime Minister David Cameron has further estranged the country from Europe's policy inner circle.
Many bankers and economists are pondering that question after Mr. Cameron’s surprising decision last week to leave Britain out of a historic accord aimed at moving Europe closer to political as well as monetary union.