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Published on December 11th, 2011 | by Nick Doyle
Image © Whether or not you are pro or anti EU there is something we can all agree on; Britain's relationship with it fundamentally changed this week.  I'm not going to debate whether the actions Cameron has taken are positive or not because as with all things European, there is a wealth of argument for either side. Instead I suggest we turn our attention to the future and the prospects thereof:

All is forgiven and a new treaty is drawn up

France and Germany are angry, which is a predictable reaction when someone doesn't want to play along, but the economic consequences of shunning Britain may be too high a price for them (and Cameron) to bear.  France, Germany and the UK are indelibly linked by economic forces for example EU exports account for 40% of all products leaving this country as well as a wealth of jobs.  This goes both ways so will there be a mutual backing down after the economic aides on both sides have a word?  The only possible way to then move forward would be to redress the treaty (something likely to happen anyway) with both sides have to make some concessions.

They stay angry

A perhaps more frightening option is that "Merkozy" do not back down at all.  They hold their line knowing that giving into Britain could unleash a wealth of claims from other countries in order to wangle exemptions for themselves ultimately undermining the entire process of a formal treaty.  This seems fairly likely in the scheme of things and it has dire consequences for Britain in terms of being left out of talks on vital future issues.  It also opens the possibility of being outflanked in other international forums such as the World Health organisation, the UN, the G7 etc etc etc.

Public opinion backs a referendum

As a pro-European this is the one that keeps me up at night.  The prospect of Conservative backbenchers continuing to sound the call of a referendum teamed with the undoubted anti-European sentiment in public opinion at the moment could mean the UK being ejected from the club once and for all.  The consequences of this are far-ranging but to one extent, unknown.  Who knows how trade would be affected not to mention foreign direct investment in this country.  Considering the amount Britain imports from EU members, a sizable increase in costs is likely in any event.  Beyond the economics of it, what would it do to our cultural stance in their continent. We claim we are the most multicultural in Europe but would this be the case if travel was not so forgiving to our continental friends?

Britain wins

I've put this last as in my mind it is the most unrealistic.  This would entail Cameron getting the conditions he wants at no cost.  Merkozy bends to the will of our mighty leader and we stay a 'half-in-half-out' member, avoiding full commitment.  This option is not only improbably, it is politically impossible.  As said earlier, not only do Merkozy at the moment consider Cameron as only slightly more helpful (and less dangerous) than Gaddafi, but he has shown himself to be at the mercy of his back benchers, a sometimes dangerous thing in European politics.  They need a new summit but they need his vote.  Chances are there are more plots to oust Cameron from the EU than there are to accommodate him. I don't claim to know everything about the EU or indeed politics in general.  In fact, thinking about it I would say most of it eludes me, however, from the possible options that lie before us surely we have to ask what we are sacrificing at this moment?  Undoubtedly the signs point to uncertainty and whether or not the EU framework will hang together. Cameron says (at least in public) that he believes it will, but then why is he not getting behind it?  It is a risk I agree and it seems public option is going the other way, but can we say that the Conservatives have really made a point for the EU?  At the moment it would seem there is no true dialogue or discussion over the question of the EU, just the call for us to get our way.  Is jeopardising our role in one of the largest economic unions this world has ever seen worth it when we consider what we are asking for in return?  For the moment at least, the UK's future in Europe hangs in the balance.

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Is all this worth it?

Whether or not you are pro or anti EU there is something we can all agree on; Britain’s relationship with it fundamentally changed this week.  I’m not going to debate whether the actions Cameron has taken are positive or not because as with all things European, there is a wealth of argument for either side.

Instead I suggest we turn our attention to the future and the prospects thereof:

All is forgiven and a new treaty is drawn up

France and Germany are angry, which is a predictable reaction when someone doesn’t want to play along, but the economic consequences of shunning Britain may be too high a price for them (and Cameron) to bear.  France, Germany and the UK are indelibly linked by economic forces for example EU exports account for 40% of all products leaving this country as well as a wealth of jobs.  This goes both ways so will there be a mutual backing down after the economic aides on both sides have a word?  The only possible way to then move forward would be to redress the treaty (something likely to happen anyway) with both sides have to make some concessions.

They stay angry

A perhaps more frightening option is that “Merkozy” do not back down at all.  They hold their line knowing that giving into Britain could unleash a wealth of claims from other countries in order to wangle exemptions for themselves ultimately undermining the entire process of a formal treaty.  This seems fairly likely in the scheme of things and it has dire consequences for Britain in terms of being left out of talks on vital future issues.  It also opens the possibility of being outflanked in other international forums such as the World Health organisation, the UN, the G7 etc etc etc.

Public opinion backs a referendum

As a pro-European this is the one that keeps me up at night.  The prospect of Conservative backbenchers continuing to sound the call of a referendum teamed with the undoubted anti-European sentiment in public opinion at the moment could mean the UK being ejected from the club once and for all.  The consequences of this are far-ranging but to one extent, unknown.  Who knows how trade would be affected not to mention foreign direct investment in this country.  Considering the amount Britain imports from EU members, a sizable increase in costs is likely in any event.  Beyond the economics of it, what would it do to our cultural stance in their continent. We claim we are the most multicultural in Europe but would this be the case if travel was not so forgiving to our continental friends?

Britain wins

I’ve put this last as in my mind it is the most unrealistic.  This would entail Cameron getting the conditions he wants at no cost.  Merkozy bends to the will of our mighty leader and we stay a ‘half-in-half-out’ member, avoiding full commitment.  This option is not only improbably, it is politically impossible.  As said earlier, not only do Merkozy at the moment consider Cameron as only slightly more helpful (and less dangerous) than Gaddafi, but he has shown himself to be at the mercy of his back benchers, a sometimes dangerous thing in European politics.  They need a new summit but they need his vote.  Chances are there are more plots to oust Cameron from the EU than there are to accommodate him.

I don’t claim to know everything about the EU or indeed politics in general.  In fact, thinking about it I would say most of it eludes me, however, from the possible options that lie before us surely we have to ask what we are sacrificing at this moment?  Undoubtedly the signs point to uncertainty and whether or not the EU framework will hang together. Cameron says (at least in public) that he believes it will, but then why is he not getting behind it?  It is a risk I agree and it seems public option is going the other way, but can we say that the Conservatives have really made a point for the EU?  At the moment it would seem there is no true dialogue or discussion over the question of the EU, just the call for us to get our way.  Is jeopardising our role in one of the largest economic unions this world has ever seen worth it when we consider what we are asking for in return?  For the moment at least, the UK’s future in Europe hangs in the balance.

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