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Published on June 13th, 2012 | by Katharina Obermeier
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566" caption="© Abode of Chaos"][/caption]   Like the rest of the world, the British Prime Minister David Cameron is worried about the eurozone crisis. He has expressed this concern several times over the last few weeks, calling for urgent action from EU leaders to find a solution to the crisis and stressing how important it is for the euro to succeed. He is certainly not alone in this regard – many analysts, economists, politicians and citizens have said the same thing over the last year or so. The difference is that they are not often in a position to do anything about it – while Cameron, as an EU leader, is. So when he makes these kinds of statements urging European leaders to take action, they are always accompanied by an inevitable undertone of hypocrisy, since they are just as applicable to himself as to Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Mario Monti and co. Granted, the UK is not in the eurozone (and unlike most other non-euro countries in the EU does not strive towards adopting the single currency – the only other country in this category is Denmark). It has also traditionally been the most eurosceptic and isolationist of EU member states, preferring to preserve its own political traditions and its role within the Commonwealth. However, whether Cameron likes it or not, the UK is a full member of the EU, and, as the country with the third-highest GDP in the Union, bears – or should bear – special responsibilities among member states, alongside Germany and France. So what has the Cameron administration done to help its fellow EU member states find a solution to the crisis? So far, not much. In December 2011, with the crisis raging throughout Europe, Cameron vetoed changes to the Lisbon Treaty which would have required all EU member states to ensure their national budgets were balanced. The UK’s move meant that these rules were signed in the form of an intergovernmental treaty among 25 countries rather than an EU treaty change for the entire Union. Non-eurozone member states agreed to the new rules in order to send a positive signal to financial markets on the EU’s commitment to tackling debt, but Cameron feared too much for the UK’s financial services sector to sign up to them. Five months later, British Finance Minister George Osborne caused a stir in European policy circles when he refused to approve a compromise agreement among EU member states on banking regulations, notoriously declaring that it would be “idiotic” for the UK to sign onto it and again citing concerns over the country’s financial sector. Interestingly, the strategies Cameron and his ministers suggest in order to tackle the crisis are enlarging the bail-out fund and mutualising eurozone debt through the establishment of eurobonds, both of which are good ideas but neither of which require any effort or commitment on the part of the UK. The European Stability Mechanism will be funded exclusively by countries in the eurozone, i.e. not the UK, and unlike Germany, the UK would lose nothing if eurozone debt were mutualised. In the two areas in which the UK could make a big difference – lending financial support to struggling EU member states and establishing an EU-wide financial transactions tax – Cameron is refusing to negotiate. He argues it would be “inappropriate”, given the fact that the euro is not the UK’s currency, thereby ignoring the rationale behind IMF-led bail-outs, which are funded not by countries with the same currency, but by those which can afford to pay the most. Of course, Cameron is right to call for urgent action in the eurozone, given Greece’s desperate situation and the troubling economic news coming from Spain. However, his rhetoric comes across as deeply hypocritical given his administration’s own inability to compromise on key issues which could help save the eurozone. As Cameron himself has recognised, a further weakening of the eurozone would be harmful to the British economy, while a collapse would have disastrous consequences for all EU member states. It is now up to all EU leaders, Cameron included, to cooperate and compromise, for everyone’s sake.

1

Cameron’s Empty Rhetoric on the Eurozone Crisis

© Abode of Chaos

 

Like the rest of the world, the British Prime Minister David Cameron is worried about the eurozone crisis. He has expressed this concern several times over the last few weeks, calling for urgent action from EU leaders to find a solution to the crisis and stressing how important it is for the euro to succeed. He is certainly not alone in this regard – many analysts, economists, politicians and citizens have said the same thing over the last year or so. The difference is that they are not often in a position to do anything about it – while Cameron, as an EU leader, is. So when he makes these kinds of statements urging European leaders to take action, they are always accompanied by an inevitable undertone of hypocrisy, since they are just as applicable to himself as to Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Mario Monti and co.

Granted, the UK is not in the eurozone (and unlike most other non-euro countries in the EU does not strive towards adopting the single currency – the only other country in this category is Denmark). It has also traditionally been the most eurosceptic and isolationist of EU member states, preferring to preserve its own political traditions and its role within the Commonwealth. However, whether Cameron likes it or not, the UK is a full member of the EU, and, as the country with the third-highest GDP in the Union, bears – or should bear – special responsibilities among member states, alongside Germany and France.

So what has the Cameron administration done to help its fellow EU member states find a solution to the crisis? So far, not much. In December 2011, with the crisis raging throughout Europe, Cameron vetoed changes to the Lisbon Treaty which would have required all EU member states to ensure their national budgets were balanced. The UK’s move meant that these rules were signed in the form of an intergovernmental treaty among 25 countries rather than an EU treaty change for the entire Union. Non-eurozone member states agreed to the new rules in order to send a positive signal to financial markets on the EU’s commitment to tackling debt, but Cameron feared too much for the UK’s financial services sector to sign up to them. Five months later, British Finance Minister George Osborne caused a stir in European policy circles when he refused to approve a compromise agreement among EU member states on banking regulations, notoriously declaring that it would be “idiotic” for the UK to sign onto it and again citing concerns over the country’s financial sector.

Interestingly, the strategies Cameron and his ministers suggest in order to tackle the crisis are enlarging the bail-out fund and mutualising eurozone debt through the establishment of eurobonds, both of which are good ideas but neither of which require any effort or commitment on the part of the UK. The European Stability Mechanism will be funded exclusively by countries in the eurozone, i.e. not the UK, and unlike Germany, the UK would lose nothing if eurozone debt were mutualised. In the two areas in which the UK could make a big difference – lending financial support to struggling EU member states and establishing an EU-wide financial transactions tax – Cameron is refusing to negotiate. He argues it would be “inappropriate”, given the fact that the euro is not the UK’s currency, thereby ignoring the rationale behind IMF-led bail-outs, which are funded not by countries with the same currency, but by those which can afford to pay the most.

Of course, Cameron is right to call for urgent action in the eurozone, given Greece’s desperate situation and the troubling economic news coming from Spain. However, his rhetoric comes across as deeply hypocritical given his administration’s own inability to compromise on key issues which could help save the eurozone. As Cameron himself has recognised, a further weakening of the eurozone would be harmful to the British economy, while a collapse would have disastrous consequences for all EU member states. It is now up to all EU leaders, Cameron included, to cooperate and compromise, for everyone’s sake.

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About the Author

Katharina Obermeier

Katharina considers herself a German-Canadian hybrid. She grew up in Germany and completed her BA in International Relations at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Politics, especially in relation to concepts of nationality, have always fascinated her, and she is particularly interested in international political economy. During her studies, she was an avid participant at Model United Nations conferences, and helped welcome international exchange students to her university. She is currently completing an internship at a Brussels-based trade association and hopes to work in European affairs in the future. In her political writing, Katharina marries social democratic principles with a keen interest in the European Union and its implications for European politics and identity. She writes to counteract simplistic ideas about politics and economics, continuously attempting to expose the nuances and complexities involved in these subjects.



  • Cameron doesn't care enough about the lower/middle class to see it as a "big" problem. We need jobs and good free education.

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