One minute UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is supporting (reluctantly-ish) his boss PM David Cameron in the latter’s decision to wield his veto to keep Britain out of something or other at the EU (nobody seems sure exactly what), tbe next minute he’s telling his mates in the media like the Observer’s Will Hutton and then Andrew Marr on the BBC that it’s all a disaster and leaves the UK as a ‘pygmy’ in Europe.
So what’s happened to Clegg, hailed as a ‘great communicator’ just a couple of years ago after this performance in the pre-election debates and initial success in putting a positive spin on the cost-cutting exploits of the UK’s coalition government between Cameron’s Tories and his Liberal Democrats?
He’s been mugged by his Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable (and probably leadership rival and energy secretary Chris Huhne too), just as Cameron, in the end, wielded his veto to keep Eurosceptics in his own party happy once he realised he wasn’t going to get the treaty opt-outs for the City he hoped for.
Cable threatened to resign if Clegg (pictured) didn’t backtrack on his statements of support for Cameron and, if Cable goes from government, then Clegg is finished. Cameron too would have been on dodgy ground with his party (although a little less slippery) if he had acquiesced in Angela Merkel’s and Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans for tighter EU fiscal integration which might have adversely affected the UK’s financial sector.
So the UK’s two political leaders are completely at odds because they can’t control rebellious elements in their respective parties, which is hardly a recipe for stability. Neither is the UK’s decision to opt out of various EU confabs which will inevitably affect business and industry (and much else besides) likely to help the economy either, as many business leaders, including WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, have been saying over the weekend.
Which, ultimately, won’t help Cameron but it might help Clegg, in the short term at least.
This really is a fine mess and makes it almost inevitable that there will be a referendum on EU membership for the UK sometime soon, probably shortly after the next general election – and a good thing too. Britain needs to be either a (good-ish) European or plough its furrow somewhere else.
As for the Eurozone’s financial difficulties, we wait to see if publicity-mad ratings agency Standard & Poor’s goes ahead with its threat to downgrade all the Eurozone countries following their failure to agree substantial new funding from the European Central Bank (and anyone else who’s got some money).
If it does, things will only get worse before they get better. And, if it’s left to the politicians, there’s no guarantee there’ll be a better.