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Parking the British bus on the European Union road

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 14:14 UK time, Friday, 9 December 2011


So, it really was the Lionel Richie shift. All night long. I am a bleary eyed zombie, in a room full of bleary eyed zombies.

Everyone’s conversation starter is how little sleep they’ve had in the last 24 hours. I managed one hour five minutes. And I am grateful for that five minutes.

Tom sitting opposite, a producer for Sky, managed a glorious 90 minutes. Geoff, a veteran British reporter based here in Brussels, has Tom and me both in the lily livered category. He never stopped. And he is still going strong.

So having gone to bed at 0215 UK time, the 5 live night team woke me up at 0320.

And what a story to get up to. David Cameron blows a raspberry at pretty much everyone else around the table, by rejecting a European Union wide treaty change to try to deal with the Eurozone crisis. Almost all the other members of the EU say they’re up for it, and in so doing are likely to be throwing quite a bit of their sovereignty lot into the Brussels pot.

So the news conferences began. And along came one of those moments that could only ever happen in Brussels. It’s half four in the morning, and one of this city’s many presidents, Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the Summits as the President of what’s known as the European Council, is taking questions from reporters. From the floor came a question that included the ludicrous phrase “a staged approach to common debt issuance.”

In terms the rest of us can get our heads around, this is what we got overnight. David Cameron concluded that what was on offer was a “new round of integration” as he put it, and would involve “surrenders of sovereignty.” He didn’t fancy either, worried what it could mean for the City of London, and so said “no.” It’s not that the Prime Minister has secured bringing powers back to Westminster. He’s parked the British bus on the European Union road, but he’s not reversing. The German and French jalopies, and plenty more too, trundle on, destination further integration.

This is, potentially, a seismic shift in the UK’s relationship with the European Union. The former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has just told me David Cameron’s decision was “not very intelligent” and “inconsistent.” For others, including many Conservative backbenchers, and, according to opinion polls, a sizeable proportion of the British electorate, it’s been a long time coming.

What do you think?

Chris Mason is 5live's Political Reporter. You can follow Chris on Twitter - @ChrisMasonBBC. 


  • Comment number 1.

    Yeah typical.

    Thought you'd put a blog up about the so called British Bulldog Cameron vetoing the Eurozone treaty just to galvanise the deluded 5 Live 'Little Englander' listener who's been brainwashed into thinking this is the best thing since slced bread; sticking up for our national interests against the 'communist' free market threat of the EU!

    What the blinkered should realise is that all this 'protecting the national interest' cobblers is really about protecting the interests of the British ruling class, the bankers and monetarists and their poodle professional politicians who exploit economically via the wages system the same 'Little Englander' who think their powers have been stolen by the EU when they never had any power anyway in the first place!

    Also notice how these Tory (and some Labour) boffins moan about belonging to an international economic bloc like the EU yet never moan about belonging to an international military bloc like NATO which supposedly protects their economic interests in places like Afghanistan and Iraq!

    Hypocrisy of the highest order, don't you know!

  • Comment number 2.

    I do see your point Nick, but on the other hand so many of the signed up countries are such lame ducks and basically as we are not part of the Euro, had we signed up to this Treaty, we would have had less influence on the policies of the rest of the EU members than France and Germany. I for one would not like it one bit if my life was going to basically be run by Sarkozy (who knows who will be there next?) and Merkel (ditto). Whilst so many of the economies signing up are so weak, do you not think for one moment catastrophe could happen and the German people refuse to bolster any more of those who are failing? I reckon this could happen in France too, and then where will they all be.

    Better out of it than in. As I said in the other blog, I feel surprised at myself for feeling this way, I am not a Tory but decided to make myself my own political party and that is the conclusion my leader has come to over all of this.

    And where are Labour in all of this? Hardly heard a word, and that is because they could really embarrass themselves if their history comes back in the debate, to bit them on the backsides. I bet Brown won't be in the House tomorrow.

  • Comment number 3.

    Bite them, not bit........

  • Comment number 4.

    The Eurozone, single currency, isn't the problem Carrie. If it was why are countries like the USA with their own currency and indeed the UK outside it suffering the same problems if not worse!

    Successive British Governments (both Labour and Tory) have just covered up the real problem which is low economic growth (that's necessary to create profits and subsequent investment if profitable) regardless of whether one belonged to the Eurozone or not by cheating on their alleged free market principles by using taxpayers £billions and when that doesn't work they cheat even more and print more money plunging the economy into even more debt, stagflation (inflation without growth) and general disarray.

    The Tories are just using Eurozone problems as a scapegoat for not having any real idea how to kickstart British capitallism back into growth.

    All those who are deluded to think its a straightforward issue to pull out of the EU altogether should remember that national capitalist governments needed a 'free trading bloc' but this involved a set of economic and political rules amongst them to instigate it properly which is the real cause of current squabbles.

    Cameron and Co may look big and bulldog tough to the simpletons because they've supposedly vetoed a EU treaty. Yet if the economy they manage was debt free with 10% economic growth as if it mitigates staying out of the Euro then their robust stance may have some credibility! The reality is they're weak and feeble and just playing the British Bulldog card and as you rightly allude is wholly down to the pathetic state of today's right wing Labour Party who let the Tories off the hook all the time whether in or out of government!

    Far better to have one European wide democratically elected government, politically integrated, a single currency an and where current nation states are more like UK counties rather than a load of self-interested flag waving capitalist governments squabbling amongst themselves.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for your thoughts Nick and Carrie - an interesting discussion. We're taking the Commons debate on the European Summit live now on 5live, and there will be full reaction and analysis on Drive once it's finished.

  • Comment number 6.

    Don't fancy life in Europe if your last paragraph came to pass Nick. You are not going to get that option, because you forget personal patriotism, which I expect you see as jingoism as I know you are further left than left. Hope you're not calling me a simpleton by the way!!

    Listened to the noisy debate and haven't really changed my mind. Wasn't all that impressed by Miliband. He didn't have a strong enough answer to Cameron's choice of actions, like he is really hedging his bets.

  • Comment number 7.

    No not at all Carrie.

    The simpletons are those who claim they're patriotic because they're really bored, disempowered, economically and politically apathetic (not ignorant) and by citing patriotism it's their only way of making a noise!

  • Comment number 8.

    Chris: Ref your reporting on the Feltham and Heston Bi-election (All issues 'all in it together') hence added it to this blog as Tories and UKIP playing the Eurosceptic card.

    The wretched turnout of 28% sums up the wretched state of UK politics today because the electorate can't tell the difference between the Tories, 'Very Blue' Labour and the rump of what's left of the Lib Dem rabble!

    Yes Labour predictably won but as per hstory Labour only wins because the Tories have failed; not because Labour were advocating alternative economic and social policies which voters recognise and support.

    Maybe sometime you could interview the victorious Labour candidate on a 5 Live broadcast and ask her what her alternative policies are apart from her pledge to be fully supportive of she regards as a wonderful leader in Ed Miliband!


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