Sarkozy, Draghi winners in EU rift, Cameron loses

Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:12am EST
 
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By Paul Taylor

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Napoleon dreamed of it, De Gaulle fought for it, but Nicolas Sarkozy may have achieved it -- a Europe of Nations with France in the cockpit and Britain on the sidelines.

The French president emerged as one of the big winners of a European Union summit on Friday which ended with up to 26 member states agreeing to move forward in economic integration around the euro zone, and Britain alone in staying out.

"Of course this is not just a long-standing desire, but a long-standing goal of French politics ... because in the French tradition Britain never really belonged to the European Union, dating back to De Gaulle," said a senior EU official who attended the summit, referring to the French president's veto of British entry in 1963 and again in 1967.

By obstructing the wish of the other EU members to amend the bloc's governing Lisbon treaty to allow closer fiscal union among the 17-nation single currency area, British Prime Minister David Cameron managed to unite Europe against him.

He may be feted by Eurosceptics at home, but he emerged as the biggest diplomatic loser of the summit, leading his country into an isolation that all his predecessors sought to avoid.

For centuries, a basic principle of British diplomacy was to maintain a balance of power on the European mainland forming shifting alliances with the main continental powers.

Cameron not only failed to win a blanket veto right over EU financial services legislation. The illusion of leading a group of 10 non-euro member states like Sweden and Poland, committed to a more liberal, open economy, crumbled as his supposed allies threw in their lot with the euro zone.

Even though Cameron said the Dutch had promised to look out for Britain's interests in the EU's single market, the City of London financial centre could be a loser in a two-speed, 26-1 Europe, given the current low political standing of banks and hedge funds.   Continued...