As expected Eurozone leaders have reached agreement. The three-pronged arrangement means that private banks holding Greek debt will face a loss of 50%. Banks must also raise more capital to protect them against losses resulting from any future government defaults. The final part of the deal approved a mechanism to boost the Eurozone’s main bailout fund to one trillion Euros (£880bn; $1.4tn) with the framework for the new fund to be put in place in November.
From a UK perspective there is one thing above all which should send alarm bells ringing. The UK government was not at the table. The Tories have completely blown it. True, Cameron was allowed to be on the fringes of the preliminary get togethers, but when it became real he was excluded. This is a massive body blow. Britain is a major economy and the City of London one of the most important financial centres in the world. Decisions taken in the Eurozone are fundamental toBritain’s economy.
We would do well to compare Britain’s exclusion this time round to the events in the autumn of 2008 when the world banking system was in meltdown. The Labour Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, was a key player in the Eurozone summits in Paris, preparing a common European position for the G8 and G20 meetings. Brown received recognition from all quarters for the leadership he showed at that time. All Cameron and Osborne have achieved is damaging exclusion.
The Tory leadership continues to make a virtue of not being there, viewing the EU as some alien body which is out to get us. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s the Tories who are out to get us. When they talk about repatriation of powers from the EU to theUK- a near impossibility in itself – what they are really seeking is the unravelling of social protection.
The Tories want to take back powers on health and safety, environmental standards and consumer protection, amongst other things. The EU has, over the years, maintained and improved conditions at work, introduced legislation on water and air quality and set up a system of food labelling, to name but a few measures which benefit all of us. The Tories view this kind of social legislation as expensive and unnecessary. They want to repatriate powers to do away with many things which are of great benefit to the British people.
It was this same antediluvian attitude that led the Tories to take themselves out of the mainstream centre-right political group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party, and ally with what Nick Clegg described as “a bunch of nutters”. This knee-jerk move to secure David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party greatly angered centre right leaders inEurope, including Angela Merkel. Indeed, the current government’s exclusion from the Eurozone decision making process may have something to do with this history. The Tories cannot have it both ways. If they choose to attack the EU they will surely come a cropper.
However, it’s not just the Conservative Party who will suffer. Since they are the major governing party, it is the British people as a whole. It’s becoming ever clearer that the Tories want to do away with so much of what we as a country take for granted and take us backwards fast. That would be extremely bad new for the vast majority of us who live and work in the United Kingdom.