Severe attack of David Cameron on “totally unjustified account”, which was delivered to the UK from the European Union: €2.2 billion more on contributions relating to the past 4 years. In the press conference after the EU Council in Brussels, Cameron mentioned the words spoken during the works by the council chairman Matteo Renzi, of which he said to have support on this matter.
According to Cameron, Renzi said that “people do not understand that this is not a number but a lethal weapon that leads people to think that the European Commission consists of technocrats out of touch.” And “I share these words from the first to the last,” said British Prime Minister.
“When I saw the numbers, I immediately consulted with the Prime Minister of Italy, the Netherlands, Malta and others and asked to convene an extraordinary summit of finance ministers, which is vital to take place,” said Prime Minister David Cameron over a request adjustment to the EU budget. “It is an unacceptable timing and amount,” added the Prime Minister explained that he first became aware of the request “only yesterday”.
The request that the Commission directed to London claiming €2.1 billion by December 1, or a fifth of the UK’s annual contribution to the EU budget, is a ticking bomb in the Anglo-European relations. Exploding, moreover, at the same time as Britain proves once again the most dynamic economy of the European Union with a growth in the third quarter by 0.7 per cent.
This is why the Commission’s move comes as even more wrong. Brussels interpreting EU rules called for in London (and The Hague) to pay a one-off contribution to the budget of €2.1 billion as the economic performance from 1995 to date has been beyond expectations. In other words, Britain has done so well that it should be more involved in the common costs. It is, of course, the automatic application of EU rules, but the timing is devastating to the stability of the kingdom. While Downing Street states that “it is not acceptable to change the figures for previous years and claim to cash them in a few days.”
David Cameron is studying a common line with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to bypass the request and calls for an EU emergency summit of Finance Ministers to discuss the EU budget.
The prime minister interrupted a meeting in Brussels with EU leaders and called the request “unacceptable.” But it was once again Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, to grasp the political meaning of the story, with but a few heartfelt words. “David Cameron’s strategy in Europe is bankrupt”.
The gap between the Great Britain and the rest of the European Union deepens as the former walks away from the assistance with rescuing immigrants. Britain will not be there, no unit with the Union Jack will participate in search and rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily to manage the consequences of the wave of migration from North Africa. The reason is, apparently, strategic. “Such actions – said a spokesman for English Interior Ministry – aim to facilitate illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, encouraging migrants to undertake such travel as too dangerous. This has resulted in many victims with the use of boats inadequate for such traversing.”
London keeps therefore low profile in matters concerning a specific chapter of the operations in the Mediterranean Euroregion – search and rescue – but states that it wants to make a contribution to the EU mission Triton, which will start on November 1, and should, at least in part, replace the Mare Nostrum, the Italian Plan action that rescued 150 thousand people.
Britain has run its willingness to offer “initial support” to Triton in the form of “experts and financial aid,” and reserves further action. This is not really a rescue line, though, and that is enough, inevitably, to raise controversy and undeniable accusations of cynicism addressed to the government of London by the major humanitarian organizations that deal with immigration.
Maurice Wren in charge of the British Refugee council was brief. “People fleeing from the atrocities that are reality in some parts of Africa will not stop running away because you stop short of throwing them a lifeline.” Yet that is precisely what the Foreign Office seems to believe relying on the words of the Secretary Lady Anelay delivered in the House of Lords. “We do not support such operations as they become an unwitting magnet for human traffickers… the most effective way to put an end to this phenomenon is to focus on the countries of transit and origin of migration.” You can, but the times for such actions to be effective are biblical, while the death toll would make them infinite.
It’s hard not to connect the attitude of London to the Mediterranean with the duel that the Cameron government has initiated with the EU on immigration within Europe. The migration to London is now the most sensitive topic of the British political scene, intended to direct the election campaign ahead of the vote in May. The thrust on UKIP Tory forces the Prime Minister into a corner, suggesting measures, and tones are more and more rigid. The idea that taxpayers’ money, as it is stated in the debates always in Westminster, can end up in patrols of the southern flank of the EU, and might set fire to the powder of the internal debate.
If this is Britain’s national economic policy, the reality in London gives good reason to consider immigration a serious problem. In support of this, David Cameron spoke yesterday to the mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart for the UMP. “People, he said after the clashes between the French police and migrants who were trying to climb the ships sailing to the UK, see London as an El Dorado for the lack of identity cards and the generous welfare system.”
Britain will not participate directly in the rescue operations against migrants in the Mediterranean from North Africa because this type of support would be an incentive for illegal trade in human beings. In fact the position is part of an increasingly tough attitude on the part of the British government towards immigrants.
London will continue to pursue the national interest and try to limit the number of immigrants from the European Union, too, despite a stark reminder of the German Chancellor.
The German government, as well as the European Commission, insists that the right of free movement of citizens and workers within the EU is a sacrosanct and inviolable principle that cannot be questioned from London. According to authoritative sources in the German press, Merkel herself said that in order not to give ground on this front she would be willing to expulse Britain out of the EU. Her spokesman confirmed today that Merkel wants London to remain in the EU, but does not intend to compromise on freedom of movement. “The UK needs to clarify the role it intends to play in the future in the EU, said Steffen Seibert. This is not a bilateral issue between Germany and Britain, but between Great Britain and all European partners.”
The threat from Berlin is creating a political storm in Britain, which considers Germany a crucial ally in Europe. The words of Merkel, moreover, reflect the growing frustration in Europe for the increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric of the British Prime Minister. In recent weeks David Cameron has responded to the growing popularity of UKIP, the party calling for an immediate exit from the EU, announcing that it intends to limit immigration and establish “roofs” and “quota”.
UKIP among other things has just sent its first MP in Westminster, a politician who left the Conservative Party to join the Europhobes, while November 20 a second UKIP MEP will be elected according to the polls in the constituency of Rochester, another defector from Tories. The strategy of Cameron looks so crucial to the elections next May if wooing and irritating Eurosceptic European partners is the price of victory at the polls, the British prime minister seems willing to pay for it.
“A check for €2 billion by December 1? Rule it out.” “David Cameron enraged by what Brussels sees as mimicing, ideally, Margaret Thatcher and her scream – “I want my money back’- echoed at the European summit in 1984 when the UK was guaranteed a substantial repayment of the EU budget. London, this time, is called upon to pay, but it certainly will, in time; but probably, not to the extent required. And maybe it will not do that at all.
The new crack line that has opened up the English Channel is deeper than the one dug between Brussels and Rome, The Hague, Athens all invited by the Commission to pay an extra for a recalculation of the national quotas to the EU budget. London was asked to pay €2 billion, about one-fifth of the national payment to the common budget of 2013, a multiple, so called because of the other partners in the “debt”.
The difference is not only the amount, but the context in which it was dropped as a political bombshell, the daughter of accounting technicalities and therefore, in the opinion of many, already known to the British Treasury. David Cameron called the request “completely unjustified” both in substance and in form.
Presenting the bill to claim the balance in six weeks is perceived by Downing Street “as unacceptable to the mode of operation” of the Commission. For reasons that go well beyond the demand of 2 billion euro, however. The third quarter GDP with more than 0.7% confirms the upward motion of the London stock exchange, despite a slight slowdown in economic, the annual performance in 2014 is bound to exceed 3 percent. The new dispute erupts, in fact, about two weeks from the elections of Rochester that, according to the polls, promise to take a second Nigel Farage to Westminster. Prevailing moods of Europhobia among the brits pushes David Cameron to chase a popular evanescent consensus.
The current prime minister can win only by turning away from Brussels, showing that more and more radical tones are more yielding in preparation for a referendum on EU membership that the Tories intend to organize in 2017. Put that in direct correlation to the 2 billion of contributions required from Commission to the excellent economic performance of the UK, as if it were a “tax credit” – although it is not exactly what it is – it’s plain operation with some amount of political demagoguery. In these months of pre-electoral season (they will vote in May), however, it is an entirely predictable operation. Nigel Farage has in fact already reported “complete failure” of David Cameron towards Europe that, in his opinion, is a confirmed “thirsty vampire feasting on British taxpayers’ blood.”
The tones of this very poetic dialogue are as colourful as inevitable at the edge of the historic standoff between London and Brussels yesterday entered a new phase with David Cameron engaged in a battle from which he will go out with the cancellation of the contribution, or at least at a substantial discount. The alternative for him would be a public defeat.