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As the UK prime minister appears before the House of Commons, his decision has inflamed tribalism over Europe.
contest the decolonisation of India. The British right's instincts — jingoistic, imperialistic, anti-progressive and isolationist — have consistently led this country into calamities."
Hutton could have mentioned it was a Conservative Prime Minister that prevented Britain being one of the founder members of what has become the EU. It has been Conservative Prime Ministers — Margaret Thatcher and John Major — who kept Britain apart from the euro and from the Schengen agreement which facilitates free movement of people across national borders.
These Conservative politicians weren't acting out of cynicism. They were acting out of principle. Their view is that the EU exists as a "common market," a free trading area, no more, no less. Britain needs to take a leading role to protect its interests in that area; Beyond that there is no need to buy into the rest of the "European Project."
The problem is that the whole trajectory of EU history has been aimed at fulfilling the European Project: the political integration of nations into something like a confederation — what Niall Ferguson exaggerates only slightly in calling a "United States of Europe."
France and Germany have been moving in this direction for more than half a century.
Britain has always been one or two steps to the side on the deeper political questions that shape the EU.
Terrible mistakes were made in the creation of the euro. Political mistakes. Now to save the single currency and the European and global economy, political action must be taken. Yet at the moment of maximum crisis, Cameron simply acted like the man Hutton describes as, "saturated with prejudices he has never cared to challenge." If ever there was a time to put those prejudices aside, last week's summit was it. Cameron simply couldn't.
As furious as Hutton, Cameron's Liberal Democrat coalition partners and even a few of his own party feel about the British Prime Minister's refusal to participate in the creation of new fiscal stability rules to govern the euro, his decision is not entirely a bad thing.
First Cameron's actions accurately reflect British public opinion, if the results of a snap poll in the ultra-right Daily Mail is to be believed. Sixty-two percent of the British public supported Cameron's actions at the Brussels summit, and almost 50 percent would like to leave the EU altogether.
Those numbers don't seem out of line. There has been a relentless anti-European tone in Britain's overwhelmingly right wing press for decades. That press is like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh combined. Its headlines scream anti-EU bile at street level from tens of thousands of news stands. The attitude bleeds across party lines. More than a few Labour party voters detest "eurocrats" every bit as much as the Conservative rank and file.
Public opinion acts as a tremendous drag even on a pro-European prime minister — something David Cameron is not.
Second, and possibly more important, Cameron by withdrawing from the talks may make it easier for the rest of the euro zone countries to quickly agree to the terms and fine print of the new fiscal arrangements. Merkel says she wants this done by March and, as we have learned in recent months, what the Chancellor wants she usually gets.
Britain has always acted as a drag anchor in Europe. Now its European partners can move forward more easily.
Maybe the markets see it that way as well. Based on Friday's equity rally, they didn't seem bothered by the British departure.
There will be other fits of heavy breathing over the euro before Christmas. Standard & Poor's may be about to downgrade a number of euro zone countries including France. A couple of European banks are reported to be on the verge of going bust or nationalized. Already, today Moody's has indicated that Friday's deal doesn't go far enough to stem the crisis, Bloomberg reports.
But whatever the direction the next bad news comes from, the fact that the least European member of the EU has recused itself has to be a good thing for Europe.
It's also a good thing for Cameron, he is riding high, and his supporting scribes are prepared to go to metaphorical war for him. Whether it is also a good thing for Britain it's too soon to tell.