We are natural allies. When push comes to shove, the Dutch and their governments have almost always preferred the alliance with the British above one with either the Germans or the French. It is less than two weeks that we saw a great photograph of Mr. Cameron and Mr. Rutte, our Prime Minister, talking with each other on board of a train and in complete accord with each other.
Last Friday Mr. Rutte emerged from the Europe top looking cool and collected. Asked about the English position, he simply said: ‘They asked too much’. And just like that, the alliance was over. And not just with the Dutch. Even the Hungarians did not go with you in the end. If there has been one country in favour of a large EU, it has been Britain. You pushed for it, even though many would have preferred a slower integration. With 27 countries, you probably thought that would dilute the power of the other big countries. And now you are the country outside the group. Who do you think to impress with that? What are you doing it for?
In the press, the reason that was mentioned most was the way London as a financial centre was threatened by extra oversight measures. Cameron came as the champion of the City. Really? If so, that starts of as a public relations disaster. All too obvious in the eyes of the European audience the City has not mended its way since the banking crisis of 2008. The champagne started flowing again, bonuses were given, many of them earned with betting against Greece and other weak countries. Even if, like me, you recognise the need for a well-functioning open market for financial services, the City still seems a place that has not learned its lessons. And on behalf of that City Mr. Cameron comes riding into Brussels? I am really, really worried that it will turn out to be more than a public relations disaster. Early Friday morning I tweeted that ‘if I were a banker I would start making my career in Frankfurt instead of London.’ Immediately I got an affirmative response. Reading the media over the weekend, I am worried that the move by Britain’s government will in the end have more impact than Black Monday had. Britain can do without the Pound; London cannot do without a City.