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You integrate if you want to, the PM’s not for integrating

By Peter Hoskin
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I doubt David Cameron will paraphrase Margaret Thatcher in his meeting with European leaders today, but the headline I’ve used above more or less sums up the attitude that he is taking to Brussels. According to a report in today’s Telegraph, the PM is set to back plans for closer political and economic integration in the Eurozone — the “you integrate if you want to”. But, as James Forsyth suggests in the Spectator, he wants to use that to remould Britain’s participation in the EU, away from that core of eurozone countries — “the PM’s not for integrating”.

How this might work in practice was suggested by a very important development last night. As the FT reports (£), it appears that George Osborne has won safeguards against a European banking union. Britain won’t be part of any such union, of course, but the Chancellor was concerned that it could wield undue influence over certain banks, such as Deutsche Bank, which operate within our shores — and so he’s been proposing “double majority” voting, whereby decisions relating to the banking union also have to be approved by a plurality of countries outside of it. Now that protection seems to have been secured, it sets a one helluva precedent for a future two-tier Europe.

But all of this is unlikely to quell the PM’s European troubles back home. He’s delayed his long-awaited speech on the issue once again, it seems, which will aggravate some folk. And then there’s the argument that Boris made last week, that encouraging closer integration in the Eurozone in “morally wrong”. He’d prefer Britain to simply withdraw anyway, into a relationship with Europe based almost exclusively on trade. To which, there’s the question put forward by Damian Green last night: would Europe ever allow that?


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