Having expressed his bitter disappointment at the outcome of last week’s EU Summit, Nick Clegg can take some comfort in knowing his view is shared by much of the press and political leaders from across the devolved nations, of which there is clear unanimity – that the prime minister utterly failed to represent the national interest.
David Cameron’s actions were bad for the UK, made for all the wrong reasons, a message likely to echo from the Lib Dems and opposition parties alike as he reports back to the Commons later today.
In Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph has sought to highlight the harm to Tory leader’s Europhobic antics in Brussels will have on its ability to strengthen its exports market.
In an editorial, the paper explained:
This has been a lonely time for Cameron who was virtually in a no-win position in Brussels this week. In possibly his worst hour since he became prime minister, he was hedged in by his right-wing Conservative euro-sceptics.
On the other hand he was desperately keen to protect Britain’s lucrative financial sector from yet further European regulation. In the end the new European initiative proved a step too far, and the fall-out from such a decision will take some time to evaluate properly.
Mr Cameron has sent out a clear message that this country is effectively detached from the European economy. Major decisions will be made without us, and that will be bad for UK business, particularly in Northern Ireland where we must develop a more export-dominated mix for our economy.
For the SDLP, meanwhile, former leader Margaret Ritchie MP MLA argued Cameron has sought to put the interests of his “Eurosceptic mob in his own party” before the needs of Northern Ireland.
In declaring the SDLP as “proud supporters of the EU”, Ritchie concluded:
“With the prime minister once more kowtowing to the interests of the financial services industry which precipitated the current crisis, rather than listening to the needs of his people, we must ask whether the citizens of the North of Ireland can trust him to protect their interests at this precarious time.”
Over in Scotland, the Sunday Herald declared Friday’s developments a “worrying moment” for Britain.
Its editorial said:
The veto may have appealed to eurosceptic Tory backbenchers, but to anyone concerned for Britain’s economic future, and for the political stability of Europe, this is a worrying moment.
Half of Britain’s exports are sold to Europe, and this country has benefited greatly from the single market. The EU has been a major force for peace, uniting the sometimes fractious and defensive nations of Eastern Europe, the Baltics and shortly even the Balkans.
The PM would do well to consider how the European and American press have viewed his declaration of independence. Britain is seen to have opted for isolation - a vainglorious nation, with an anachronistic sense of its own importance, acting in pique because it didn’t get its way.
While The Scotsman, though perhaps not quite as condemnatory in its language, cautioned against any sense of vitriol within the Conservative rank and file, using its editorial over the weekend to declare:
Mr Cameron’s decision will undoubtedly have very serious implications for the UK.
It is clear 26 members of the EU, including those outside the currency zone, are intent on pressing ahead with the German plans. The obvious danger is the UK will not be consulted on the potentially serious implications for this country.
Further, if the UK is ignored on this, it might be ignored on other major decisions, even in areas where it has a right to be at the heart of decision-making, for example on the single market. It is clear there has been a sea-change in British-EU relations, forced on a reluctant prime minister who is not himself an extreme Eurosceptic.
Mr Cameron’s task now is to ensure that his decision does not result in Britain being marginalised from the EU bloc with which, whatever our differences, we have vital trade and political links.
And the Daily Record sought to highlight both the UK and Scottish jobs that depended on the country engaging fully with the EU; dubbing David’s Cameron’s actions as shameful, the paper explained:
David Cameron shamefully exiled Britain from mainstream Europe as he put the demands of 80 backbench MPs and City gamblers ahead of the interests of this country’s 62 million citizens, including 3.5million whose jobs rely on trade with the EU.
The powerful band of Tory Eurosceptics and their allies, including London mayor Boris Johnson, may think they have triumphed in removing us from top table talks but they have not. And Scotland has much to lose if the euro crisis deepens.
An estimated £9.6billion of all Scottish exports are destined for the EU – around half. Our manufacturing industries and whisky producers depend on the Netherlands, France, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland and Belgium.
You don’t need to be a Nobel Prize-winning economist to see what would happen if these eurozone countries reached meltdown. They’d take us with them too, including countless jobs, leaving families unable to pay their mortgages, rents and bills.
Over in Wales, meanwhile, following the declaration by Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott, on Radio Wales’s “Sunday Supplement” programme that the actions of David Cameron were “disappointing” and Plaid Cymru’s attack on the prime minister for putting his political interests before those of Wales, the former Labour first minister, Rhodri Morgan, argued Cameron’s reasons for using the veto last week were all wrong.
In his regular column for Wales Online, Morgan writes:
“David Cameron will, without question, pick up popularity among his increasingly Eurosceptic backbenchers. Many of them, in turn have to face their own party membership in selection conferences, when their constituency boundaries are redrawn.
“I’m the most Eurosceptic candidate before you tonight” will be the battlecry that will win the tight contests. That’s not the best basis for deciding on Britain’s future relationship with our main export markets.
“For Wales I always used to start from “What’s best for Airbus?”, not “What’s best for the City”; Airbus is as important for Wales as the City is for London and the Home Counties.
“You could widen that to what’s best for Tata Steel and other big employers in Wales, not forgetting what’s best for the maximum flow of European Structural Funds into Wales. That’s our “national interest”.”
• How Cameron traded influence for isolation – Ben Fox, December 12th 2011
• Look Left – Europe 26-1 Cameron: Britain isolated like never before – Shamik Das, December 9th 2011
• The view from abroad: The day Britain locked itself out – Alex Hern, December 9th 2011
• Cameron didn’t sign EU deal because it’s not in the interests of the one per cent – Shamik Das, December 9th 2011
• Farage should check his own funds before accusing others of being in it for the money – Alex Hern, October 24th 2011