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British Prime Minster David Cameron greets the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both countries have enacted austerity measures in response to the global financial crisis.
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Andrew Stuttaford is a contributing editor of the National Review. He was born in the U.K.
The idea that David Cameron, a politician who could only limp into power, could be some sort of example to the GOP is one that has to be treated with skepticism. That there would be flaws in his austerity package was no surprise: nobody's perfect, and the realities of coalition government are yet another obstacle to doing the right thing. Nevertheless, Cameron's grotesque decision to increase Britain's already substantial overseas aid bill by 37 percent over the next four years (about $750 for every British household) has angered many Brits and, I suspect, badly misplays the new politics of austerity.
Sadly, Cameron's generosity (with taxpayer money) to those overseas appears to extend even further. Needless to say, it involves the EU, an organization before which Cameron's position is theatrically tough but in practice prone. The EU commission (its bureaucratic collective) has proposed a budget increase of 5.9 percent. The dodgy EU parliament (thanks to Angela Merkel's Lisbon Treaty it now has a major say in the matter) has proposed six percent. Cameron called for a freeze, jetted off to Brussels, returned with a "guarantee" that the rise would be no more than 2.9 percent and declared victory.
The problem is that, thanks to the EU's new constitutional set-up the guarantee is no guarantee (EU Referendum's Richard North explains here) as Cameron must, or ought, to know. He is therefore a liar or a fool. Take your pick, Dave!
Worse, there are suspicions that he may have thrown away an ace. The Daily Telegraph has the details:
"Much European negotiation, of course, consists of gritting one's teeth and accepting the least worst option. Yet if Mr Cameron — who insists upon his Eurosceptic credentials — is serious about checking the inexorable expansion of the EU superstate (responsible, as we reported this week, for up to half of our legislation), he now has the chance to deal from a position of strength. First, there are the reforms needed to strengthen the eurozone. These will involve a modification of the Lisbon treaty, to which Mr. Cameron is said to have privately consented. What is unknown is the pound of flesh that he has exacted in return: it would be foolish to pass up such an opportunity to recover sovereignty, given other leaders' desperation to avoid a referendum."
So Mr. Cameron, what have you agreed to? (As it happens, he probably should not agree to a referendumless modification of the treaty under any circumstances, but that's a discussion for another time).
And then there's this:
"Then, next week, there are the critical negotiations over the wider EU budget settlement between 2014 and 2020. Last time, Tony Blair surrendered a chunk of Britain's rebate in exchange for vague promises of future reform. Mr. Cameron must be firmer. If money is power, then any increase in subsidy represents a transfer of authority to Brussels, of the kind that Mr Cameron has pledged either to block, or to submit to a public vote. If the putative budget settlement is against Britain's interests, we urge him to use his veto, or to subject the settlement to a referendum. The Eurocrats must learn that they have no divine right to our money."
Indeed they must, but "brave" Dave seems unlikely to have it within him to teach them that lesson.