Britain’s demands of safeguards for the City of London at the European Council summit last week have come under fire from MEPs.
Former Belgian prime minister and Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt warned Britain would no longer be able to protect its “selfish” interests in the financial sector, while European People’s Party leader Joseph Daul suggested Britain should be stripped of its EU rebate. The relentless attacks of prime minister David Cameron’s position diverted attention away from the need to restore eurozone stability and credibility.
Verhofstadt told MEPs: “I think that after a few nights David Cameron will come to the conclusion that he made the blunder of a lifetime. If Cameron really wanted to obtain additional guarantees for the City of London, he really needed to be at the negotiating table. Why? Because in politics there is one golden rule: you only walk away from the table if you know the others will come to get you back.”
He said the tactic might have worked for Margaret Thatcher in her battles with the leaders of Germany and France, but it would not be successful this time. Verhofstadt said: “This selfish British strategy of protecting the City is one we cannot tolerate any longer.”
- Nigel Farage: Cameron’s veto will incur the wrath of Sarkozy. Financial services will suffer.
- Nigel Farage: “They are scared in Brussels, very scared”
Daul, the leader of the European People’s Party which Cameron withdrew the Conservatives from when he came into office, said: “The British cheque (the annual rebate on the UK’s EU contributions) is now up for question. Tax monies should be spent on someone else rather than compensating selfish nationalism. It’s time to remind Mr Cameron’s governing coalition of its obligations, particularly in terms of financial regulation, for which it even asked for a derogation (exemption).”
Cameron’s move to use the veto did receive some support. Czech leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Jan Zahadril insisted Cameron was no different from any other leader. He said: “What he did was just a defence of his country’s national interest, in the same way as (French president) Sarkozy and (German chancellor) Merkel did, because they pretend they were speaking on behalf of Europe, but they were speaking on behalf of themselves.”
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage told MEPs that Britain would be better off out of the EU. Farage said: “You’ve decided to go off on the Titanic and we are in the lifeboat – but now we’re threatened with a bow wave: financial markets legislation is going to be imposed on Britain and we will have no influence over it whatsoever. We are going to get out of this union – the first EU country to get its freedom back – and then we’ll have influence in the world while you lot head for disaster: it is going to happen.”
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