Fraser Nelson

A dozen questions for after the Brussels summit

A dozen questions for after the Brussels summit
Text settings

Cameron will be depicted in tomorrow's press as either a Tory Boudicca or an Essex Bulldog (© Tristram Hunt), depending on your point of view. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. Cameron did not go in swinging a handbag, although it will suit No10 to make out that he did. But Labour's caricature of him storming off and wasting the veto certainly doesn't ring true to me. An EU27 deal was never likely, and EU17 deal always was. Cameron, on their account, just seems to be being blamed for what was going to happen all along.

In any case, we are still trying to assemble the pieces of last night's drama, work out the demands and counter-demands, and see what sort of picture they produce. I'm still not sure. So, for now, here are what I regard as the top twelve questions:

1. Cameron's demands last night were reasonable, modest, almost trivial. The UK would have settled for some written agreement that the City would be exempted from a pan-European regulator. It really wasn't much. But Sarko rejected this, knowing Cameron would never be able to get a Treaty which increased EU regulation of the City past parliament. Sarko forced Cameron out last night, and then attacked Britain several times. What's Sarko playing at? Is this to do with domestic French politics? Does he want the UK out of the EU? Did he want to do this at E17 all along, as this group is easier for France to dominate? Or did Cameron lose a game of bluff, as the excellent Simon Nixon suggests?

2. What concessions did Sarko grant to the Irish and other countries? And why would Sarko agree to them, but not give Cameron so much as a fig leaf?

3. What, if anything, was agreed last night to address the Euro debt crisis? If nothing, then won't we be back to monthly crisis meetings all through 2012?

4. It's said that the endgame is to give Merkel enough power — wrestled from the French — so she can justify authorising the ECB to print money so Europe can inflate away its debt. How would this work in practice? And why is Mario Draghi, the new ECB head, being so publicly opposed to this?

5. Sarkozy says the EU has now changed ‘radically’. If so, why should Britain's relationship not be updated?

6. What about the Owen Paterson question: is this new Eurozone 17 effectively a ‘new country’ with powers to enforce regulation on the City?

7. And will Sarkozy's piece of theatre last night assuage the Tory backbenchers meeting at 2pm on Monday? Or do they want repatriation every bit as much as they did two days ago? They are congratulating Cameron today, but is that because they now assume he'll keep up the momentum?

8. Cameron had pledged to repatriate powers, but intended to do it via salami slicing. Has he come back with any slices of salami?

9. Would Ed Miliband have signed last night's treaty and succumbed to Sarko's bullying? If he can't answer, then would he kindly keep quiet?

10. Now that Cameron has found himself cast as Boudicca, basking in the applause of Tory MPs, what's his follow-up? And what are the latest bookmakers' odds on Britain being an EU member by 2015?

11. Was this really a veto? A deal in the EU27 was not possible because unanimity was required and four countries said they couldn't sign. So what was there to blackball?

12. How does Angela Merkel feel about this? The phrase ‘Merkozy’ is fun to use, but wrongly assumes unity. There are massive differences between Germany and France, which is losing its political leadership of the EU. The split between these two may explain much of last night's shenanigans.