James Forsyth James Forsyth

How the Tories could capitalise on the eurozone’s woes

With events in Greece moving at pace, next week’s European Council meeting (which was scheduled to be a low-key affair) could be the place where attempts to resolve the crisis in the eurozone take place. I’m told that Number 10 has now woken up to this possibility and is doing some preparatory work on the matter.
But, frustratingly, there’s still no strategy for how David Cameron could use this crisis to advance the British national interest. As I wrote last week, if the eurozone countries decide that a solution will require a treaty change, then Britain has a veto over that — and could use the negotiations to secure various things that Britain wants from the EU. For example, Britain could secure a promise that its budget contribution will not increase in the next seven year budget-cycle or demand a national veto over anything affecting financial services as it is a vital national industry. The eurozone’s difficulty could well be Britain’s opportunity.
The Liberal Democrats have said that they would have no truck with this approach. But I expect that this is not an issue that they would want to be seen to be blocking Cameron on. The Liberal Democrats have no desire to get on the wrong side of public opinion at the moment as they attempt to recover some of their lost support.
But all this will come to nothing unless Downing Street is prepared to use this moment and, as Paul Goodman writes, there are a plenty of reasons to think that it won’t. But if Cameron was prepared to think creatively, he might be able to deliver far more on the European front than anyone expected he would be able to without a parliamentary majority.

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