James Forsyth

The sort of influence we can live without

The sort of influence we can live without
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David Cameron’s decision, in the wee hours of Friday morning, to make clear that he would veto the proposed treaty change will have many far-reaching effects. One is that other European leaders know that Cameron is prepared to follow through on a threat to veto. As Charles Moore says in The Telegraph today, the dynamic that has existed throughout this country’s participation in the European project — that “Britain huffs and puffs, but always agrees in the end” — has now changed.

This morning, those close to the Tory leadership were pointing out that a Cameron threat to, for example, veto the budget next year will be taken far more seriously than it would have been previously.

But today there is also a chorus of people saying that Britain has forfeited ‘influence’ by not going along with the rest of the European Union. Personally, I have always been slightly suspicious of the use of the word ‘influence’ in the European context. All too often, Britain’s influence seems to depend on never actually using it.

But, and as George Osborne pointed out on the Today Programme, the logical end point of this argument about influence is that Britain should join the euro. Now, remarkably, there are still those who think we should — Lord Heseltine, for instance.

When you hear people talking about ‘influence’, remember that many of them would have us join the euro for this reason. Indeed, after Peter Oborne’s ‘Guilty Men’ cover, John Stevens — who founded the ‘Pro-Euro Conservative Party’ — wrote to us arguing that Britain should have joined the single currency so we could have had more influence over the decisions being taken at the moment. This is ‘influence’ that would come at far too high a price in terms of both sovereignty and this country’s economic well-being.