Let the Brits Go... And Say Hi to the French-German-Russian Alliance
British Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to keep the UK away from the new EU / euro zone plus fiscal union agreed by 23 EU member states at the past European Council summit is already set to remain highly controversial in British history only a couple of days after it was made.
Cameron's move – which might end up ripping apart the governing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, with Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg seemingly at odds – has been immediately debated from various viewpoints.
But if there is one thing both its critics and its proponents seem to agree is that the "British veto" on an EU-wide fiscal union is taking the form of UK's divorce from the European Union.
As a "continental" European from the "new" EU member states, I predictably disapprove of the "British veto" - simply because a "divorce" between Britain and the rest of the EU is harmful for Britain (except probably for the City of London), the EU, Bulgaria, and the wider Euro-Atlantic Community in so many self-explanatory ways that it is both unfeasible and useless to list them here.
But I wish to stress another point – without even judging the development that I am about to describe as positive or negative:
The repercussions that the Brits' staying out of the new EU-Union (a suitably weird phrase, isn't it?) will have are likely to go beyond fiscal governance, and, unless reversed sooner rather than later, are bound to boost the chances for a major geopolitical transformation in Europe and Eurasia.
That is to be the already widely imagined potential alliance of France, Germany, and Russia – that could come either in its "hardcore" form of a (Paris-)Berlin-Moscow axis, or in the "milder" form of an Euro-Russia. Many observes have pointed out that the growing economic ties between Germany and Russia make such an alliance only a matter of time - and the British retreat from the continent - however figurative it might seem now - will only help nudge the Germans and the Russians closer together.
The situation that is about to unravel can probably be best summed up with the following equation with an unknown result:
EU (- UK) + Russia = ?
It is just that with the Brits out of the new European Fiscal Union, to term it that way, the entire balance of the European Union is likely to shift, with Franco-Germany having no counterweight. And as political scientists everywhere will tell you, the best thing is in international politics is a stable, resilient, and sustainable balance of power, even when it comes to an innovative post-modern entity as the EU.
As far as minor EU powers such as Bulgaria are concerned, with the Brits out of picture, and the Italians having their finances in shambles, the lack of a properly-working, healthy "balance of power" among the big EU states could emerge as a great curse for there would be no way to juggle with the mild intra-EU rivalries.
Note that Britain remained on its own this time - it failed to even create a coalition of EU discontents, with the other three member states - Sweden, Hungary, and the Czech Republic - that refused to sign up immediately to the Merkozy fiscal union plan doing so only to get more time for domestic consultations, and not in order to side with the British veto.
Against this backdrop, the imagined coming together of EURussia - an alliance of the EU core with Russia - might be bound to happen anyway.
But with the Brits out of the picture, minding the business of the City of London and watching over from across the Channel, it is becoming more imaginable, and in a way harboring a far greater potential for future confrontation.
An "Euro-Russia" could be a very good thing – but only if it is based on a widely legitimate international base of rule of law, and other nice principles, and not in a world where one day – and not so far ahead in the future – a Franco-German-Russian axis and an Anglo-American Alliance could challenge one another.
(Of course, with the Brits "enjoying" the notorious "junior partner role", which is well-known from the "Coalitions of the Willing" of the best Bush-Blair years...)
That is why, even if it could be certain that Britain's (self-imposed) isolation from the rest of the EU is removing a major "obstacle" to the "desired" greater European integration that is technically expected to yield greater benefits – there is still no way to view the British isolation positively because of the rift lines that it threatens to create and/or boost, and which have been only questions for science fiction writers thus far.
For the better part of the past 20 years – when the EU could have made a much greater difference in global affairs than it did – it has been hampered by the magic triangle of German indecisiveness, French conceit, and British reluctance.
The last of these three has been so prevalent that a British opt-out at the next EU Summit on the agenda has become as natural as the fact that Britain is an island. But that might have gone too far this time, with many in the UK mistaking 2011 for 1871, or 1911, or 1931.
All of that is not to suggest that the Franco-Germany / Merkozy initiative for the fiscal union is the absolutely best political solution to the raging European debt crisis, and that the Brits are evil odd one out. The Merkozy push might end up being too little, too late.
But the Brits don't quite have a good excuse for deciding not to be on the table, and for letting Merkozy run Europe single-handedly.
Because the next great fault line – running along the English Channel - to follow the EU rift, will be the Euro-Atlantic rift.
And that one will be much worse, too, because it will boil down to security challenges rather than currencies and finances.
"Incidentally the UK is the 2nd largest net contributor to the EU coffers." Truth,
but-incidentally as well- with the important reserve, sorry. What about the 2/3
"net" share (of the above "net contribution") which "neatly" turns back to UK?
Or this rule has been abrogated?
As to "Russia can never supplant the UK..."...Aristotle must cry from happiness:
"A fresh great thinker has germinated. At last." But You are a bit late, alas.
Russia-with all its weakness & vices-is simply A POWER, without smallest desire to 'supplant' anybody, esp. GB. Русски детска не обижда.
I do not agree with your analysis. Russia can never ever supplant the UK as a major EU power. Yes, Russia is a great nation close to Europe, but the UK remains a world class European powerhouse, both economically, as well as politically. Being the bornplace of democracy as well as having an unparalelled history of social and democratic advances are some of Britain`s most cherished characteristics.
Incidentally the UK is the 2nd largest net contributor to the EU coffers. If they are marginalised why should they continue paying much more than France, for example.
The deal has not been concluded or the small print read yet, so it’s a bit premature to making sweeping statements about the eventually outcome.
Lets see what happens with the Euro fiasco first and how the markets react to the continuing indecisive actions from Brussels?
I read and hear constantly from all quarters that the Euro will not survive and its demise is only a matter of time!
PS The pound vs the Euro today stands at 1.1825……
When the UK didn't adopt the Euro the decision was highly controversial and heated debate and recriminations dragged on long after the decision was taken, to such an extent that many of the proponents even began to waver, and it wasn't till the current meltdown took place that the rightness and in retrospect obvious sanity of staying away from a currency that was printed by such a diverse and as we now know, devious bunch of individuals, became clear to all.
So I think we should wait and see what happens. The UK is definitely different from the other countries in many ways, and may that remain so - strong ties to the USA, no ID cards, the police are the (unarmed) servants of the public, your car has randomly produced registration plates which are on it from the day it leaves the factory till the day is reaches the scrapyard, hence no going to any KAT, cap in hand, to be issued with new plates (no KAT either, by the way, and definitely no so-called "cops" lurking on every highway). All this means that their is a huge reluctance to give powers to Brussels and to the Germans.
Personally I have no problems with that.