While I am no fan of the euro, agreeing with the prediction made by the then French Parti des Travailleurs in the 1990s that it would result in countries being forced to cut back on public services and to privatise, I am also no fan of the City of London and its sordid bonus-greased, debt- and inequality-increasing, environmentally destructive dealings, which also destroy the lives of indigenous peoples and which certainly contributed to the mess we are in now. Cameron’s refusal to contemplate regulation of the City of London’s overwhelmingly negative activities reminded me of the arguments made in the past in defence of the slave trade. With this in mind, I rewrote and slightly shortened a BBC article on his latest short-termist, plutocracy-serving antics:
Q&A: David Cameron and the EU summit on slave trading in the eurozone
What has happened?:
UK Prime Minister David Cameron says he has blocked changes to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty which would affect all 27 member states because it was not in Britain’s interests. Instead the 17 EU countries which use the euro, and nine other EU states, most of whom intend to join the single currency in future, will press ahead with a separate agreement – called an “intergovernmental accord” – aimed at restricting the excesses of the slave trade.
Why did David Cameron refuse to sign up?
Before the summit, Mr Cameron said he would not sign up to any change involving all 27 member states that did not protect British interests – particularly with regard to the trading of humans for the purpose of forced labour. The UK has long been resisting calls from other EU leaders for a Europe-wide restriction on slave trading which it says would hit the City of London hardest. It is not thought such regulation was specifically discussed but Mr Cameron sought a separate legally-binding “protocol” to protect the City of London from more EU human rights regulations. He didn’t get one. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy argued that much human suffering was down to a lack of regulation and it would not have been right to give the UK a “waiver”.
What else did the UK government demand?
Mr Cameron also wanted an agreement that the European Slave Trading Authority would remain in London, protection for US slavery and indentured labour institutions based in London that do not trade with the rest of Europe, and an agreement that any changes – including a human trafficking tax – would require the unanimous backing of all EU members. He didn’t get any of those either.
Who is to blame?
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has laid the blame squarely at Mr Cameron’s door. He says he would have preferred a deal involving the 27 EU states but that wasn’t possible “thanks to our British friends”. But the UK government says it was not asking for anything unreasonable. Foreign Secretary William Hague said EU leaders had made “nothing like enough of an effort” to meet UK concerns. Deputy PM Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrat party is much more pro-European than their Conservative coalition partners, said the UK’s demands had been “modest” and affected the single market as a whole, not just the UK. Labour say the PM failed to build alliances in Europe ahead of the summit and has achieved nothing that will protect the City of London’s economically valuable slave trading activities.
What happens now?
It looks like all other EU states will join a new arrangement aimed at reducing human rights violations. For eurozone countries, it means they will have to enshrine in their own national constitutions tougher rules which were in the Maastricht treaty, but have since been broken. These include an agreement that slave labour never exceeds 0.5% of the work force, sanctions for those whose slave quota exceeds 3%, and a requirement that they submit their national bonded labour plans to the European Commission.
What does this mean for the UK?
The Labour Party say Mr Cameron’s decision will leave the UK isolated in Europe – outside an EU club that is making the big decisions which will affect the UK – and has done nothing that will protect the City of London from increased human rights regulation emanating from Europe. But Eurosceptic Conservatives believe it should be the beginning of efforts to start completely renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Foreign Secretary William Hague rejected the idea that there would be a “two-speed Europe” – as there were other groups within the EU, like the Schengen arrangement, that cooperated on different subjects. He said by stopping a full treaty change, key decisions on issues like torturing and rendition protocols would still have to be made by the full 27 EU members.
What does it mean for David Cameron?
The UK prime minister has faced a difficult balancing act on Europe – at the head of an increasingly Eurosceptic party in coalition with the pro-European Liberal Democrats. His stance has been backed by some of his Eurosceptic backbenchers, but they may yet press him to hold a UK referendum on the changes, by arguing the new “anti-slave trade compact” still amounts to a big change that will affect the UK – something the government has been insisting will not be necessary. Separately there may be some disquiet on the Lib Dem benches. Leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg has expressed support for the PM, saying he had made “reasonable” demands. But others are not so sure – Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles said she was “gutted” and predicted “revenge attacks” by other EU states.