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The Euro Summit Will be Tough For Cameron - Let's Hope He Goes for the Jugular

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DAVID CAMERON EUROZONE PRESSURE BRITISH BULLDOG
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Conservatives love a good row about Europe, and according to the polls, it looks like the public wouldn't mind one either.

After all, as recently as six weeks ago, didn't the Tories promise to bring back powers from the EU? Plus they said in their manifesto, "We will be positive members of the European Union but we are clear that there should be no further extension of the EU's power over the UK without the British people's consent."

There are plenty of us that still cannot get over the regret that Britain joined the EU in the first place. I, for one, think it was an unfortunate ebb of low self-esteem. What did Britain gain, and what exactly would she have lost by staying above the fray and strengthening relations with the superpowers?

Don't say Europe wouldn't have been just as keen about inward investment, or that anyone's lives here would have been substantially diminished. Regulation on British business has continually choked us, 'human rights' laws have reduced the influence and great wisdom of the British legal system, and so-called political allegiances have amounted to a continual thorn in our side.

But now is not the time to dwell on it. Cameron - and Britain - are in a sticky situation no matter where you come in on the referendum issue.

The problem for Cameron at this week's summit in Brussels is that any deal to secure the future of the euro will effectively amount to extending the EU's powers. The fiscal measures that need to be put in place to ensure the currency's future require a renegotiation of Europe's powers to ensure a more integrated eurozone. Conservatives should therefore feel entitled to make demands for a referendum. But it's not that easy.

Whether or not we like it, the UK literally cannot afford for the euro to go down the pan. And that is what this summit is about. Even if Cameron is sincere in his rhetoric about recalling powers from Brussels, the question is how much negotiating power he has right now.

Europe seems to be prepared to go off into an agreement with just the 17 member eurozone countries. But if an agreement is reached, and EU institutions are given powers over national budgets, it will apply to all 27 signatories. By definition, that would extend the power of the EU over Britain. Then again, maybe if 17 countries go off on their own, that will give Britain a chance to take a step back and renegotiate her own terms of engagement with Europe.

Alright, so the Tories are pretty annoyed at their Prime Minister for seeming - well, wet. And why shouldn't they be? There hasn't been a shred of evidence that this government has been working to recall powers. Even the man on the street has witnessed the pernicious un-British influences of Europe: try ordering some turkey at the deli counter using the imperial system, much less dealing with the European infuences on the legal system. Everything about Europe seems to be alien to British instincts.

Nevertheless, let's not forget, it was the last government that cemented Britain's feet in the European ground. Labour broke their 2005 promise to put the EU Constitution out for a referendum when they denied people a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, which was substantially the same as the constitution. It gave European judges new powers over criminal laws and also set-up a 'ratchet clause' that enabled all of Britain's remaining vetoes (apart from defence) to be abolished without the need for a new treaty.

Not only that, but back in 1997, Labour gave up Britain's opt-out from the Social Charter. Plus, they agreed to an EU budget deal that cut Britain's rebate by £7 billion without any guarantee for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. And what about allowing European regulation to strap British businesses with over £50 billion worth of regulatory costs during their time in office?

As a statesman, Cameron has no choice but to consider the viability of the eurozone. At the same time, as a politician he's forced to consider the will of the people. It's unfortunate that these two interests don't coincide at this moment, but he wouldn't be the first prime minister to face this dilemma.

Personally, I think Cameron should go for the gamble and play hardball. He should seize on the current uncertainty and make a list of demands for Britain, including protections for the City and claw backs on regulation, social, and human rights laws, knowing of course that the Germans and the French have no choice but to save the euro experiment.

The agreement, if there is one, is then more likely to be reduced to a core of 17 countries who are forced to contend with British demands and the possibility that the UK, the world's six largest economy, decides it no longer wants to be a central member of the EU. That might please everyone (barring Labour).

And the last page of the fairy tale? Cameron comes home and announces a referendum on Europe.

Now that would be a happy Christmas.