Are the Brits backing away from a confrontational stance on Europe in favor of targeting limited, but doable, concessions? As The Financial Times reports:
More recently, the emphasis has shifted among some Conservatives. Philip Hammond, foreign secretary, spoke in the autumn of finding “creative” ways to secure “tangible major change” without the procedural pitfalls of substantially rewriting treaties.Downing Street is eyeing June 2017, just months before the mooted UK referendum. It is a few months before an election for Germany’s Angela Merkel, but shortly after French voters pass judgment on François Hollande, an unpopular Socialist president unimpressed by Mr Cameron’s reform agenda…Mr Cameron still hopes to hitch Britain’s renegotiation to a broader eurozone reform drive. There could be various openings: Germany is uneasy about the legal basis for Europe’s banking union; the fiscal pact Mr Cameron blocked in 2011 from being incorporated in EU law is up for review in 2017; and Ms Merkel is still eyeing new mechanisms to centralise how the eurozone economy is governed.
It looks like the UK is beginning to take a more thoughtful, grounded approach to negotiating changes in its EU relationship, as it discovers much of what it wants can be achieved without treaty changes, at least at the beginning. The Brits may also be beginning to think through a pragmatic political strategy for achieving its long-term goals in the EU process.If so, this is very good both for the UK and for the U.S. In the longer run, a less bureaucratic and sclerotic EU matters a great deal to the U.S., and finding some way out of the euro policy quagmire in which a series of stupid currency and banking decisions has brought some of our best friends and allies in the world into a lost decade of stagnation. These are major foreign policy interests for the U.S., and require new attention and engagement on our part.