We may live to regret the empty chair

So David Cameron vetoed the new deal in Europe before it had even been written. As far as we can tell, Cameron’s position was that Britain must be exempt from any new regulation of the financial sector (you remember them, the ones who got us all in a mess to start with). Clearly Sarkozy (and others) were not going to be told at gunpoint that the British wanted a competitive edge over everyone else in what is supposed to be after all a free trade area – and said so. The result? British walk away before the real negotiations have even begun. No chance for compromise. No chance to argue our case. We aren’t playing.

Of course the Eurosceptics are cock-a-hoop. They should be – if Britain ever leaves the EU in the future, it will probably because of that one petulant moment when we vacated our chair at the top table.

The remaining countries at the table will still make their decisions, and make no mistake we will be affected by what they decide. We just have no input any more.

A sensible position might have been to take part in the negotiations, and then exercise our right to say no when the detail had been thrashed out. Even Thatcher and Major always stayed at the table, always fought Britain’s corner to the last.

This is a cop out and leaves us isolated and exposed. It’s a sop to the Eurosceptic back-benchers and the Eurosceptic press.

If the EU is a juggernaut travelling down the motorway (or autobahn/autostrada/autoroute) we are now riding on the roof. We cannot reach any of the controls and we certainly don’t have the ear of the driver.

And frankly, if we go around enough sharp bends we could easily be flung aside.

Melting Planet

For as long as I can remember, back to my childhood, there have been wonderful natural history programmes made by the BBC. Always narrated by the iconic David Attenborough, I find them utterly compelling viewing. The latest season ‘Frozen Planet‘ has just drawn to a close. One of the things I have most loved about the latest series has been the ‘Freeze Frame’ feature that lets us go behind the scenes and answers the questions about how some of the amazing shots were achieved. (The answer is very dedicated camera teams working in incredibly demanding situations).

The final episode dealt with the climate changes taking place in our polar regions. Attenborough manages to present the facts, alarming as they are, without a hint of the shrill sensationalism the afflicts most films about climate change. The stark reality of the speed of change and loss of ice at both poles comes across all the more powerfully as a result.

Any remaining climate change deniers would do well to watch the last episode when it reruns on Sunday. The photographs of glacier loss even in just the last 30 years, and the explaination of the albedo effect and runaway consequences of ice loss cannot be ignored.

I worry that global warming is taking a back seat in the debate because of the precarious state of the economy. When the remaining ice cover at the North Pole melts within the next few decades, it will make the Eurozone crisis look like a picnic.