Arthur: Look, you stupid b*stard, you’ve got no arms left
Black Knight: Just a flesh wound
Arthur: What are you going to do? Bleed on me?
Black Knight: Alright, we’ll call it a draw.
Remind you of anyone? David Cameron was channelling his inner Monty Python this morning as he strode into the Euro-summit this morning declaring “I know the odds are stacked against me, but that doesn’t mean you change your mind”.
As this drama has played out of the last two weeks, Cameron has lost first his arms (as Angela Merkel dumped his campaign to block Jean-Claude Juncker from taking Europe’s top job), then was cut off at the knees (as his erstwhile allies in Holland and Sweden abandoned him), but he’s still fighting.
Black Knight: I’m invincible!
Arthur: You’re a loony.
In the annals of ‘glorious defeats’, this feels more like the Charge of the Light Brigade than Dunkirk. The price of “sticking to your convictions” may turn out to be terrifyingly high.
Cameron does have friends in Europe who support some of his ideas for reforming Europe, but they are left bewildered and frustrated that he would rather go down in flames than try to get the best deal possible in the circumstances.
Compare and contrast Cameron’s strategy with that of Matteo Renzi, Italy’s dynamic 39-year-old new leader, who’s in the middle of his first ever round of Euro horse-trading. Renzi also doesn’t think much of Juncker. He would rather have someone else in charge and isn’t impressed by the ‘power-grab’ by the European Parliament in hijacking the appointment process. But he’s used his opposition to screw some real concessions out of Europe.
Renzi is desperately trying to reform Italy’s sclerotic economy while living within Europe’s strict fiscal rules. In return for falling in behind Juncker, he’s likely to get some significant flexibility in those rules which would be a real defeat for the ‘austerians’ in Brussels. Germany will hate it, France has tried and failed (several times) to achieve the same thing, but it seems that wet-behind-the-ears Mr Renzi is about to achieve it. Now that’s some smart negotiating.
And what is Britain going to come away with? A man in charge who never thought much of the UK in the first place and will be even less sympathetic now. A pro-reform lobby in Northern Europe in despair at London’s intransigence. Britain’s hopes of getting one of the top jobs in the new Commission looking increasingly unlikely. And the UK a step closer to the exit door, something Cameron repeatedly says he doesn’t want.
Black Knight: The Black Knight always triumphs. Have at you! Come on then!