By Tim Montgomerie
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This morning seems like a very big moment.
David Cameron went to Europe with only modest demands. The Prime Minister was ready to agree to a fiscal union of the seventeen – within existing EU structures – if Britain's financial sector received some safeguards in return. He couldn't even get those. The leaders of the Eurozone were not interested in compromise.
For a long time the debate has been about whether Britain should leave Europe. Overnight it appears that Europe left Britain. 23 countries have agreed to form a new arrangement together. It could even rise to 24, 25 or 26 if the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden join the others. That would leave Britain as the only EU member state that is not part of the new fiscal grouping.
This morning's Sun introduced the above Chamberlain-O-Meter – ridiculously wondering if Cameron is more of a Chamberlain or Churchill. He looked like a Chamberlain to them before the overnight news broke. To most Tory Eurosceptics Cameron is Churchillian this morning. He bent over backwards to be communitaire and we now know that Britain cannot give enough to appease Europe.
The Tories can stomach the isolation but how will the Liberal Democrats react to this? Nick Clegg is more pro-EU than Ken Clarke. I suspect he will hate the outcome. Very testing times lie ahead for the Coalition.
David Cameron has done the right thing. Britain has now formally separated itself from a fiscal union that defies economic gravity and democracy for all of the reasons set out by Bruce Anderson.
Cameron must now set out where Britain should go in the future. Are we to be a semi-detached member of the EU Club or do we want to become a fully independent nation state with our own immigration, trade, employment and tax policies? The events overnight tip Britain significantly towards big changes in the years ahead.