THERE was thick fog in the Channel on Thursday night and the Continent was cut off from Britain. At least, that old saw was probably how David Cameron chose to regard his virtual resignation from the European Union without a single one of the other 26 countries to keep him company. William Hague seems to think in the same way, claiming yesterday that Britain will still lead the way on key issues in Europe. How can he possibly say that when Britain will in future not even be part of the main consultative machinery of the EU?
The self-delusion is frightening. Today Britain is more isolated than at any point in the 35 years of its membership of the European Union.
The lack of support for Britain's stand must be attributed in considerable measure to Mr Cameron's failure to build alliances in Europe, a point made by Ed Miliband yesterday. His attitude to the EU has been patronising and superficial.
One of the most impressive reactions to the debacle came from Lord David Owen, former Labour Foreign Minister, who raised the issue of Mr Cameron's competence as prime minister: Have we been coherently governed over the last few months? Is this coalition able to represent British interests?
Or are we being driven by about 80 or 90 Conservatives who want to get us out of the EU?