Life is (almost) glorious on the margins of EU integration, whatever the BBC says
There is much talk of Britain being isolated as talks on the Eurozone crisis continue. But who wants to be at the centre of project doomed to failure?
It’s that time again. The European Union is plunging headlong into crisis, and doing everything possible to shore up even bigger problems for the future, and the pundits (oops, objective and impartial journalists) at the BBC are fretting about UK isolation from the core of the project.
In a deliciously unabashed piece of editorialising on Friday’s meeting between France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, the BBC averred that, “Britain is concerned about the possible impact of a two-speed Europe, in which it could be left on the margins along with other countries outside the euro”.
Just a minute. Who’s this “Britain” fellow our state-funded media monolith feels qualified to speak for? And why is he so “concerned”?
In a two-speed Europe racing towards the cliff tops, we’re not even remotely “concerned” to be in the slow lane. At least when Germany, France and their entourage hurl themselves into oblivion we might still have a fighting chance of slamming on the brakes before it’s too late.
Of course, we’re fully aware that the downfall of continental Europe’s economies (not to mention their democracies, which are well on the way to being smothered in the latest bid for yet more “Europe”) would have profound consequences for own well-being.
But it would be ludicrous for us to feel pangs of regret that we’re not at the centre of what all but the most myopic can see is a fatally flawed project.
Let’s restate the two key points. We’ve done it umpteen times before, and our opponents have no serious comeback. But we live in hope that the message will one day get through.
First, the Eurozone is ultimately doomed whatever quick-fix solution is used to smooth things over for another few months or years. The Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian economies (to name but four) can never be competitive with what is effectively the Franco-German currency. They and others (Ireland is the quotable example) will also remain out of synch with Franco-German interest rates.
When Ireland was booming it needed higher interest rates to cool its economy down. Instead, it got low, Franco-German interest rates which precipitated a massive housing boom, followed by an equally massive bust.
That’s what one size fits all means in practice. Fiscal union of the type now being advanced won’t make a shred of difference.
Second, “more Europe, not less” as Germany’s Angela Merkel puts it means another giant step towards a superstate and further erosion of European democracy.
As we never tire of pointing out (or do we tire of pointing it out?), there is no shared political culture across Europe. Polish people read Polish newspapers and are engaged with the political life of Poland. Portuguese people read Portuguese papers and are engaged with political life in Portugal. They are not reading each other’s papers or engaging with each other’s political concerns. They can’t even speak each other’s language. What applies to Poland and Portugal applies to everyone else.
Put another way, there is no European demos. The demos exists solely at the local/national level.
And what that means is that transferring legislative power from the nation state diminishes national democracy in favour of an amorphous bureaucratic elite in Brussels.
In sum, the “core Europe” of which we are not a part, the “fast lane” which we have not joined, is destroying both democracy and prosperity, and doing so for many of the same reasons.
We’d rather the people who run Europe would take a deep breath and stand back and think. But if they won’t, being a slow coach on the margins is about the best place for us to be.
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