Friday, 9 December 2011

Do You "No" Where You're Going To ?

I thought it was time to get back into circulation after a bit of a break and what an auspicious day as Prime Minister David Cameron returns from Brussels NOT carrying a piece of paper. History's wheel turns - in 1957, Europe said "No" to us and in 2011 Britain has said "No" to Europe.

The Little Englanders that swarm like insects around the blogsphere and have burrowed deep into the carcass of a Conservative Party that was once the champion of European co-opertation, are triumphalist in their glee and gloating. Britain stands alone, against perfidious Europe, it's 1940, I can almost hear Vera Lynn clearing her throat..

This kind of half-baked jingoistic ranting tells, as usual, only part of the story.

Twenty years of prearication, obfuscation, hesitation, opt-outs and the like came down last night to David Cameron being faced down by French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel and facing a simple choice - "Yes" or "No".

To have said "Yes" would have been tantamount to signing his own political death warrant and in any case Cameron's friends in the City, who effectively bankrolled the party back to power, would have disowned it and him. Cameron said "No" to protect the City of London which is fair enough. The City is important and a Tobin Tax would have been ruinous for many firms.

Yet, today Cameron has been talking about "Britain's interest".

Let's be straight - the only two interests which mattered to David Cameron in the early hours of the morning were the interests of the Conservative Party and its allies in the City. Faced with a Treaty which would have destroyed the latter and plunged the former into civil war, Cameron walked away.

The Eurozone and indeed the rest of Europe, including those countries in the EU but not in the Euro, will move toward a tighter fiscal union. It's symptomatic of the grotesque failure of Cameron and above all William Hague's diplomatic policy that not a single other European country stood by us - not Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary or any other of the countries courted by the British Government in the past few days. Even countries like Serbia and Croatia see their future within the EU and the Eurozone.

Though its demise seems devoutly to be wished by some, it's clear the Euro isn't going to break up anytime soon. It will be tough, very tough indeed, for a number of the European countries but none seem to want to follow Britain into self-imposed isolation.

Yet nor does Cameron seem ready to consider our continued membership of the EU. We are as much part of the community as the man whose neighbour and all his friends are having a party but hasn't been invited. He can hear the talk and smell the food but that's all. Europe will go on without us.

The emboldended Eurosceptics may cheer Cameron for a while but the issue of a referendum isn't going to go away. The problem is that neither the option of staying on nor the option of leraving look attractive now. Thanks to a generation of narrow-minded populist obstructionism, we are stuck in a limbo - wanting to be in the club but not wanting to abide by the rules.

Those who cheer Cameron today will need to consider what the reality of withdrawal would be - there would be no reason why Washington would want us in NAFTA or even for the likes of Norway (small population, large reserves of gas and oil) or Switzerland (small population, big money) would want to associate themselves with us.

Some argue for Britain as a kind of European "Hong Kong" with very low taxes and a presumably "sweat-shop" economy. This presumably means the return of unrestricted immigration in order to provide the cheap labour necessary. This kind of right-wing paradise would be desperately difficult for the vast majority of the British people who simply aren't wedded to unrestricted entreprenaurialism.

The British economy has enormous issues of its own and a Eurozone plunged into the darkness of recession does us no favours. We have already seen concerted international action (involving the Bank of England) aimed at restoring market confidence. In a global economy, the self-imposed isolation of one nation makes no difference.

I think our Prime Minister deserves no plaudits or cheers - he took the only action he could to save his Party and his friends. We will have to live with the consequences of his actions for years to come.

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