Saturday, 10 December 2011
Europe vs UK
So I have seen the news yesterday and today that Britain (or our glorious Prime Minister), for the first time wielded the UK's veto during a European negotiation. Some have cast Britain and the PM as a pariah amongst the nation's largest trading partner, and some have decided to break out the warm beer and wave the Union Jack that we have stuck two fingers to the dirty continentals.
Now before I go in, let me state that I am a great believer in the EU, but I think that the whole institution is rotten to the core and really needs to be gutted out. Great ideals, horrible implementation of the practicalities. While some fantastic ideals such as free markets, the free movements of people, free trade, the interlinking of culture and exchange of culture has all been huge positives of the EU. A bloated bureaucracy, an ineffective Parliament and a wasteful sense of spending. The fact that the EU has not signed off its own books in over a decade, it does beggar belief that the EU is now going to sign off the books of its member states. And seemingly, without a whiff of democracy - a dangerous maneuver. I think a strong, Confederate Europe, with democracy and free trade at its heart would do wonders for the continent. Instead, an institution, encumbered by the baggage of World War II and the corruption of the 21st Century, holds many people with disgust in the UK, and increasingly, across the rest of the continent. It is more a meeting of the elites rather than a project for peace.
But David Cameron is no diplomat, and he played right into the hand of the Franco-German axis that has for so long dominated the Union. It is quite clear that removing Britain from the negotiating table made a lot of European leaders happy. And that it left Britain open to blame if there was a failure in the Euro. He could have played his hand far smarter.
What Uncle Dave, our glorious PM did, was play to his own political party. He wanted to avoid a showdown with his domestic politics. So while he returns to backslapping, and good show Dave, the guy took the easy route out.
The Germans, the French and the rest do not care about the Conservative Party (think of them as a nice version of today's Republican Party in the US or a less cuddly version of the current incarnation of India's Congress Party) to which David Cameron belongs to. Few people in the UK care about it too. But the EU do care about an electorate of 60 million people. Dave could have played his hand far more deftly. He could have said that he would be happy to have a new treaty, and then put it to referendum if it did not protect Britain's Interests (read that as the banker's interests, but that is another story). He would have also solved his domestic political problem in one fell swoop.
That would have really knocked heads in the EU together, as everyone knows how Eurosceptic this country is. The EU leaders would have tailored a deal to ensure that David Cameron would not call a referendum. It would have also brought Britain far deeper into the negotiations, and some real progress would have been made.
Instead, David swung his handbag, and lost. Poorly.
The ego of a few pigs at the top trough have left the world's largest (and arguably its most successful) trading bloc split. 26 nations against its 2nd/3rd biggest member (depending on where you stop counting). Dave may have won this round, but it is not in Britain's or Europe's interests to be divided by the English Channel.
From what I have read about the proposals in the press, it seems there is no real plan to Save the Euro. No fundamental addressing of Europe's real problem. Bloated, spendthrift governments that ran out of money and a population boom/immigration supply to support this. Europe is stagnant, trying to hold onto its past glories instead of using its heritage and history to be creative and dynamic in the 21st Century. It is a problem that all countries in the EU face (including Britain) and it will not be addressed by a few pen strokes in closed rooms, but a fundamental shift in the attitudes of Europe's people. What is happening in Greece now, is going to repeat itself across Europe, as populations fall, tax incomes drop and populations age. This is an old continent, that despite its history, of looking beyond its borders is becoming increasingly inward looking and incestuous. There is a brave new world out there, and fundamentally, the EU is far better than a bunch of competing nations. But Europe is lazy. Too much resting on its old money. If Europe want s to thrive in this century, its governments and citizens have got to be prepared to work harder, and smarter...