hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Euro-Crisis: A Little Bit Pregnant, David?

Alphen, the Netherlands. 25 October. Right now your faithful blogonaut should be on a Royal Navy warship somewhere off Europe. No, we are not planning an invasion, but it might come to that. Instead, I am in bed writing this missive on my steam-powered lap-top. Yesterday, having gone through the Eurotunnel, and back into Blighty as far as the ancient town of Rye, I had to turn back laid low by the Dutch Disease – the dreaded lurgy. The long run home through enemy territory – Calais, then Dunkirk and up to the Belgian border was touch and go. But in the end I made it flaps down with seconds to spare, in spite of some dense flak in the form of Belgian traffic near Antwerp and eventually belly-flopped into bed. Gallantly and valiantly I had decided to abort the mission and head home in the national interest, not wishing to infect what is left of Her Majesty’s navy. There is however some good news. Being full of flu for once my head is clear to think.

PR-Meister Cameron is trying to create a position for Britain in the Onion that simply no longer exists - being half in Europe. This Eurozone crisis will end that absurdity and confront Britain with the most profound of choices. We are all moving inexorably towards that moment. Last night almost half of Cameron’s Conservative Members of Parliament voted for a referendum to be put to the British people. The question on offer would be simple; should Britain stay in or leave the European Onion? In doing so they voted expressly against the wishes of PR-Meister Cameron. Rightly in my view, the PR-Meister made the point that now is not the time for such a question to be placed before the good citizenry and honest burghers of Britain. He sympathised with his rebels by suggesting that the British Parliament was "ever more impotent" as the "tentacles" of the European Onion "intruded into more and more areas of national life". The time for reform was at hand, he said…but not just yet.  What matters now is that we all pull together to avert what is a European crisis of the first order.  But the day of reckoning approacheth!

Time will prove the obvious; the PR-Meister is defending the indefensible.  On the one hand he believes the British interest is best served by staying in the Onion but on the other he is promising his revolting back-benchers that a "fundamental change" in the UK's relationship with Europe will soon take place. How?

The contradictions in Cameron’s position are indeed profound. First, the political space Britain now occupies in the Onion is eroding fast. Given events being in the Onion but not in the Euro makes little sense now, let alone a year hence when the consequences of this moment unfold. Logically given London's current position all that is going to happen is that the British will inevitably incur more cost for less influence.  Second, “repatriating powers” from Brussels will not free London from the grip of the Onion. With the European Omission’s powers inevitably strengthened Britain will still be ever more subject to a whole host of European Directives rightly designed for and by the political and monetary core of Europe. The PR-Meister will of course demand ‘opt-outs’ but all these ever do is ensure Britain has next to no influence over the strategic track of the Onion. It is precisely Britain's penchant for opt-outs that over time has led to the loss of critical influence in and over the Onion.  Third, fiscal and economic integration will lead inevitably to even further political integration in areas such as home affairs and defence which are a vital British interest but over which London will have no say. Fourth, having promised no more British cash to solve the Euro-crisis PR-Meister Cameron’s call to us all to douse the fire in the neighbouring house will mean just that – more British cash.

Britain’s real position was captured by President Sarkozy at the EU-summit this week. “We are sick of you criticising us,” the French President said, “…and telling us what to do.” Note the ‘us’. Britain simply is not regarded as one of 'them'.  So much for solidarity. 

Sadly, PR-Meister Cameron’s position on the Euro-crisis is symptomatic of the muddled and contradictory strategic thinking at the heart of the British Government.  Indeed, over Europe Cameron finds himself in the political equivalent of being a little bit pregnant. But here’s the real tragedy – so is Ed Milliband, the Labour Party leader and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. Whatever one might think of the Tory rebels at least they see how ridiculous Britain’s European ‘policy’ has become. It is about to get an awful lot worse.  Britain is in the worst possible of all strategic/policy positions - no influence/ high cost.

To properly influence events Britain must be at the core of the Onion. Or, to avoid the costs Britain must leave the Onion. There is no middle ground. In other words, Britain must join the Euro, or leave the Onion. It is as simple and straightforward as that.

Talking of symptoms – where’s the Lemsip?

Julian Lindley-French

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