Alphen. The Netherlands. 14 December. Yesterday in Strasbourg at the European Parliament European Parliamentarians made some of the most shocking and inappropriate attacks ever against one member-state - Britain. The leader of the European People’s Party warned of ‘punishing’ Britain and of ‘tanks and Kalashnikovs’. In the feeding frenzy of myth-making and scapegoating much of it using language that verged on the profoundly disrespectful to Britain and its people. Indeed, this was unparliamentary language at its very worst, a clear attempt to create a new ‘narrative’ for a crisis entirely of the Eurozone’s own making by placing responsibility on to the British for the appalling failure of Eurozone leadership.
This is a blame game. Indeed, it is a blatant attempt to implicate a country that is not even a member of their benighted currency and which warned against its structural contradictions from the very outset. Even President Barroso joined in this stitch-up…and we all know who is behind him. How dare they?
Some talked of British ‘egotism’ and ‘nationalism’. These people would not have the freedoms they enjoy but for the sacrifice of the British people in both World War Two and the Cold War. Some talked of a lack of solidarity by Britain. These are the same people who for years have dodged their responsibilities for Europe’s security and defence and imposed its true cost on the British people. These are the same people who have dodged their responsibilities in Afghanistan forcing the British to do too much of the dying. These are the same people who wringed their hands over Libya as the British did what was necessary to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. How dare European parliamentarians lecture Britain about solidarity?
As for the Eurozone crisis the full extent of the Brussels stitch-up is only now becoming apparent. There was no need for a new treaty, only Chancellor Merkel wanted that and by demanding it she sought to make the crisis one of the EU at 27 rather than 17. It is in any case already falling apart validating once again British pragmatism. What is more to the point is that having tried to make this a crisis 'owned'by all 27 neither Merkel nor Sarkozy were prepared to offer Britain the joint leadership role befitting Europe’s second or third largest economy and strongest military power. No, Britain was expected to subject itself formally to German and French leadership even though she is one of Europe’s Big Three. That will never happen. How dare they?
And now these same people pretend that the Euro-crisis is all of Britain’s doing because London failed to properly regulate the banks in the City, many of which are German and French et al. They conveniently forget Germany’s failure at the summit to offer any real leadership to solve the immediate crisis. They conveniently forget the chronic debt into which their national leaders have pitched almost all of the Eurozone countries. They conveniently forget that Britain is the second net contributor to the EU and that the British taxpayer has for years been transferring huge amounts of money to southern and eastern Europeans with little or no prospect of any benefit. They also fail to notice that Prime Minister Cameron is climbing rapidly in UK opinion polls for saying 'no' to the wrong treaty at the wrong time for the wrong reasons for Europe.
Last week I warned against Britain retreating from Brussels however seductive the vision of our standing defiantly on the White Cliffs of Dover shaking our fist and rekindling the defiance of 1940. “Very well, alone then” was, I suggested, neither a policy nor a strategy for Britain. After yesterday’s sham of a debate in the European Parliament, more redolent of a fascist show trial than a modern, tolerant democratic Europe, I am no longer so sure.
Be careful Europe. If you continue down this road of abusing, blaming and scapegoating Britain for your own lamentable failings you may indeed get what you appear to want. Britain out of the EU.