Alphen, the Netherlands. 10 December. T.S. Eliot wrote, “We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men”. The most telling image from this week’s European Summit was British Prime Minister David Cameron sitting all on his lonesome in the Council chamber. Not only did it show the childishness of our Dear European Leaders, but also the extent to which this summit was really more power politics than principle. Time will show Cameron to have been right and our Continental friends should realize that the massive majority of Britons have no problem with standing alone.
The summit was not about the Euro – nothing was done to fix that. Rather, it was about the rebranding of the European Union into an Empire. A German Empire led by Berlin with its French Passe Partout acting as agent. The hollow men and women of the twenty-four other member-states wished to do nothing that might offend Europe’s new headmistress, Chancellor Merkel. So, David Cameron was made to sit on his own in one corner of the room like some offending schoolboy. For Cameron it must have been like being back at Eton. It was pathetic to observe, as I did – I was one hundred metres away.
President Sarkozy, employing the gracelessness with which we have come to associate with a man who does a great nation no honour, suggested that Cameron had made “unacceptable demands”. If he means by that that Cameron had acted to protect Britain’s core financial services and by extension the British people from a Euro-saving tax 85% of which would have been paid in and by Britain then I suppose that is ‘unacceptable’. Can you imagine a French president agreeing to such a punitive tax on a critical French industry? No way. Can you imagine a French president opening the door to an aggressive set of European regulations that would in time destroy said industry? One only has to look at the ninety-plus cases the French are facing in the European Court of Justice for breaking EU rules to know the answer.
There is no such thing as a free tax and the result would have been the British people paying for a currency disaster that French newspaper Le Monde says rightly has nothing to do with the British. Moreover, Britain is already the second biggest net contributor to the EU mainly because of a previous Franco-German power play when they stitched up a deal on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that forces the British taxpayer to subsidise French farmers. Sarkozy even had the temerity to suggest that banking deregulation had caused the Euro crisis. This may have something to do with the fact that in January the French will have to honour €52.9 billion in government bonds, a further €35.9 billion in February and by April a further €50 plus billion.
Taken together the refusal of ‘Merkozy’ to address Eurozone sovereign debt, Chancellor Merkel’s insistence that the European Central Bank cannot act as the lender of last resort and the failure to address Europe’s appalling growth-strangling over-regulation now dooms the Euro to failure. No amount of effort to shift the blame for failure onto Britain and Cameron will work because time, and not much time, will demonstrate who really is responsible.
Of course, the usual suspects came out of the woodwork back in London to attack Cameron. The BBC’s flagship radio news programme ‘Today’ embarked on one of the most politically one-sided set of interviews and commentary’s I have ever heard. Retired diplomats such as Lord Hannay suggested that Britain will now be excluded from ‘process’. Lord Hezeltine even suggested that Europe is in its inevitable way to forming a United States of Europe. What planet are these people on?
They miss three simple verities. First, most political moments are indeed ‘process’, but every now and then a ‘moment’ comes along that is strategic. At such moments a stand needs to be taken and this was indeed a strategic moment. Second, a profound ideological split exists between a statist Europe beloved of the French and the more free market British who are much more attuned to global realities. To have signed a deal on those terms would have subjected Britain to European statist nonsense effectively ending all hope of the flexible economy Europe (and Britain) needs if it is to properly adapt to this globalized age. Third, and above all, not only the future of the Euro was at stake, but also the future power map of Europe.
The choice was between a legitimate Europe made up of democracies and a power Europe led by Germany and France. The deal on offer to Britain was in effect to become a super-Belgium subject to German and French whim. Berlin and Paris have done everything they can over recent years to exclude Britain from their power core and this was to be the final act. Britain will never accept subjugation to their leadership and rightly so.
Through the centuries there have been times when Britain has stood alone against the hegemony of one or two powers in Europe. This is another such moment and we British are again called on to make a stand. So be it! The one inspiring thing that came out of the Brussels summit was to see a British Prime Minister stand on an issue of principle. Now Britain stands clear in opposition to a Europe it does not believe in. That is the best negotiating position London can possibly have.
So, be sure of one thing Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy this game has only just begun. In Prime Minister Cameron you are facing at least one European leader who understands that.
Well done, Prime Minister. Continent isolated, Britain defiant…and right!