Bucharest Airport, Romania. 27 June. It is not my normal practice to devote three blogs in one week to the same subject. However, when a development takes place that justifies a third missive I will so do from time to time. Yesterday I had a very constructive conversation with a senior German who clearly understands the gravity and the implications of Jean-Claude Juncker’s disastrous appointment as European Commission President which will be confirmed in Brussels today.
There is much talk of Cameron’s ‘failure’ but this is a political disaster of Germany’s making. Chancellor Merkel is the real author of this mess. She has demonstrated herself to be unreliable, irresolute and all too willing to impose German domestic politics on the rest of Europe. Worse, she has been aided and abetted by the appalling lack of backbone by the political invertebrates/amoeba who claim to 'lead' other EU member-states. Many of them are quietly and equally concerned by the Juncker appointment but switched sides the moment Merkel wobbled in the face of an assault by Bild.
True to form I have just heard the new Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb calling for Britain to “wake up and smell the coffee” and be more ‘pragmatic’. That is Euro-speak for the abandonment of all political principle and the unquestioning acceptance of all and any Brussels diktat. Stubb, who I know, suggests that the EU is good for Britain. What are you putting in your coffee, Alexander? A report out today by respected think-tank Civitas demonstrates that there are few economic benefits for the UK from EU membership and there has not been for a long-time.
Stubb went on to warn of a complete shut-out from the EU market if Britain left the EU. Not only would that be illegal it reflects the just how dishonest EU leaders are at such moments. Take Liberal Democrat and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. As Cameron left for Ypres this week he cited a Treasury (Finance Ministry) report claiming the loss of three million jobs should Britain leave the EU. This was an extreme scenario cited in the report. Sadly, the use of false statistics typifies the method of federalist’s like Alexander who seek to mask their true political ambitions. In fact Danny Alexander used to be the leader of a group called Young European Federalists something which he now tries to hide from the very people he is seeking to con.
Over coffee here at Bucharest Airport my German colleague conceded to me that this is a very dangerous moment. However, he also said rightly that very few Germans want either an EU Government or a German Empire. Indeed, not one sensible German with whom I have spoken recently wants either. Most of them would rather England won the World Cup than, although the likelihood of an EU Government is the greater.
One reason that this has happened is that European leaders have not had an honest conversation with each other about the finalité of the EU in Euro-speak. It is a conversation that is urgently needed.
My proposal will infuriate smaller EU member-states but then again Luxembourgeois Juncker’s pending appointment is but the latest piece of EU small state tyranny. However, it is vital the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy sit down and discuss both the limits of ‘Europe’ and a programme of real reform rather than the pretend ‘thing’ that will emerge today. In any case other leaders have simply demonstrated the EU’s “and me too” tendency – whatever Germany wants goes.
The first aim of such a chat would be to establish the nature and extent of the disagreement between the big four member-states. Talking to my German colleague my sense is that in fact whilst disagreements about the role and size of Brussels do exist they really are not that great.
Equally, if as a result of this debate there is indeed an enormous gap in both ambition and principle between Britain, France and Germany then at least leaders can begin to start considering sensibly the practical nature of a changed British relationship with the EU.
The Juncker appointment means the EU and its member-states must finally answer the question that has been long in the making but which can no longer be fudged by ‘pragmatism’; is the EU a tight collective of partner states or a proto-European government? My sense of my German colleague is that whilst Berlin might disagree with aspects of Britain’s position Germany still wants the former rather than the latter. If so, Berlin must say that loud and clear. Indeed, unless an honest discussion takes place between the Big Four over the finalité politically devious federalists will continue to exploit the silence between them and we the voters will be ignored again and again.
This is a political mess of your making Germany. If the EU is reduced to a tawdry debate between domestic German politicians and federalists fanatics Britain will indeed leave and rightly so. In time the EU will fall apart as bureaucracy, false legitimacy and false democracy rot its institutions from within. Do you want that Berlin?
As for Jean-Claude Juncker; given the more free-trade, less bureaucracy ‘reform’ agenda today being discussed by EU leaders Juncker is completely the wrong man with the wrong beliefs in the wrong job.
What are you going to do now Berlin?