In or out of Europe?

So, there is going to be an in/out referendum on the euro, or at least on an as-yet-undefined “new settlement” with the eurozone. Thanks to the ongoing European crisis, says David Cameron, Europe is “changing”. We need to talk about “its future and Britain’s place within it”.

And we need to find a way for our relationship with Europe to be “focused on competitiveness, fairness, respect for national democracies” and for everyone involved to allow “powers to flow back to states”. Politicians are well known for their tendency to live in their own little fantasy lands. This is a fabulously stunning example.

Have you ever known huge, bureaucratic and powerful organisations voluntarily to return rights to those they technically serve? It just doesn’t happen. That means, I think, that in the end, the decision won’t be about being in or out of some kind of New Europe. It will be about being in or out of the very same Europe we have now.

How will you vote? I know one man who has no doubt at all. Bernard Connolly has just reissued his mid-1990s cult classic, The Rotten Heart of Europe – the writing of which lost him his job at the European Commission, landed him in court and (in the only upside) had him hailed by the small gang of eurosceptics around at the time as something of a prophet. They were right.

Everything he forecast about the disaster inherent in the “crippling monetary straitjacket of the euro” has come about. Now we have only to wait for the social breakdown that will surely follow it.

Most commentators have begun this year believing the crisis in Europe is no longer as severe as it was. “Last year’s sense of panic is gone”, says a headline in the FT about the atmosphere at the self-promotion shop that is Davos. Really? Maybe for rich bankers and CEOs of the world’s biggest corporations. But is it true for the 25%-plus of the working age population in Spain that can’t find a job? Or for those who have one but know the grand European plan is for their living standard to be “internally devalued” until they are more competitive?

And is it true of the families of the hundreds of people committing suicide in Greece every month (up 30% last year alone), or the many thousands who queue at foodbanks across the country every day? I bet they are still feeling regular panic.

Since nothing has changed for the better for the people of Europe, says Bernard, the union needs to be seen for what it is. “No one who has observed the way in which the malignant lunacy of the ERM (exchange-rate mechanism) and monetary union has destroyed jobs… companies… savings… financial systems… lives… society and… democracy, all in the name of the right of Europe to arise, can doubt for one moment that the endeavour has been, in its effect if not always in intent, not simply misguided, but evil.”

Look out for my full interview with Bernard in next week’s magazine. There’ll be plenty to think about in it.

  • Jimmy O’Goblin

    For David Cameron to be elected as a ‘Conservative’ prime minister in 2015, he’ll need a ‘Falklands’ moment. He’ll never win on the economy’s performance; so what better way than to make the next election a one issue fight?
    UKIP supporters will know that by voting Conservative they’ll get the very thing they want: a referendum on EU membership.
    Cameron knows that the Euro’s survival is very much in doubt – its big test will come when the markets ask Draghi to do ‘whatever it takes’ to save it over Spain. The social situation in some Euro nations, as Bernard Connolly has pointed out, could be another factor in the currency’s eventual downfall.
    Cameron is gambling, but the chances of a referendum seem very slim to me. It may be a cute move. Five years is a long time in politics. Milliband and Farage obviously didn’t take a peek in the artillary room (Eton Rifles – Paul Weller).

  • washburn8992

    In or out of the Euro most western countries are living well beyond their means. If Britain had let deflation happen in 2008, they would likely be growing strongly out of it. If the British people want to get a look at the future they need only look at Spain and Greece. In the EU, not in the EU it won’t ultimately matter. An inevitable 2% hike in interest rates is all it will take.

  • Russell Hicks

    The propaganda, regurgitated by the BBC, Guardian etc is that ‘50% of our trade is with the EU’ Then they pause for the spooky music, ‘therefore we’ll lose that trade and jobs’. Oh no!

    They’re WRONG on several counts. Firstly, we buy much more from the EU than they buy from us…they can’t afford to stop selling us cars and wine. TRADE WILL NOT CEASE!

    Secondly, 70% of our GDP is domestic, the rest is split between the rest of the world’s expanding markets and the declining, red tape bound, socialist EU.

    Thirdly, there is good immigration and bad. We MUST have control of our borders, we cannot go on with open borders to 500 million Europeans. Cameron will never ‘renegotiate’ that nightmare.

    The EU issue is much more about Sovereignty and self determination. Brazil has a similar size economy to the UK, similar exports, it would be inconceivable to Brazilians to give away political power to neighbouring countries.

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