The inevitable demise of the euro currency will ultimately endorse Cameron’s decision to stand alone
Will David Cameron’s veto of the proposed eurozone treaty be the making or breaking of him? I expect Cameron’s popularity ratings to benefit, at least in the short term, as the public treats him with a respect that can only be earned from such bruising encounters. That he is the first British Prime Minister to have the courage to say he would exercise the veto, and then actually do it, cannot be passed over as a mere diplomatic misunderstanding. It was a momentous decision, but was it wise or was it foolish? It may be years before we know.
The reckoning for poor decisions that evolve into an article of faith is often paid for by subsequent generations rather than those who convince themselves they were doing the right thing, despite being warned they were not.
Take the global economic recession from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves; despite much myth making by anti-capitalists, the greedy bankers and their bonuses are a symptom not the cause – the blame lies with self-serving do-gooding politicians suspending the laws of economics in an attempt to harvest votes.
When in 1999 president Bill Clinton encouraged Fannie Mae to extend loans to riskier borrowers in the name of political correctness, a time-bomb started ticking for an explosion of foreclosures at some point in the future. It finally blew up in 2008.
When from 2003 Gordon Brown decided to rely on massive borrowing for his spending dreams rather than present the public with a real-time bill through higher taxes, he was passing the cost to future generations beyond ours – and by returning Labour to power in 2005 the British public was complicit in the scam. It took us until 2009 to realise the size of Brown’s debt bomb and George Osborne is still desperately trying to defuse it.
For Cameron, the origin of his day of reckoning was John Major’s failure to veto the Maastricht Treaty: Thatcher’s europhile replacement judged that allowing our European partners to go ahead with their “flawed from the start” single currency was in Britain’s national interest so long as he won some treaty opt-outs. He was wrong.
Talk of Cameron creating a two-tier European Union is mendacious and misplaced – the divergence started at Maastricht when the adherents of a United States of Europe went down their single currency path without the political institutions to support it. All Cameron has done is reveal the European emperors have no clothes – we have had a two-tier Europe since the treaty was signed on 7 February, 1992. Of course there are many at home and on the continent that shall seek to sneer, ridicule and blame the British Prime Minister either because it suits their own agenda or because they are ignorant of the facts.
Time and again it is conveniently forgotten just how European Union summits work. Thanks to the Élysée Treaty of 1963, Germany and France are bound legally to meet in advance of every gathering and hammer out a common position.
Such is the influence that the two countries have with their neighbours, but especially Germany whose large economy and subsidy transfers support the satellite economies in eastern and southern Europe, that the ability of Britain to steer the direction of travel is exaggerated by Europhiles.
One by one, nations in the EU find their national interests eroded by Germany and France driving towards their bilaterally agreed ambition of ever-closer union. It may be Britain’s fishing interests being sold out by Edward Heath in 1973 or it may one day be Scotland’s energy resources being compromised by Alex Salmond, but all comparative advantages are viewed as expendable for the greater good. Just ask the Irish about the pressure they are under to give up their 12.5 per cent corporation tax as the cost for their overpriced bail-out.
Last week’s summit was typical of this façade. Has the European Central Bank announced it will hose down the already debt-sodden miscreants of Greece, Italy and the rest? No. Has Germany agreed to put its hand in its pocket yet again? No. Do the new structures, that are 20 years too late, solve current problems? No.
There was no agreement amongst the 27 nations because the French and Germans could not achieve the compact between themselves they are mandated to make when they met earlier in the week – it therefore fell to them to portray Cameron’s modest request that the City of London (code for the British financial services industry that includes world-class businesses in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich) should not be made to pay for the eurozone’s flatulence as the cause of the summit’s failure.
Cameron did not rebel willingly or stridently, banging his shoe on the table or swinging his handbag, but after listening to all 17 of those nations within the euro over dinner he then reminded everyone politely that a new treaty without public consent would not only be undemocratic but unlikely to gain approval – and that he could not sign up to such a treaty without safeguards that the proposed fiscal convergence for the 17 would not mean financial convergence for all 27.
Those cuddly, loveable good Europeans who only recently had organised palace coups without consulting the plebs in Athens and Rome – those ancient seats of European democracy – froze out Cameron for his audacity in challenging their imperiousness.
Was Cameron wise to be so honest to himself, the British people – and the European masses who may yet never have a say?
If you believe that truth is the friend of democracy then it must have been the right thing to do.
Cameron may be castigated for his isolation at the moment, but once the euro’s inevitable demise regains momentum, and when the people of Ireland and maybe even France are given the chance to vote, Cameron’s loneliness may ultimately be viewed as we now see Churchill’s in the 1930s.