You will forgive your faithful blogonaut a third blog in a week on the same topic – the Eurozone crisis. However, the mission of this blog is to peer through the political murk and the fog of jaw behind which the Euro-Aristocracy and their faithful Eurocrats love to hide and bear witness to real strategic change. Before me I have the Euro Summit Statement of 26 October, 2011 (strange how it was issued at 0400 hours CET 27 October but is dated 26 October). Historians will come to regard this document as perhaps the most important since the EU’s founding 1957 Treaty of Rome. A political Rubicon was and had to be crossed last night by the Eurozone countries towards political and economic integration, but Britain for a whole host of reasons cannot, nor will she ever follow.
Quite simply the statement marks the moment when the countries of the inner-union broke once and for all with those of the outer-union. For someone who has spent much of his adult life believing in the essential unifying mission of Europe it is with the most profound sadness that I now call on Britain to leave the European Union. To save Greece, Britain has been sacrificed and given the stakes there was little alternative. However, for Britain to stay now would simply heap humiliation upon cost without influence and my proud, old, badly-led country deserves better than that.
As ever the devil is in the detail of Union-speak. It is not the headlines that matter, although as a Dutch taxpayer I am the one who is really going to take the now infamous ‘haircut’…and I will be bald for many years to come. Europe’s Dear Leaders are simply inventing ways to avoid saying that. Private banks that hold Greek debt will write-off 50% of their returns; the ‘firepower’ of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) will be increased from €440bn to €1 trillion (it will be €2 trillion within a year); and European banks will be required to raise about €106bn in new capital by June 2012…much more is needed.
The key breaker with Britain is Annex 1 (the truly dangerous strategic bits of EU-speak are always hidden in the ‘language’ of annexes): “Ten measures to improve the governance of the euro area”. There will be twice yearly Euro-summits at which the Eurogroup meet under the leadership of a President of the Euro Summit who will be ‘designated’ by the Heads of State and Government (HofSG) of the Eurozone. The “Eurogroup will ensure ever closer coordination of the economic policies and promoting financial stability”. One can tell how weak is Britain’s influence as whoever writes this stuff is clearly not English. The non-Euro members and the European Parliament will be “kept informed” by the Euro-summit president, which will be nice.
There will be a Eurogroup work-plan towards deeper integration drawn up by a Eurogroup Working Group, “drawing on expertise provided by the Commission” which will be chaired by yet another “full-time Brussels-based President”…who will be different from the President of the Euro Summit. Still with me? Fantastically, the Onion will soon have five presidents – more high-paid jobs for the Euro-Aristocracy and their Eurocrat friends. What is the collective? A plethora of presidents, or merely a pain? Critically, the ECOFIN Commissioner, Head of the Omission’s Economic and Finance Committee; the President of the Euro-Summit; the President of the European Commission; and the President of the Eurogroup shall be responsible for “communicating the decisions of the Eurogroup”. That should be clear then.
Make no mistake for all the Byzantine complexity and secrecy beloved of the democracy-defying Brussels Mafia this moment is the decisive break with Britain. London had an opportunity to shape this moment but woke up too late and did too little. London will of course do what it has always done at such moments of retreat. Play down the significance of the statement, assure the British people that its impact will be minimal, and that assurances and opt-outs have been secured. There will be failure-masking talk of leading the non-Eurozone members towards a counter-balancing bloc. History will prove that London’s ‘assurances’ will be as empty as the people who make them. The simple fact is that Britain is the big loser (again) from the Euro-crisis. My old country must now take its chances with the wider world which represents over 60% of Britain’s trade. Bring on the Anglosphere!
The statement marks the decisive end of the fifty year struggle between a sort of ‘intergovernmental’ Europe and a sort of integrated Europe. The latter is not at all what the British people signed up to. To stay further would be to pay for someone else’s party and that would be unfair. A German-led inner core will now make decisions with implications far beyond mere issues of economy. Economics is after all power and Britain has no part of it.
Therefore, I call upon the Euro-Aristocracy on both sides for once to do the right thing; prepare for the departure of Britain from the European Union and recognise that Britain has trading rights under the World Trade Organisation that must be respected.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill; this is not the end of the beginning, but rather the beginning of the end for Britain in the European Union.
It is a bridge too far for Britain…and we all know what that means.
Julian Lindley-French is Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy, Fellow of Respublica in London, Associate Fellow of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies and a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Atlantic Council. He is also a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the NATO Defence College in Rome. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.