October 9, 2000
So the Danish people voted against the Euro, and the rulers of Europe took heed. Actually, I was joking about the second bit. To listen to some of them you would really have thought that this was just a badly attended protest at a provincial town hall. Robin Cook showed his usual responsiveness and good political sense by saying that the Danish referendum made "no difference" as to whether Britain should scrap its currency. A country voted against all the main political parties, the Trade Unions, the business pressure groups and all but two of the country's 48 newspapers. Does this not make any difference to calculations in the far more evenly divided Britain? Not to the political genius Robin Cook. (Robin Cook also said that the majority of exports were with the EU when did 40% make up a majority?) Wim Duisenberg said that the only people who were hurt were the Danes themselves. Only the Danes? Let's remember that this is the only time that a referendum has been allowed on monetary union in Europe. And they lost. Now every Eurosceptic, both inside and outside the Euro-stagnation zone can ask "But why can't we have a vote on it?" The pro-Euro elites can now be challenged on this every time they talk of the Euro's "success", which now consists solely of the fact that Europe has not spiraled into economic collapse. But one of them got it right, Pedro Solbes the Eurocrat in charge of the "Economy" said that it was " not a great disappointment". No, Pedro, I wasn't disappointed either.
The Eurosceptics in Britain are cock-a-hoop. They never really expected to win. The establishment was on the Euro's side, and there were not really the big differences that Denmark would notice as it was already in the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the waiting room for the Euro. Besides, few dared hope for a win. But Denmark struck out. Now the main arguments for the Euro that it is inevitable and that every one else is in it, have been knocked back. One of the symptoms of this was the remarkably upbeat Conservative conference. Although helped by the Petrol blockade, the party was ready to cheer anything Danish. This was shown most forcefully with the debate on foreign policy. A Danish conservative who had been active in the "No" campaign was asked to speak. As soon as it was announced that he was Danish, he got a standing ovation; this was before he even spoke! He then went through a competent but not inspiring speech (far better than a speech by me in Danish, though) and was constantly interrupted by applause, and rounded off by another standing ovation.
The arrogance of the elites should never be underestimated. This brings me to the speech made in Warsaw by my wonderful Prime Minister, Tony Blair, modestly titled "Europe's Political Future." This has been hailed by the State owned British Broadcasting Corporation as the most important speech on Europe since Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech. In a way, I hope it is. It was so bland and inaccurate that it reminded me that the angels have all the best tunes in this fight, if that is the best that the federalists can do. Lets take some easy pot shots first:
Nobody who considers how the European Union has underpinned peace and democracy in the reconstruction of post-war Western Europe can doubt the benefits that enlargement will bring to the post-Cold War Europe and the Balkans.
Well as someone who has "considered" the European Union's underpinning of peace I must be a nobody. I always thought that the real reason that we were at peace was because we were all scared witless of this big hulking Soviet Union on our borders, and didn't think it a good time to fight. I also thought the sheer terror of nuclear annihilation stopped there being too many shooting wars in Europe. (Apart from Greece, Northern Ireland, the Basque country and France in 1958 and 1968 but none of these happened, Europe was at peace). As far as democracy goes, an institution that insists on replacing pounds and ounces with metric measurements, against the wishes of 90% of the population, does not really deserve the democratic label. Of course the European Union did help hold the Continental European line against the Soviet Union, but lets not get carried away, Mr. Blair.
Nobody who considers the role that open markets have played in generating wealth and prosperity in the European Union can doubt the benefits of creating a market of half a billion consumers.
Again, I must be a nobody. When the Single Market has meant that we have the highest tariff barriers in the developed world and that we are being regulated on the permitted curvature of cucumbers, then I must voice some doubts. Whenever a politician says "as everyone knows" or "only a fool would disagree", they are not only betraying a weak grasp of facts, but little tolerance of dissent. Truly, Mr. Blair, language worthy of Moseley.
The main point that he makes is on the issue of expansion of the European Union. The main point that this will border a fractious and nuclear armed Russia is not made. This is both surprising the implied security guarantee is the main objection to eastward EU expansion and perfectly predictable since when has Mr. Blair ever let an objection get in the way of a good plan? To be fair the issue of eastward expansion has not been dealt with by the Conservative Party either, it is merely dismissed as a "scandal" whenever its asked why expansion has not gone further. That Britain is now to be thrust in a position where she will be standing toe to toe with Russia for interests that are at all not vital is a scandal. It is even more scandalous that this is not to be done with at least the backing from America that NATO expansion brought. The Conservative case that expansion will mean that the EU will dilute its power is wrong, immoral and strategically inept. Going toe to toe with Russia shows the ineptness. The immorality of sacrificing other nations' independence in the hope of deflecting the sovereignty hunger of the Belgian Empire rather than standing up for oneself ought to be obvious to all but a politician. However, the idea that a wider empire will mean a less intrusive one is also simply mistaken.
The European Union was once six states, now it is fifteen. In that time, has the EU become less integrated? Has the pace of integration even slowed? This ought to warn against pinning ones hopes on expansion. However, if one wanted more positive proof one should look at the speech by Mr. Blair. He makes it clear that he has no truck with the idea of a European Superstate, he wants a superpower which is somehow less integrated (don't ask me, I'm a nobody). So what sort of non-federalising measures does he put forward? Well a European Senate for a start, then a presidency that is free no longer national and an unwritten constitution. Apart from the last of the suggestions, there is actually nothing new there. Even if these have already been suggested, will they loosen the federation? A second chamber of Parliament taking the scrutinising role of national parliaments? The presidency of the commission no longer being run by a single government on rotation but by a collection of governments? An unwritten constitution that lays no limits for the various pan-European agencies? Is this really an alternative to a federal state or alternative packaging?
The real view is on the United States, the kindly godfather of European integration. To portray Blair as merely an American poodle has always been simplistic. His longer-term vision is the same as most British who view their destiny as on Europe, to supplant the US:
In a world with the power of the USA; with new alliances to be made with the neighbours of Europe like Russia; developing nations with vast populations like India and China; Japan, not just an economic power but a country that will rightly increase its political might too; with the world increasingly forming powerful regional blocs – ASEAN, Mercosur; Europe’s citizens need Europe to be strong and united. They need it to be a power in the world. Whatever its origin, Europe today is no longer just about peace. It is about projecting collective power.
While I am not a believer in fighting every war that Uncle Sam is inclined to embroil himself in, I am less inclined to fight him for no reason. This country spends more on armaments than the rest of the world. Is he mad? On the other hand, is the United States, which has funded and promoted European Union, even to the point of war, more mad?
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