Europe is in crisis, and the internal contradictions of the failed euro currency project — described by Lord Lawson as “among the most irresponsible political initiatives of the post-war world” — threaten not just the EU but the global economy.
Schadenfreude is an ugly thing, but amidst the turmoil of the markets, eurosceptics are surely allowed a small pat on the back, for after all the euro project is following exactly the path that many of us were predicting a decade ago. We could not know for sure when and how the breakdown would come, but we were sure it would come, and we were right.
Of course the whole idea of a single currency, single monetary policy, and single interest rate across Europe’s diverse economies was fundamentally flawed from the start. But the incompetence of EU politicians — and their constant willingness to promote political ideology over rational economics — has been conspicuous. They rushed to admit Greece to the euro (just as they are now rushing to admit Croatia to the EU), despite the obvious fact that its economy was not ready (and may never be).
Then when the crisis struck they tried a series of measures each of which was supposed to reassure the markets — but each of which failed. And each failure raised the price of the next imitative. There is now a consensus that a successful bail-out fund for the euro would need around €2 trillion. But they don’t have the money, and Germany won’t pay up.
They face an impasse. Solutions that would be politically acceptable will not deliver economically, while economic solutions which might work cannot be countenanced politically. We used to hear a lot about the “political will” behind the euro project, but political will is currently achieving nothing more than a steadfast refusal to recognise reality. It is keeping the euro on life-support long past its sell-by date.
Now, into this disastrous scenario, comes a call from the Union of European Federalists (yes, there still is such a beast!), for “Federal Union Now”. This is the title of a new booklet by British Lib-Dem MEP Andrew Duff, a man of great intellect and considerable personal charm, but completely besotted by a European dream which is so — well — last century.
Europe’s failing? Give it more powers and more money!
But hang on a minute. Shouldn’t we look for evidence that it can manage what it has effectively before we give it more? As the Good Lord said 2000 years ago: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much”. Still true today, I’m afraid.
Not content with demanding more powers and more money for Brussels, Duff calls for more centralisation of “democracy”, failing to realise that democracy requires a demos, and that no such demos exists in Europe. As John Stuart Mill put it “Where people lack fellow feeling, and especially where they read and speak different languages, the common public opinion necessary for representative government cannot exist”. Now there’s a truth from the nineteenth century that still holds good in the 21st.
Duff actually wants a new class of Pan-European MEPs drawn from transnational lists, which he bizarrely thinks will make the EU system more responsive to democratic pressure. But voters scarcely relate to their own national MEPs. By what possible reasoning can Duff imagine that they will relate more closely to transnational lists, to MEPs owing no allegiance to any country or region?
As for responsiveness and accountability, hasn’t Duff noticed that the European project is characterised by a massive contempt for the voters and for public opinion? Referendum results overturned, or referendums denied. Promises of referenda broken (not least by the Lib-Dems). If Duff hasn’t noticed, the public certainly have. They know they’re being taken for a ride, and they’ve had enough — which could be why a recent YouGov poll showed a majority of UK voters against EU membership.
Duff’s document is surely the last shout of a dying dream. It seems he went to Cambridge University (as did I). Funny that. I’d have expected Oxford. It’s known as the home of lost causes.