This wasn’t the outcome I predicted. Frankly, I gave Angie and Nicky too much credit for political acumen (called deviousness in some quarters). What they should have done is go along with Dave’s more than modest requests, give him the safeguards for the City he wanted, and then erode them one by one over the next year or two. Considering that, according to the new treaty, they’d need only an 85% majority to push through any new changes, this would have worked like a dream — or a nightmare, depending on your point of view.
Instead, they provoked Dave into the only decision he could have made under the circumstances: a veto. Had he signed the treaty without the safeguards, he would have lost his parliamentary party completely, as opposed to mostly. Dave’s position as Tory leader would have become untenable unless he agreed to a referendum, possibly with the simple IN or OUT question to be asked. He knows what the answer would have been, which is why he didn’t want to be in a position where he’d have to pop the question. Forgive me for being such a cynic, but I simply can’t believe there were nobler motives there somewhere.
Now Britain finds herself in the area described by Guardian writers and readers as ‘the sidelines of Europe’ and ‘isolation’. The last time the country entered this perilous territory was 71 years ago, during the Germans’ previous attempt to unite Europe. This time Sweden, Hungary and the Czechs share these quarters with us for the time being, but no one is sure how long they’ll stay. A lot will depend on how quickly the EU, which is to say Germany, will restore its ertswhile ability and willingness to shower the Greeks et al with gifts. Angie doesn’t seem to think this will happen soon, what with the German electorate hinting it just might replace her with a clone from another party should her generosity prove excessive. How else Angie and Nicky plan to hold their euro-plus club together is unclear. In the absence of bribery, violence seems to be the only realistic, and time-proven, method, but I’m not sure Angie would be a convincing wielder of the cudgel — and Nicky is no Napoleon in any way other than his height.
A brief look at the geography of Britain, and also her history, will suggest that being on the sidelines of Europe is neither new nor particularly disadvantageous. In fact Britain has always geared her foreign policy to preventing a single dominant power from emerging on the continent, affecting the centre from the periphery. That stratagem isn’t going to work now, for such a power has indeed emerged: Germany. She’s the one with the cheque book. Whether she’ll call the shots within the EU treaty or, as Angie seems to be willing to do, outside it, is a technicality. What matters is that she’ll be the one to pay the piper and make the music. The tune will sound unpleasantly discordant to every British ear, other than those belonging to the LibDems and Ken ‘Kenneth’ Clarke.
So Angie and Nicky will now use eurocourts and eurobanks to enforce eurocompliance with the 3% ceiling on deficit spending — a ceiling that their own countries were the first to destroy, Samson-style. That this would help the euro is highly doubtful, considering that the project is flawed ‘structurally’, to use Dave’s favourite word. What this Germany-imposed austerity will produce without any doubt whatsoever is civil unrest throughout the more volatile member countries to begin with, and all of them eventually. And in case you’re wondering, this won’t take the shape of clubbable Barbour-clad gentlemen protesting against the ban on hunting. The unrest will be ferocious, and it will be ferociously suppressed (when push comes to shove, France’s CRS handles riots in a manner distinctly different from that of our own dear Met). It’ll be Yugoslavia revisited, and common sense suggests that, when indiscriminate firing starts, one’s safety is directly proportionate to one’s distance away from it.
As to Britain, the only sensible course of action would be to leave the EUSSR immediately, thus returning to her traditional position. But no one has painted Dave into that corner yet. ‘Yet’ being the operative word.