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David the Ditherer – Undecided on Europe
Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, has told Die Welt that Britain will join the Euro one day.
That’s the top story from German newspaper Die Welt today. Wolfgang Schäuble tells the paper that the more successful the stabilisation of the eurozone is, the faster it will be that “others that are still outside the eurozone will see the benefits of this common currency.”
He told the paper that he thought Europe would one day be united under a single currency, though it would take a little while longer. But he added: “It will probably be sooner than many people believe today in the British Isles.”
Meanwhile Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the “Eurogroup” said:
I am in favour of dialogue, but I am against being dictated to by those who are doing worse than we are.
Fair enough, actually. David Cameron has certainly been giving the Eurozone leaders a few kicks over the last few days, and telling them to get their house in order. And it is also true that Britain’s debt position is nothing to be proud of.
But what a revealing turn of phrase: “by those who are doing worse than we are”.
For Mr Juncker, the United Kingdom is not “we”. In his mind, the UK is outside the Project, outside the Eurozone, perhaps even outside the EU.
You might say that these two positions, of Mr Schäuble and of Mr Juncker, are at odds. In fact they are two sides of the same coin.
The reason for all of this is Britain’s absurd insistence on being “in Europe but not run by Europe”. Mr Schäuble is effectively urging Britain to be “in Europe and run by Europe”. Mr Juncker is arguing for “not in Europe at all”.
That slogan – “in Europe but not run by Europe” – has explicitly been a Tory Party slogan for some time. It has also been the policy, effectively, of the British government for the last 30 years.
The insistence of Britain’s ruling class of trying to have their cake and eat it, is what is causing the rifts with Berlin and other places in the EU.
I am quite sure – quite sure – that if Britain explicitly announced an intention to leave the EU, Mr Schäuble would be perfectly satisfied and perfectly willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement for trade with the UK, and perfectly willing and eager to continue treating the UK as an ally. That would be especially true if Britain, outside the EU, were to do everything it could to help the EU countries achieve political union.
And I am also quite sure – equally sure – that if Britain announced it was about to join the Euro, and was willing to take part in efforts to save the European currency, then Mr Juncker would be perfectly happy to change his view of Britain as an outsider. In that case, we would quickly become part of Mr Juncker’s “we”.
There are some in Britain’s political establishment who would like Britain to follow the latter course, and join the Euro. Nick Clegg, for example, would be keen. And there are others – UKIP plus many backbench and probably some frontbench Conservatives and indeed some Labour people too – who would like us to follow the former course, and leave the EU completely.
And there, stuck in the middle, is the obstinate and ignorant British establishment, who still think Britain is a mighty World Power, and can be in the EU, but dictating terms to the rest of the EU. David Cameron is in this camp, leading Britain nowhere. And so too are the Labour leadership, along with the higher echelons of our Civil Service.
Being in that middle “have your cake and eat it” position is getting increasingly uncomfortable for those in that position. Mr Cameron must certainly be suffering sleepless nights.
But worst of all is that having our leaders following that untenable position is causing unnecessary and quite heated rifts now with countries who are our largest trading partners and should be our allies. It is not Euroscepticism that is causing the rifts with Germany and others. It is that “middle way”, thoughtlessly being followed by that lightweight Mr Cameron.
There is one sensible way forward for this, which is to hold a referendum now on our EU membership. And when I say now, I mean now. The EU is not currently in a position to interfere – if we wait until the Euro crisis is over, then the EU will probably try and prevent the referendum going ahead, or pervert the open debate that should precede it.
If Britain decides to leave, it should be in a spirit of not wishing to be a hindrance to the others in building their dream of a united Europe. And it should be in the clear and public expectation that we want to be allies of the New Europe, trade with it and work with it wherever we can.
The other side of this is that if the referendum decides we should stay in the EU, then we should join the Euro and stop sniping at the rest. In that case, we should get in properly, and stop dreaming of being out of it.
It is like a marriage. There are two decent and honourable ways – first, to get married and stay faithful and second, not to get married. What is not honourable, and is the recipe for years of misery, is to get married, but still eye up the other women as they walk past.
It is crunch time now. Britain needs to decide: in or out. And that means a referendum. Mr Cameron thinks that not having a referendum is necessary to be a good European. The truth is the opposite. Not having one, and therefore continuing as a country to sit on the fence on Europe, is ensuring worsening relations with Europe, ensuring damage to Britain and even causing damage to the EU itself.
Mr Cameron thinks he is a Eurosceptic. What he really is is a Euro-ditherer, like the rest of the numpties who have run our country for so long.
The British government, and David Cameron in particular, need to stop twatting around right now. The tone of his pointless squabbling with other European leaders is becoming alarming. The spectre of War has already been raised by Angela Merkel, and she is right. We should not be going in that direction, no matter how far away from it we may think we are.
Let’s talk openly about making a decision, let’s have the referendum, and let that referendum have just two options:
- Leave the EU.
- Stay in the EU, join the Euro and join the European Project.
Mr Cameron’s middle way is a shabby recipe for disaster.