Cameron’s Inevitable “Veto”

Dec 9 2011 @ 1:33pm

135278383

Anglophobia is on the march in Europe today after Britain "vetoed" a full EU treaty change that would require all member states to submit their budgets to Brussels for approval. I don't quite understand the fuss. Britain is mercifully not in the euro – thanks to Thatcher, Major and Brown. Why would Britain give up basic sovereignty for a safer future for a currency it doesn't share – especially when the new treaty would also hobble London's financial sector? In any case, a deal that is not a full-scale treaty change will be easier to implement quickly. So the Frogs and the Germans get their "solution", forge ahead more speedily on the Titanic, and start to create a new EU centered on Paris-Berlin and maybe Warsaw. Good luck to them. They're going to need a lot of it.

It's also worth noting that Cameron is still prime minister of an actual democracy. A big majority of the voting public back him in his refusal to join in. His own party would have split in two if he had caved to Merkozy. And his Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have said that Cameron's requested exemptions on the financial sector were modest and reasonable. Sarko has used the crisis to bolster his own cred at home with the usual perfidious Albion crap. He's desperate to get re-elected.

And the result, anyway, is deeply underwhelming. The austerity pact, some gamely hope, is the precondition for the ECB to print money to keep the whole enterprise afloat in the short and medium term. But the ECB seems adamant that this won't happen. So what we've got is a plan for serious austerity, enforced by Brussels and destined to pummel the economies of the peripheral countries even further. So forget the British veto, the real threat to the EU is that, at some point, the peripheral countries risk becoming less autonomous within the EU than the individual states are within the US, during what could become the worst depression since the 1930s. If you don't see future strife built into that formula, you are a more optimistic reader of history than I am.

We already have Germans dictating government fiscal policy in Athens and, to a lesser extent, Italy. Neither country has a democratically elected government. And so we see that Europe risks degenerating into a Franco-German bully zone, and in an era where democracy is resurgent in the Middle East, it is retreating in Europe. Does anyone think this is feasible in the long run? That the publics in countries whose economies are being effectively run by Berlin won't buckle at some point – especially if the core problem of an imminent new depression remains likely.

My sense is that if the continent's incipient depression deepens under German command, resistance among the publics of Italy, Greece, Spain and others could create echoes of the very World War the EU was designed to swipe from the collective memory banks.

It would not be the first time that a well-meant utopian project collapsed under its own unreasonable assumptions, and actually worsened the problem it was designed to solve. But for the European Union to promote European dissolution and dictatorship is one for the ages.

(Photo: Carl Court/AFP/Getty.)