Monday, 12 December 2011

The UK and the EU

The headlines this week in the UK are all about Cameron’s ‘historic’ veto in the EU and how this will change the future of Britain in the European union. I don’t think it is particularly historic or particularly important.

In many ways Cameron was able to do what all the Eurozone leaders wish they could have done which was play a popular policy for his domestic audience. I will go out on a limb here and suggest that the majority of British people are for the single market and against the politicisation of the European union. Culturally and linguistically Britons have far more in common with their own commonwealth and the Americans than with the majority of Europeans (whatever they are) so for Cameron to play the 'Britain first' card was an easy score for popular support back home. It was also something Sarkozy and Merkel would love to do but for their common straightjacket called the Euro.

They really set Cameron up with the proposed Financial Transaction Tax which would have hit the UK (which isn’t in the EZ anyway) the hardest since it houses 75% of all the financial trades in the EU. Excellent political genius to Merkozy and Barroso but Cameron just fell right into the trap – he might’ve mentioned French agricultural subsidies or suggested an EU wide tax on manufactured exports instead (hello Germany).

In many ways Cameron missed out on the subtleties of European politics in this move and set himself up to be painted as a pariah by the other EU leaders. He could have gone more Hungarian and rejected the deal, then realised it will never pass 25 (27 EU states less Hungary and the UK?) other national parliaments so they might as well agree and be ‘good Europeans.’ In the end it doesn’t matter because the EU or at least the Eurozone is clearly a sinking ship – so speculation on the future of the UK and its financial sector in the EU may well prove to be a moot point.

However all this cant of not being good Europeans betrays the extremely fragile position the European Unions now finds itself. If they must appeal to such abstract notions as a european common good then the project really is on its last legs. As Lao Tzu might say;

“When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.”

I would say we are pretty deep in the EU into ritual now if you permit me a little poetic license.

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