Saturday, 10 December 2011

Keep Calm and Sod Europe

To my great surprise, Dave actually grew a backbone and exercised the UK's oft-spoke-of-but-hitherto-unused veto to block the passage of an EU treaty.

This proposed treaty had several purposes:

  • To create a more stable and permanent mechanism for bailing out Eurozone countries that get into financial difficulties;
  • To introduce a system where there is centralised oversight over national budgets, and strict controls and penalties for Eurozone countries who break the rules;
  • To introduce a raft of further financial services regulations, as the EU leaders deem that it is primarily the financial services industry which is responsible for the mess they're in;
  • To lay the foundations for an EU-wide financial transactions tax to be levied directly from Brussels, effectively bypassing national governments.
In other words, although some news sources describe it solely as a deal to resolve the Eurozone crisis, it really isn't. The proposed treaty is an attempt to deepen the fiscal integration of the EU, using the crisis as a figleaf.

Now, don't get me wrong, if this fiscal union were to go ahead, with the European Commission effectively becoming a quasi-federal government and the nation states reduced to the status of glorified local councils, much like the system in the US, this would go some way to restoring market confidence. But that is just a happy side-effect. It doesn't, and has never been intended, to solve the root of the problem - it is simply another step on the road to a United States of Europe.

Fortunately, we have decided to take a step back from this - to allow the fiscal integration and consolidation to go ahead, if that is what the rest of the EU wants, but not us. We stand apart.


This does pose a few problems, though. A treaty between the 26 other members in the wake of our veto would effectively create a 'two-tier' EU, with only us on the lower level. However, the 26 members still need our permission to use the established EU institutions - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice, etc. Otherwise, they face the prospect of having to set up entirely new institutions, which will take a long time.

Assuming a treaty between the 26 goes ahead, and we allow them to use the established EU institutions, the new forum for further deepening of EU relationships will be the inner core - effectively excluding us. Over time, we will become increasingly isolated - not involved in policy discussions, but due to the 'qualified majority voting' clause of the Treaty of Lisbon, compelled to obey. EU membership will become increasingly bad for us.

But of course, cutting off all ties with Europe would be ridiculous. 40% of our exports go there, and we are tied into the affairs of the continent. So, Dave, here's your next announcement:

In the wake of our veto of the most recent EU treaty proposal, is has become obvious that Britain's national interest is no longer served by deepening our involvement in the EU. The other nations have concluded that it is in their interest to continue that process, and we will make no attempt to stand in their way - that is for them to decide.

The group of 26 will need to use the institutions of the EU in order to enforce any new Treaty between them. We will not oppose any moves to that end. However, it is likely that a new Europe will emerge as a result of this Treaty - one fundamentally different from the current structure, and which, in all honesty, it would neither be convenient nor appropriate for Britain to be a member of.

We want to continue doing business with Europe. It is profitable for us, and it is profitable for them. But it is no longer in our interest to be part of the continued New Europe project, and therefore, rather than continue to stick spokes in the wheels, I think it would be in everyone's interest for us to go our seperate ways amicably. 

That is why I am now announcing my intention to engage in direct, bilateral negotiations with the European leaders and the European Commission to create a new Treaty - not between Britain and the other nations of Europe to constitute our membership into this emergent New Europe, but one between Britain and New Europe, as friends and neighbours.

Our aim is, as a result of that Treaty, to see Britain leave the EU, to allow the institutions of the EU to serve its remaining members in the best way possible, but to preserve the aspect of the EU that are beneficial to both us and Europe - the single market. What I propose is, effectively, a free trade agreement between Britain and New Europe, which will continue to benefit us both, but without our involvement in the political and constitutional settlements of the EU.

Many people may be critical of this approach, but it is not a unique one. Both Switzerland and Norway enjoy strong bilateral relations with the EU without being a part of it.

The time has come for Britain to stand apart, but not alone.

Which is a polite way of saying: