Thursday, January 24, 2013

David Cameron and Britain's future in the EU (or, not)

The current leadership of the European Union is a disgrace. Especially in the leading three countries, Germany, France and Britain.

German Chancellor Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel has imposed brutal, destructive austerity economics on the "periphery" countries Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. (See Graeme Wearden and Larry Elliott, Angela Merkel tells Davos austerity must continue The Guardian 01/24/2013) In the process, she essentially dictated to Greece and Italy which governments they could have at some points in the process. The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have largely played along with her awful policies that may very well have doomed the euro and the EU itself.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was Frau Fritz' partner in imposing austerity. The Socialists won the Presidency last year under François Hollande, campaigning against Merkel's austerity mania and her fiscal suicide pact, aka, the Stability Pact. Once elected, Hollande quickly capitulated to Angie on EU austerity and the fiscal suicide pact, and started slashing the French budget, too.

Britain has always been a diffident EU partner. They aren't eurozone members. But they also didn't offer any useful aid or even advice as Frau Fritz dragged the eurozone further and further into crisis. Current Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron cheerful adopted his own version of austerity economics during a depression in Britain, though, which shoved the British economy into a new recession. Awesome. (See Larry Elliott, Austerity plan is failing,IMF tells Osborne The Guardian 01/24/2013.)

Now, Cameron is making noises about holding a new referendum in Britain after the 2015 election on whether Britain should remain an EU member. A threat he articulated this week at the Davos World Economic Forum, in what Carsten Volkery calls "the most important speech of his political life." (Camerons EU-Pläne: Allein gegen alle Spiegel Online 23.01.2013) He also declared that Britain would never become part of the eurozone.

The truth is that if the EU is going to survive the euro crisis in anything like its current form, it will have to move toward a far higher degree of political and economic integration than Britain can be expected to accept. And, in any case, Britain remains largely subservient to the US in every important question of foreign policy. And the current US strategy of global hegemony requires the US to block the rise of any "peer competitor" in the world, one of which the EU could be. And the US has used Britain to help keep the EU relatively weak. There is little prospect from the European viewpoint that this will change in the immediate future.

So for the EU to succeed, if that's still a feasible possibility, they will have to do so without Britain as a member. Wolfgang Münchau basically says the rest of the EU should let them leave without a fuss and wish them good riddance. (Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten Spiegel Online 23.01.2013)

That said, that doesn't diminish the irresponsibility of Cameron in his anti-Europe course. Yannis Palaiologos writes about his latest antics in David Cameron's Malaise Speech The American Prospect 01/24/2013:

Prime Minister David Cameron gave a big speech on Britain and Europe in London on Wednesday morning. In it, he expressed his country’s dissatisfaction at the evolution of the European Union, in particular in the age of the euro crisis. Lamenting the slipping competitiveness of European economies and the mounting democratic deficit of the EU, he vowed to renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with Brussels by clawing back as many powers as he could from the control of the EU bureaucracy. He also promised to put the new deal to a referendum at some point during the second term he hopes to win in the 2015 elections. A “no” vote in that referendum would spell a British exit. ...

Last July, William Hague, the avowedly eurosceptic foreign minister and former party leader, launched what he called a "comprehensive audit" of EU powers in the UK, due to be completed in 2014. The Fresh Start group of Conservative MPs recently provided the prime minister with their own suggestions for repatriation, which included aspects of justice and policing, employment law, fisheries and financial services. Meanwhile, the right-wing UK Independence Party, openly campaigning for a British exit, keeps gaining in support and has become a real thorn in the Conservatives’ side.
President Obama called Cameron to discourage talk of a Britsh exit from the EU. (Marcelo Justo, Cameron consulta la salida de la UE Página 12 24.01.2013)

Cameron's flighty, demagogic stance is yet another example of the spectacular shortcomings of the current EU leadership. Louise Armitstead reports (Europe is being 'out-competed' and must change, says David Cameron Telegraph 01/24/2013:

After angering his EU partners on Wednesday by announcing plans for a referendum on membership, the Prime Minister said of his push for change: "This is not about turning our backs on Europe. Quite the opposite.

"This is how I see it – just over half of EU countries are in the single currency. You move towards a banking union, towards a fiscal union and that has huge implications for those of us not in the euro, like the UK, and we are frankly not likely to ever join.

"It is not just right for Britain, it is right for Europe."
Glen Newey in the LRB Blog (Cameron’s Euro Fudge 01/24/2013) describes the dilemma anti-Europe sentiment in Cameron's Conservative Party and without places him:

In fact, there’s only one script that does the trick for Cameron: he wins in 2015, claws back sovereignty from the EU, before asking for, and winning, UK voters’ assent to the new deal. All other branches of the game-tree lead to catastrophe, either in the form of career-wrecking credibility loss or a UK exit from the EU – maybe, though probably not, without Scotland. And, even before getting over the 2015 election hurdle, Cameron runs the risk – as happened in 1997 – that branding Europe as the UK's bête noire makes it harder for the Tories credibly to demonise Labour at the same time.

There is a democratic deficit in EU institutions, and as the 50th anniversary of Adenauer and de Gaulle's Friendship Pact this week underlined, the EU is mainly a Franco-German show: a recent televised exchange between Helmut Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing brought home how committed leading actors in the EU and its forerunners have been to a single Euro-state. But exit, as Cameron knows, is far from cost-free. After the US, the UK’s next seven leading export partners are in the EU. It will be interesting to see how many UK exporters to France and Germany will want to cheer on risking a return to tariff barriers. Meanwhile, though Angela Merkel has been polite about Cameron’s in/out, there have been suggestions that – as English nationalists sometimes mutter about Scottish independence – separation might be pre-empted by blackballing.
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