There is nothing more tedious than people who are fixated about Europe to the exclusion of all other subjects. Yet I make no apology for returning to it in this week of crucial talks and diplomacy, the outcome of which may well shape our world and our continent for generations to come. Get it wrong and we could face a slump of the kind we last saw in the 1920s, which caused untold poverty, starvation and misery, and ultimately was responsible for the Second World War. Or in an attempt to avoid that, we risk putting in place political structures which either go directly against the most basic principles of democracy (installation of unelected Prime Ministers in Italy and Greece by an overmighty German-dominated EU), or which risk building up economic and political tensions which will in the end lead to even greater troubles.
Behind it all is the reality that all of us throughout the prosperous west have overspent for many years. We have been sucked into a colour supplement consumerist society, giving ourselves aspirations which we can ill afford as people or as nations. One billion people in the world today go to bed fat and overfed while one billion people elsewhere go to bed starving. Greece and Spain, for example, have lived an EU- funded lifestyle which their own domestic production could not afford in a million years. If they are to continue with their over-prosperous olive-grove way of life, that can only occur if the rich Northern European nations continue to subsidise it. Do we really want to do so? I think not. They should be made to stand on their own two feet, to rely on their peoples’ hard work, their own natural resources, and their way of life must find a level to match that inherent prosperity (or lack of it.) Propping them up by cross-subsidy from the richer North of Europe cannot be sustainable in the long term from an economic or political standpoint, or at least not without controls over their economy and government which would spell the end of true democracy in the very country which invented it.
The alternative – for them and for all of us – must be a fundamental reappraisal of our expectations and our spending. Do we really all need new cars, flat screen televisions, a new three-piece suite? Can we truly afford it? Are we really prepared to sacrifice our freedoms and our democracy for ever-greater German-inspired ‘prosperity’? Well you may be, but I most certainly am not.
So my message to David Cameron is: let those parts of the Eurozone who cannot afford their current lifestyle leave the Euro in an orderly manner, devalue their own currency and allow the people’s lifestyle to find its own level; avoid the ‘fiscal and monetary union’ proposed for the Eurozone which would undermine democracy and risk our influence over the single market and our own business interests; and use the Treaty renegotiation which seems imminent, (and which must be amongst all 27 nations, not just the Eurozone 17), to press for Britain’s interests, especially in the City of London, and repatriate significant powers from the EU. Parliament must approve those Treaty changes which will almost without doubt require approval by the people in a referendum. The EU is just about to change for ever. We must ensure that at the end of it we have a better and more independent Britain as well as a better European Union.