Elections in Finland do not normally make headlines anywhere outside Finland. But last weekend's extraordinary events, with the shock success of Timo Soini's True Finns, have had a devastating effect in Brussels, where Eurosceptism has long been seen as irritating, but manageable, as long as it can be contained in the UK.
On the face of it, we should be happy that the Finnish voters have woken up to the true meaning of Europe's most notorious weasel word, solidarity – the idea that hard working people in countries with dynamic and reformed economies should shoulder the burdens of those who refuse to believe that the 1970s are over. And personally, I am happy for Timo Soini, a devoted Millwall fan and fellow MEP who, despite all attempts to smear him, is a very pleasant man.
Nevertheless, one of the major implications of the True Finns' breakthrough is distinctly worrying for UK taxpayers. They have been elected on a tidal wave of dissent against the cost of the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal that was so strong that one of the major parties, the Social Democrats, had to join them in opposition to a Portuguese bailout to stem a loss of support. And since these two parties are expected to form the bulk of the governing coalition, the inevitable Portuguese bailout which I recently wrote about on ConservativeHome could end up costing Britain more than we had bargained for, if we do not stand firm.
In my previous article I argued that a Portuguese bailout should be covered by the European Financial Stability Facility (paid into only be Eurozone countries), a €440 billion fund, rather than by the EU-wide European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, which was set up at a cost of €60 billion. But loans under the former can only be made under a unanimous decision, whereas under the latter they are a matter for qualified majority voting. With a new Finnish government that has been effectively mandated to veto a Portuguese bailout by use of the EFSF, it seems very likely that the burden will fall on the EFSM and the IMF, to both of which Britain subscribes.
This is potentially a much worse situation for Britain than was the case for the Irish bailout. In that case, the €67.5 billion of external aid fell in equal parts on the EFSM, the EFSF and the IMF, with Britain, Sweden and Denmark contributing bilateral loans as if they had been in the EFSF and thus making the eurozone-only fund the smallest contributor. This was clearly wrong, and not just because of the illegal use of article 122(2) of the Treaty; and it hardly bodes well for the assurances we have been given that a future European Stability Mechanism will not drag Britain and other non-eurozone countries into it.
Now George Osborne will come under enormous pressure from Brussels to be part of the solution to the Portuguese bailout. There is an emergency situation in Portugal, whose five-year bond yields are almost touching 11 per cent, and in Greece, whose situation is so dire that default is increasingly seen as inevitable in spite of all that the EU has thrown at it. Remember that debt default means Creditors, including us, not getting all of their money back.
But this is the eurozone's problem. Britain must stand firm, marshall its allies and, with the Treaty on its side, challenge the legality of what Brussels will try to make us do.