As Adam Smith almost said, there is a lot of ruin in a currency. The euro cannot succeed, yet it stumbles on, making it impossible for Europe to achieve what it so badly needs: an economic recovery which will create jobs and avert social instability. Big bazooka? The Brussels summit did not even produce an airgun. To switch metaphors, the Eurozone needs surgery and is being offered elastoplast.
Apropos of elastoplast, there are reports that the European Central Bank is trying to evade the limits on buying sovereign debt by using banks as its intermediary. The European Interbank Market has almost broken down. Many banks are close to solvency crises. So the ECB lends them money, on condition that they purchase Italian and Spanish debt. Ingenious: possibly unconstitutional – and it will not work for long.
But I think that one can detect a change of mood. After the summit, there was a brief spasm of euphoria, as if solutions had been found. Then the politicians exchanged the central heating of Brussels for the chilly reality of the European midwinter, and most of them regained the power of thought. M Sarkozy is an exception: the man who puts the "ape" into "jackanapes". The signs are, however, that realism may be gaining momentum. For months, the Eurozone has been changing the end date on the sandwich board. "Two weeks to save the Euro". "One week to save the Euro". "This is the crucial meeting". "This is absolutely the crucial meeting". "This is the last last chance meeting". The nonsense and the self-deception cannot go on much longer. It is time to take off thy sandwich-board and work.
In the whole of Europe, there is only one important group of happy politicians: British Conservative MPs. They are right to approach Christmas in good heart; to fortify themselves with seasonal cheer – in preparation for the travails which the new year will bring. But if they remain loyal and determined, they have the pilot to weather the storm.