By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
George Osborne yesterday told Eurozone leaders that Britain would not contribute to a special bailout facility that they are establishing at the IMF, specifically to bolster the single currency. The Eurozone nations had been hoping to build a €200bn warchest but Britain's refusal to participate means it has fallen well short.
I'm amused at the reaction of one European diplomat to Britain's latest "no". Quoted in the FT (£) this unnamed official wishes the bailout fund had been used a moment to bring the EU back together after the veto: “This doesn’t help… It could have been a way to smooth things over, to be more conciliatory.” Normally when a couple has had a row the cost of relationship repair is a box of chocolates or some flowers. Europe wanted €30bn from Britain for kissing and making up!
Behind Britain's reluctance to support the fund is awareness of massive public opposition to more bailouts and also an unspoken realisation that the €uro probably can't be saved. Boris Johnson is the one senior politician in the whole of Europe who has been willing to say out loud that the Emperor has no clothes. In today's Express Stephen Pollard pays tribute to the Mayor's candour:
"The euro cannot be saved. Indeed, it should not be saved. not a penny more of anyone’s money – British, German, French, or from anywhere – should be spent trying to save it. Boris Johnson was spot-on with his explanation for this bizarre state of affairs, where politicians ignore the evidence of reality and persist in this vain pursuit: “There is such phobia about this and such a lot of political ego has been invested in the success of the euro project that people are failing to see that might be the best way forward.”"
In a statement explaining his decision the Chancellor repeated his earlier pledge: "The UK has always been willing to consider further resources for the IMF, but for its global role and as part of a global agreement." For some Eurosceptics this remains a backdoor way of supporting the single currency. Nigel Farage of UKIP commented: "If Britain does increase its commitment to the IMF under the old rules, and if the EU does become a fiscal and economic union the two things become one and the same. This will allow the IMF to bail out the eurozone.”
I don't know what the Liberal Democrats are making of Britain's latest declaration of independence but the language about the veto is becoming more heated. Andrew Duff MEP compares Cameron to a "saboteur", Hague to a "political commissar" and accuses Osborne of being dishonest. Unhappy times for the Coalition. Happier times for Eurosceptics.