Despite the weather, it is not the season for Guy Fawkes. Many Conservatives are disappointed. They would love to have a bonfire with a Euro-Guy: Ted Heath, Jacques Delors, Ken Clarke? Any of them would do, and we could all enjoy a good blaze.
Alas, there are more urgent priorities; above all, hard thinking. The present situation is exciting for political commentators and alarming for everybody else – because nobody knows what is happening. Politicians, economists, bankers: no-one can work out where we are going. There would appear to be a range of options, which are easy to summarise: a choice between bad and worse. I cannot think of any historical precedent, any other set of events which left the wise men so bewildered. The Euro-fanatics have a unique achievement to their credit. They have created a problem which is almost beyond the power of the human mind to solve.
The Eurozone does have two immediate choices: stark ones. First, it could move forward to become a single state. Second, it could abandon the Euro experiment, and return to the era of national currencies. If the latter, it is possible that some countries would wish to continue with the Euro: Austria, say, might be prepared to stay Anschlussed. But if Italy and Spain withdrew, the Eurozone in its current form would be dead. The single state has a basic difficulty: where is the democratic legitimacy? If the Euro-nomenklatura attempted to impose it, there would be trouble and political instability throughout the continent. I have not come across any plausible method of turning a currency into a country. But if the Eurozone collapsed, its political elites would suffer a nervous breakdown. Their raison d'etre would be gone.
Rather than face conflict with their peoples or humiliation in front of them, the Eurozone leaders will almost certainly opt for a third alternative. Up to now, they have been kicking the can down the road, hoping that something will turn up. That has not worked, so now we are into can plus: put some bells and whistles on the increasingly dented object in the hope that it will last a bit longer. The Spanish bail-out is the latest attempt to avoid facing reality.
In response, what can we British do? That is a very hard question. On the continent, we are widely suspected of gloating, which is unfair. In Whitehall, they are not interested in gloating about the Eurozone's misfortunes; they are too busy worrying about our difficulties. But the gloat factor does make it harder for us to give counsel. Consider your self, gentle reader. You take an important decision, against the advice of your best friends (the analogy is not a hundred percent, but it will do). The years pass, and it becomes more and more apparent that they were right and you were wrong. Are you gracious enough to admit the fact, or do the friendships refrigerate as you persist in error? It is wrong to assume that politicians are a race of superhumans, immunne to vanities or insecurities. They are like the rest of us. If you prick them, they bleed. Grace is a rare commodity, especially in France.
Honest advice would go as follows. "You were crazy. Absolutely certifiable, twenty-four carat, stir-fried crazy. We told you so, and you refused to listen. We said that you were putting the roof on a building which had no walls. We said that it would be like driving a large car at ninety miles an hour the wrong way down a motorway: not a question of whether you would crash, but when, and how many dead. You still would not listen. Well, you had better start, now". It would be fun to talk like that while burning Ted and Ken in effigy. But it would not be helpful.
What should we do instead? First, we must clarify our objectives. We want them to spare their toe-caps, leave the can alone and start sorting things out, so that economic growth can resume. Without actually rebuking the Europeans, that is what George Osborne has been doing: trying to concentrate their minds, in such a way that they do not take offence. President Obama is less worried about their taking offence. He has an election to win. Moreover, he suffers from the widespread American delusion (they listen too much to the Euro-fanatics) that the various states of Europe are just like U.S. states. So why are the Europeans refusing to be sensible and E Pluribus Unum? The Eurozone is likely to receive more federalising lectures from Washington.
Mr Osborne has been dealing in the logic of events, pointing out – which the Europeans should have known long ago – that you cannot run a single monetary policy without a single fiscal policy. He is right, but the rest of us should hope that his wise words act not as a spur, but as a deterrent. There are two powerful reasons for hoping that the Europeans resile from political union. The first is that it would fail; messily, even violently – condemning Europe to years of economic dislocation, maximum bitterness, and the likelihood of protectionist outbreaks. Not what you want for your neighbours, even the French.
The second is that it might succeed: not in the sense of bounding forward to the sunlit uplands, but in somehow staying together, despite all the chaos, disruption, mess et al; despite the violence, because it might manage to cow the dissidents. That is a dreadful prospect. It would also mean that the UK was confronted by resentful, hostile neighbours – not only the French – who would want to pay us back for keeping out of the car crash.
It follows, therefore, that the implosion of the Euro would be the best outcome for us – and, as it happens, for them. It too would be chaotic, but better a short-term crisis than a long, slow, chronic, endless near-crisis. What can we do to bring implosion about? On the face of it, nothing. A lot of them know that they have made a hideous mistake, but they cannot bear it when we say so. That said, it may be – this is pure speculation – George Osborne may be set on a cunning stratagem. If you keep on encouraging them to unite, they cannot accuse you of being anti-European. European union: surely that is what they stand for? But by urging them to move rapidly towards federalism, you also draw attention to the vast obstacles in the way. Is there any hope that perhaps, at last, they will see sense?
That proposition only has to be stated for its absurdity to become apparent. Eurofanatics, see sense: what a laugh. That old can has a lot more kicking to come, while the European economy stagnates, unemployment remains criminally high, social problems grow and disorder threatens. The Euro-federast elite will continue to cripple the continent which they profess to love.