Tuesday 20 November 2012

Playing Games With Our Futures

Think of the EU as a football team, do stop groaning, this part is very short.  Brussels is the goalkeeper and normally it has a 4-4-2 formation.  France and Germany are the two up front, with the UK among the mid field four but a stopper rather than a playmaker.  There is also a substitute’s bench for those small states who may or may not be involved.

From time to time there may be a tactical switch to 1-5-4, with Germany as the one.  More rarely there might be a 3-3-4 but it would be wrong to assume that the UK was one of the three strikers.  This may have happened now and again but for tactical reasons only and not as a reliable team strategy.

In the 1970’s and ever since our leaders have banged on about the UK being “At the heart of Europe” but as Europe has viewed the UK as some kind of blood clot we have been more in the bowels than the brain or the heart.  The only way that status might have been achieved was in the 1950’s when the Common Market was created.

The ideology and politics at the beginning revolved around the need for some coherence in the European Coal and Steel industries if regeneration and progress were to be made.  It was clear that given American supremacy and UK interests they either worked together or risked failing.

There were also the risks entailed with the Communist parties in Italy and France being large enough to pose a significant threat to their establishments.  What we do not understand now because it is more distant history is that the histories of Germany, France, Italy and Spain were ones of constant turbulence and uncertainty from the end of the 18th Century to the mid 20th.

President De Gaulle blocked the UK applications of the 1960’s because he saw the UK as a potentially disruptive entity that was too likely to upset the fine balance that had been achieved.  It was only in the 1970’s when the UK was clearly politically weak and had lost direction that the Common Market could dictate its terms.

Both the UK leadership and the media tended to think that we would be central to what went on because both France and Germany had reason to be grateful to us.  The problem was they did not think so. 

The French thought that British blundering was just as responsible for the war as German aggression and the Germans wanted to take advantage of their newly gained prosperity and authority.  Our essential problem is that our politicians and civil service has consistently misled and misinformed us as to the truth of our membership.

With cheap oil, cheap money, careless deregulation, personality politics and the belief that the masses could always be paid off with better benefits and easy living the show was kept on the road with easy credit, compounded in most of the EU by the creation of the Euro and low interest rates in the German and French interest.

What they did not understand was that the outside world had moved on as well.  Globalisation had made Europe into more of a suburb rather than a centre.  When in the early 1970’s I passed through the container ports of Felixstowe and Europort I blithely assumed that this was the European way.  It turned out to be the way of the world which was going to change both Europe and the UK.

The upshot of the recent financial crisis is that Europe and the UK with their radically changed demographics, the end of old industries and severe competition in the new, and their loss of will or understanding are now in trouble. 

Before 1914 the Ottoman Empire was the Sick Man of Europe.  Europe is now the Sick Man of the World, the USA has pneumonia, Russia a bad dose of diarrhoea and sundry other countries a serious cough in the currencies.

And the UK is the badly off form player who is being sent to the substitutes bench and it will be no good sulking.


  1. I don't know....Maybe it is my somewhat parochial attitude here, but I see the prospects of Europe as slightly more lively than the prospects of the United States.

    Oh, there will be hue and cry in Europe, but in the end, the individual countries will go their own way and begin to sort out what needs to be done.

    I see the southern tier returning to their "long Egyptian night" and the northern tier treturning to the "Steel and Coal" days with limited cooperation in specific fields.

    The US has a bigger problem. It is still preening about being thought of as a hyperpower and can't get over the fact that it's power cannot solve the problems of the world. It is going to have to go through the standard humility optimization process that former colonial powers have already completed.

  2. "and it will be no good sulking"

    The answer is - don't sign a new contract.