I have always believed that the EU and the Euro are simply ego trips for a few Northern European politicians, their desire for a legacy. For Southern and Eastern Europeans the EU and Euro are a quick route, during the good times, to riches. There is absolutely no reason for a club of such different peoples to succeed.
Most arguments in the EU’s favour are complete nonsense. For example:
1. Trade: You don’t need a club for efficient trade. This is clearly seen throughout the world by the size and growth of trade with China and India. What you need is efficiency in production and transport, you need control over wages and taxes.
2. Mobility of skills: Each country needs to create its own skilled people otherwise there is far too great an exposure to a critical component of a country’s wellbeing.
Most of the arguments in favour of the EU are examples of extremely shallow thinking. The desire for 23 (at least) of the EU’s constituent countries to increase their links when it is clear that they are falling apart is a typical knee-jerk bridge burning. But bridge burning is only good if it increases the probability of success. This is not the case here. It increases the damage when the inevitable happens. (I look forward to the day when a TV news item on the tightening of European links is followed immediately by an item on Scotland seeking devolution from the UK. I rather expect that comparisons will not be drawn.)
David Cameron has exercised the UK veto on the vote for closer fiscal ties. These ties would have imposed constraints on constituent countries’ budgets with punishments for violation. So punishment for something that is often going to be impossible without the flexibility of multiple currencies. Come back, King Canute, maybe you can advise here!
Meanwhile Nick Clegg wants the UK to be at the “heart of Europe” so that we can have an impact on international events, our relationship with the US being somewhat on the wane. One can rarely go wrong by asking any politician, “So what?” In this case if we want to have an international impact then we need to prove that we deserve this, not by hanging onto others’ coat-tails, whether they are American or European.
If you want to have international clubs then they need to have certain properties, for example:
1. Complementarity: There is no point in countries banding together unless they can each offer the other something. (Unless a country is so tiny as to benefit from economies of scale.)
2. Values: There must be a commonality of values, otherwise any union will bring animosity. I don’t think that the taxpayers of Northern Europe are exactly keen on bailing out the tax-avoiders of Southern Europe.
All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that the UK is better off out of the EU, and much better off by building up the influence of the Commonwealth.*
*Not only do they speak English and play cricket, but they mostly drive on the left-hand side of the road and use the same electric plug!