Saturday, June 25, 2011

Softening the line?

Fear is turning to anger, but the EU bureaucrats will still screw us writes Charles Moore, adding that, as an outsider, Britain has little chance to alter this crisis which "now threatens political order". So, he observes, the question of what Britain should want in all of this is a difficult one.

But, are we alone in thinking that the great man's tone is softening. In this piece, the self-proclaimed eurosceptic says that the way the euro was conceived, written and performed has been dreadful, "but it does not automatically follow that we should wish for its collapse".

Then, for a man who has consistently opposed the euro, he tells us that, "There is some logic in the existence of a common currency for large parts of mostly northern Europe", adding: "There is misery if it all falls apart".

Now look was he was writing almost exactly a year ago (18 June 2010, to be precise), when Cameron was also at the European Council in Brussels. "The euro's inevitable failure will be horrendous for all of us", he told us, the single currency is a disaster, but the cost of its life support will devastate Europe's economies.

"Again and again in politics, great schemes don't work – Soviet Communism, for example, and now the euro". But bad political schemes are usually given up "only when they have been tested literally to destruction". It would be much better for Europe if the euro had never happened, and I long for it somehow to fade away, but the process of destruction will be horrendous, and it is only just beginning, he concluded.

Now wander back to 20 October 2007 and we are told: "Brussels dictatorship will face day of reckoning". The European project, he wrote, now resembles the state of the eastern European Communists after 1968, when party members gave up believing in their doctrine and just settled for comfortable jobs. They shored up their power and ignored their unpopularity.

After 20 years, it all collapsed, because people started to take down the Berlin Wall, and no one quite dared stop them, he reminded us, venturing that the EU is not such a sharp oppression as was Soviet Communism, but it is similar in this respect - it tries wherever possible to avoid the democratic judgment of the people it rules. When that judgment does come, therefore, it will be merciless.

And so to 4 June 2005 when Moore writes about the German magazine Stern advising readers to check their euro banknotes. The notes issued in Germany, it explained, begin their serial numbers with "X"; those issued in Italy begin with "S". Hold on to the former, was the suggestion, and get rid of the latter while you can.

Stern's X-factor advice was based on the idea that the euro zone might break up, wrote Moore, now adding: "I do not know whether the euro zone will break up (though I wouldn't mind taking a small bet that it has less than 18 months to go in its present form), but Stern's advice interests me for the same reason as the results of the Dutch and French referendums".

They are, he said, "all symptoms of that exciting moment in politics when reality starts to intrude upon the lives of statesmen". This is part of the fun of following politics: the relation to reality is generally delayed, but is always there in the end.

Unreal schemes often appear and even dominate for a time - fascism, Communism, the League of Nations are examples. But the truth eventually finds them out. He then concludes:
One expects most of the European political leaders to go on pretending that everything will be all right. They have lived for years on the metaphor that the EU is like a bicycle that must not stop moving, and now they may die by it, peddling ever more frantically and absurdly to avoid falling off, like a troupe of circus clowns. They may even succeed for a surprisingly long time.
In that last observation, he is absolutely right. Six years ago, we were talking about the demise of the euro, with Moore putting its end by December 2007. But here we are, still talking about the demise of the euro.

Then, as now, we willed it to happen, as one way of seeing the end of the "Brussels dictatorship". But, now the collapse is nearly upon us, Moore tells us "it does not automatically follow that we should wish for its collapse". Has he changed his stance and, if so, is this reality biting, as he confronts the enormity of the potential consequences?

Or is there something else going on here, that I have missed?