I struggle with Europe. I am a passionate European and I see only benefits in the European project. I have always supported Britain’s membership of the EU but that enthusiasm is tempered by my complete disdain for the EU as it is: a garbled, ill-thought out ‘camel’ of an institution with absurdities such as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fish Abolition Policy and the farce of the European Parliament moving lock, stock and barrel from its headquarters in Brussels to Strasbourg once a month at a cost of millions of Euros to satisfy French egos.
Europe is a mess - a great idea but a terrible entity. It needs a counterweight to the French and their self-aggrandizing President. Angela Merkel is a star but her default setting, sadly, is to compromise, not to tell Sarko what's what. It needs a country like ours which, for all our myriad faults, is still relatively uncorrupt and which has been outward-facing for a good few centuries now. Sadly, we have mucked up our relationship with Europe for 70 years and it might just be the case that we can't 'do' Europe.
If you look back at the history of European integration it is obvious to even the most in-bred Tory that Britain has squandered what could have been a key role. When countries began talking about ‘Europe’ in London during the Second World War they were very keen for Britain to join. Britain was at the time important due to its wartime role. Reflect on that, Dave...Crucially, Britain was seen as an essential bulwark against French ambitions to use the European project to create a ‘greater France’.
Sadly, the Tory government of the time (1957) could not see the bigger picture and decided to let the foreign Johnnies get on with it while we declined politely on the sidelines. Thus France got its way from day one and all the current problems of Europe to this day emerged: the CAP, the abject lack of democracy, the corrupt Commission system, the deals behind closed doors. How much better could Europe – and Britain – have been if we had been mixing it from the start, insisting on representative and effective institutions and a free trade area which could have brought countries together while not diminishing states and their democratic checks to the detriment of the people who live in them?
When Britain realised its mistake the government had to go cap in hand to the French, who drove a hard bargain and finally let Britain join in 1973 – just as the global economy sank into one of its perennial crises. Since then we have been in a state of confusion over Europe, not sure whether to be committed or sceptical.
Well Dave has made the decision for us, now. By walking out of one of the most crucial meetings in European history he has taken Britain’s influence with him for a generation. And he let the French win again, which just smarts. We have the Olympics, they have the future of Europe. Well played, Dave.He may be defended by Eurosceptics but the crux of this whole story is that a better politician would not have let himself be put in this position.
Having now comprehensively lost all credibility in Europe, perhaps this is the time for everyone here to reflect. Frankly, we just don’t get it. Perhaps we should admit that Britain cannot be part of the EU, not because it is not in our interests – it is, and the moment we leave, London goes down the tubes as global finance moves to Frankfurt and Shanghai – but because we haven’t escaped the curse of empire, the notion that we are somehow different and better than others. We are not, we are Europeans and we have been ever since people first arrived here many thousands of years ago from Europe and continued to trade and work with their neighbours ever since.
Maybe Europe is better off without us. Maybe the spirit of closed door deals and compromise is what is needed. Maybe the new powers of Poland and Germany can stand up to France better than we have. For the first time in my life I find myself strangely sympathetic to the imbecilic voices calling for us to leave the EU. I don't agree with them but it may just be that we have shot our collective bolt and now is the time to call it a day.
As for Nick, my God he's a cool one. I can imagine what he's been saying to Dave behind the scenes but his sang froid before the cameras is a sight to behold. I'd have preferred him to have called Dave every version of fool in the English language but he is playing the long game and he deserves credit for that.