Should the coalition shout or shut up about the eurozone?
By Peter Wilding
The PM can’t win. If he shouts that the eurozone must make up or break up he is bulldozing policy and vexing his European colleagues. If he shuts up he is shirking leadership and irking his domestic allies. It is not as if the coalition hasn’t laid out its solution: a troika of debt reduction, structural reform and eurobonds. It so happens that their solution straddles both Merkel and Hollande which, as Nucleus has consistently argued, is a diplomatic game-changer for the coalition and British interests. The problem is that, whether they shout or shut up, they do so in fits and starts and the public is left clueless. The coalition must come up with a ‘Better Off In’ narrative soon or there will be more Comres polls in which 46% say they want out, with just 30% saying they want in.
So, for the first time in a long time, up pops Nick Clegg to explain everything, not of course in the UK but in an interview with Der Spiegel, http://www.spiegel.de/international/euro… in which he bemoans the paralysis of European leadership. He says:
“We are still seeing a lack of clear, comprehensive leadership which sets out a vision for how the Euro Zone is going to be sustainable in the long run…We urgently need a comprehensive solution which talks about the different bits of the whole canvas; structural reform, the single market reforms. [...] It’s criminal that [European leaders] are still failing to deliver the jobs and the prosperity that just requires signing a piece of paper.”
True. But what about the solution beyond the eurozone which Britain’s interests also lie? And what does Britain do? Says Clegg:
“If you look at what we did in the run-up to the last European summit, we were probably more active diplomatically than any other government. I was on the phone constantly, as was David Cameron. We signed a letter with 11 other governments setting out some of the things we talked about. If we complete the single market as we should have done 20 years ago, we will be creating more jobs, more prosperity, more competitiveness. It is unforgivable that European leaders meet every few weeks and issue declarations about completing the energy market, energy liberalization, the digital economy – and then they just don’t do it. It’s criminal that they are still failing to deliver jobs and prosperity. It just requires signing a piece of paper.”
Great. But what’s the point saving a project that seems to be losing democratic legitimacy? And here Clegg reveals the political gap into which former-banker-turned-politico Nigel Farage charges:
“I don’t think that the answer to this disenchantment can be: Oh, so let’s tear the thing apart. We can’t return to the 19th century, draw up our drawbridges and say, we don’t have anything to do with each other, Germany will not work with the Netherlands, the UK will not work with France. That’s ludicrous. We are condemned to work with each other. Isolation is not the solution.”
Why not? That’s what the 46% need to know, because isolation looks ok from leafy Stanton St Bernard. So why not? is the is the question the coalition and European leaders must begin to answer. Headless chickens now rule the Brussels roost. Interviewed by Het Laatste Nieuws, Liberal leader, Guy Verhofstadt said that “the euro is a collective mistake.” In Äripäev, Foreign policy analyst Erkki Bahovski writes that the EU being a “guarantee of stability” for its members seems to be collapsing. Meanwhile, the crisis has turbo-charged a “multi-speed” Europe into unchartered waters and Captain Pugwash is on the bridge. Says Clegg:
“This cannot carry on. We know this much from our continent: The combination of economic insecurity and political paralysis is the ideal recipe for an increase in extremism and xenophobia. And I, as a passionate liberal and pro-European, think it would be a disaster if a lack of grip and a lack of a comprehensive solution were to lead to a push to the extreme right or extreme left.”
But that’s where we are heading.
So, on balance, it’s probably better to shout rather than shut up.