Published by Daily Mail
It was exactly 20 years ago in 1992 that Europe’s élite were tortuously negotiating the Maastricht Treaty, which paved the way for Europe’s single currency. Germany’s Chancellor Kohl was telling us about the importance of building the House of Europe, explaining that if there was no monetary union there would be no political union (and vice versa). President François Mitterrand of France was more than happy to sacrifice le franc for his plus grand projet. Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene assured us that monetary union was the motor of European integration. And President of the European Commission Jacques Delors was busy turning the ERM into EMU and founding the ECB to impose binding budgetary rules upon all Member States. When the currency was named the ‘euro’, it was Spain’s finance minister Pedro Solbes who proclaimed: “Thou art Euro, and on this Euro I will build Europe,” as though the gates of Anglo-Saxon Hades could not prevail against it.
A decade after Maastricht, in 2002, the currency entered circulation. Europe had shiny new coins which retained at least the vestigial symbols of national sovereignty, and colourful notes which featured bridges, windows and doors. The subliminal message was obvious: bridges span gulfs; windows let in air and light; and doors open into new spaces. The European Union had reached the closest ever point of its inexorable drive to ‘ever closer union’.
But here we are, a further decade on in 2012, and the bridges have collapsed into the valleys and canyons; the windows proved to be only partially transparent, and were really two-way mirrors hazed in smoke; and the doors have slammed shut. And those that haven’t are forever revolving in a minuet of meaninglessness.
It really doesn’t take an AS-level in politics or even a GCSE in common sense to grasp that a single currency requires a single bank, which requires a single fiscal policy, which requires a single economic and social policy, which requires a single government. The mechanism which was supposed to propel the continent of Europe to the zenith of ‘ever closer union’ has instead brought it to the nadir of crisis, and all because our ruling élites put the cart before the horse. They hoped, of course, that we wouldn’t notice. And by and large, thanks to a pathologically Europhile media, most didn’t. As long as the cart rolled along the cobbles, people weren’t overly bothered whether it was being pushed from behind by a bloody sore snout or pulled from the front by sturdy shoulders and shanks.
Now the euro is suffering, and its death throes are terminal. The amputation of Greece may prolong its miserable life, but the contagion has already spread to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland. It’s too late to save it, at least in its present incarnation. As Margaret Thatcher once observed: “You can’t buck the market.” And the markets have already determined that monetary union is not irreversible: Greece will exit sooner or later. A skilful surgeon could carry on hacking off the infected limbs one by one, but euthanasia would be more humane than death by a thousand cuts.
There’s rarely much to be gained from ‘I told you so’. Yes, there’s a certain schadenfreude smugness and self-satisfaction at the vindication. But the fall of the House of Europe comes with so much personal tragedy and national humiliation that it brings precious little pleasure. As Greek unemployment soars, bills become unpayable, food unaffordable, families are turfed out of their homes, and a few find solace in suicide. The same will happen in Spain, then Portugal, then Italy…
The Dream of Europe has become a nightmare. The euro was the symbol of unity imposed by blind and belligerent politicians who failed (and still fail) to understand that unity and peace are contingent on voluntary association and willing cooperation; not mandatory rights and fabricated fraternity. You might think they would have learned from those other artificial federations of diverse peoples and cultures: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union – we can’t even hold the United Kingdom together.
The age of empire is long gone. It is for this reason that the eurozone will contract and the European Union will fragment. Many nations will revive their sovereign currencies, and a ‘hard euro’ area will advance with a single monetary policy overseen and implemented by a single decision-making body. And then, at last, we shall see a United States of Europe. And the United Kingdom will rejoice once again at its deliverance.