EU pushing Britain closer to the exit door

The eurozone crisis threatens a strategic danger, according to Julian Lindley-French, one of the top thinkers in the art of war and chief editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on War.

The Euro-crunch is upon us and with it perhaps the most delicate and dangerous moment in the European Union’s history.

Indeed, the implications of what is about to happen are only slowly becoming apparent.

One of the most ­profound of these could be the withdrawal of Britain from the EU.
The euro can survive only if the EU and the single ­currency become one.

It also means more integration and more power transferred to ­an unaccountable ­Brussels.

Talking to a couple of very senior British ­politicians in London, it is clear that Britain will never adopt the euro.

Nor will London accept the hidden integration ­necessary to solve the euro crisis and Britain’s ­consequent marginalisation.

Least of all, will the British pay the price for something of which Britain is not a part? The ­alternative is to simply accept leadership by a Germany that does not want it.

A couple of years ago, I breakfasted in Washington with former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

I made the point to him that the EU had reached the point where London could no longer pretend to the British people that the Union is merely a supermarket.

If the EU moved ­decisively towards political and ­economic union, the British would be faced with the worst of all worlds – subject to the Brussels diktat without ­influence over it. Fischer’s response was blunt: if that is how the British think, then go.

That moment has now arrived. So long as the euro was not the EU, the pretence of a messy fiction could be ­maintained and Britain could remain within the Union even if it was not a eurozone member. Not any more.

The implications of Britain’s departure would be p­rofound to say the very least. Critically, the checks and balances on Germany’s power that Berlin is rightly ­conscious of would be profoundly weakened.

Britain’s presence guarantees the essential balance of big state power at the heart of the Union.

And, in spite of London’s current travails and its many idiocies, Germans have long-understood the importance of Britain’s role, particularly now as Berlin emerges from history to become the undisputed master of Europe.

Is there an alternative to German leadership? While a believer in the concept of a more united Europe of states, I have been extremely critical of a system that under the guise of “integration” has emphasised the power of bureaucracy at the expense of democratic legitimacy. Nothing in European history suggests that such an approach is politically sound.

Yet, if the runes are to be read correctly – and one has to read runes because of the obsessive culture of secrecy in Brussels, which too often sees the European people as an enemy – the bureaucracy is about to be given a whole raft of new powers to save the single currency.

The increased commitment to “communitarianism”, called for by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, is one of those euphemisms beloved of the “euro-aristocracy”, which runs the bureaucracy to place themselves ever closer to the very heart of European power for the sake of expediency.

The really cheeky bit is that they also want the British to pay for much of it. The call for the Transaction (or Tobin) Tax on banking transactions to help pay for the European Financial Stability Facility would see the British contributing 80%.  

Whatever choice is made, it will not be by or for the British and thus the further marginalisation of Britain is inevitable.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, believes Britain has more influence by remaining within the EU.

But if the EU core countries are to create a system from which Britain is excluded but for which it must pay, then that is no longer the case.

In such circumstances, EU membership would no longer make strategic sense for London. 

The EU could now well have embarked on the road to the final reckoning over Britain and its membership.

If that is a conscious choice, then so be it. However, if it is an unintended consequence, then beware.

For all concerned, some thinking is needed now about how best for Britain to depart with least damage.

Some in Brussels will scoff. There will be those who believe that in time, the British will be forced to join the euro and accept more power from Brussels, not less. That would be a mistake.

The appalling mismanagement of this crisis has made that option simply impossible.  

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