Tuesday, 25 May 2010
The Euro - A Non-British View
According to the British press, the Euro hardly exists anymore. European countries - or as they like to call it - the "Eurozone" are destitute, people staging angry protests, imploring their leaders to abolish the Euro. I have a few things to say about that.
First of all, Europe is not a zone. Just because Britain would not (or could not - remember those desperate John Major days when even hyper-interst inflation would not help) join in, does not make anybody else a "zone". It's like Cuba calling the US the "Democracy-zone".
Secondly, more importantly, and probably totally outside the British "zone" of imagination: Europe isn't a sort of Poundstretcher shop where you go if you want something cheap. Europe is first and foremost a dream. Why should "The United States of Europe" be less feasible than the "United States of America", the beloved and only wished-for partner Britons would be happy with. (Shame, the US is both broke, and doesn't give a hoot about Britain.) So, why is "The United States of Europe" such anathema? "Oh, it would never work... the countries are too different". I see, but Florida and Alaska are quite similar are they? Red Necks in Minnesota really gel with New York metropolitans, do they? So that's not it. It is of course, as ever the fear of a powerful Germany. The perma-bind of British thinking that finds it impossible to get beyond the mindset of the Yalta conference.
Few memories are more off-putting than a hysterical Margaret Thatcher screeching "No, no, no". Even the unspeakable Ian Paisley had more dignity with his infamous "Ulster says no"slogan.
But why always say "No" to everything which doesn't automatically translate into some grubby "And now we're quids in" thinking? Britain's attitude to the Euro is unfortunately typical of its general world-view. Like suspicious peasants who hate anything that smacks of idealism and has an intellectual underpinning, they nevertheless would like to go on a profiteering spree. When it looked as if the uniquely strange British housing market - with its hyper-inflated prices for something objectively worthless - could be extended into the Eurozone, Brits were not above to doing a few deals. Busloads of wannabe-Euro landlords turned up in far-flung countries like Bulgaria, gobbling up off-plan housing that never materialized. British pensioners flocked to bungalows in Spain, hoping to make a killing via the Euro. A very British way to participate at the wrong end of something which is outside their grasp.
So the Euro is going through a difficult patch? So maybe it could have been forseen that Greece and Ireland didn't have the economic muscle of Germany and France? Big deal. Big intellectual insight. The Euro - being a common European currency is the first step towards a united, peaceful, and non-antagonistic Europe. A Europe without squabbling, internecine warfare, and tribalism - all of which are not just wrecking Britain atmospherically, but are also responsible for its abysmal economic performance. Saying "No" to everything is easy, but it is neither attractive, nor admirable. It's just sad.