Saturday, December 10, 2011

Well, yes. We did wake up to headlines about the Continent being isolated or adrift. Most of them in the British press but one or two in the European press. El País, for example.

The difference with the Daily Telegraph's 1928 headline, of course, is that today's versions were meant to be funny/ironic. Though one British observer made the serious - and possibly extreme - comment that "For once the old joke, 'Fog in the Channel: Continent cut off', seems applicable. The continent is cutting itself off — from sane economic policies.

I wonder how the French will view the behaviour of their M. Sarkozy, who's facing an election in six months and finds it hard not to play to the gallery. I recall him telling the French a year or two go they should take lessons in driving manners from the British but his own example in cutting Mr Cameron at the conference table last night was unimpressive.

Here's one British perception of the man - Cutting an increasingly melodramatic figure, Nicolas Sarkozy, as usual, bad-mouthed the British Prime Minister in the hope of maximising his own personal glory at the expense of la perfide Albion. “Very simply,” he declared, “in order to accept the reform of the treaty of 27, David Cameron asked for what we thought was unacceptable: a protocol to exonerate the UK from financial services regulation. We could not accept this as at least part of the problems [Europe faces] came from this sector.” This is claptrap of the lowest order. To see why, you need to read the “international agreement” announced in the early hours of Friday. Its stated aims are to establish and enforce “a new fiscal compact and strengthened economic policy co-ordination” in the euro area. The phrase “fiscal stability union” is explicitly used. It is to be based on “common, ambitious rules” and “a new legal framework”. The Eurocrats have exchanged a Stability and Growth Pact — which was honoured only in the breach — for an Austerity and Contraction Pact. The UK has no option but to dissociate itself from this collective suicide pact, even if it strongly increases the probability that we shall end up outside the EU altogether.

In the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard was in no doubt about what had happened:- What remarkable petulance and stupidity. The leaders of France and Germany have more or less bulldozed Britain out of the European Union for the sake of a treaty that offers absolutely no solution to the crisis at hand, or indeed any future crisis. It is EU institutional chair shuffling at its worst, with venom for good measure. The Europols have not begun to work out a viable solution to their deformed and unworkable currency union, and perhaps no such solution exists. The system will lurch from crisis to crisis until it blows up in acrimony. More here

On the other side of the UK political divide, a Guardian columnist saw things thus:- As a clear damp dawn rose over Brussels on Friday morning, the tired and tetchy leaders of Europe emerged, bleary-eyed from nine hours of night-time sparring over how to rescue the single currency and indeed the entire European project. Brave faces were put on, bluffs called, counter-bluffs revealed, vetoes wielded. Histrionics from France's Nicolas Sarkozy, poker-faced calm from Germany's Angela Merkel, David Cameron gambling the UK's place in Europe by opting to battle for Britain rather than helping to save the euro.

When the dust settles, Friday 9 December may be seen as a watershed, the beginning of the end for Britain in Europe. But more than that – the emergence for the first time of a cold new Europe in which Germany is the undisputed, pre-eminent power imposing a decade of austerity on the eurozone as the price for its propping up the currency. The prospect is of a joyless union of penalties, punishments, disciplines and seething resentments, with the centrist elites who run the EU increasingly under siege from anti-EU populists on the right and left everywhere in Europe. . . In the cold new Europe taking shape, the Germans are more powerful than everyone else, but not all-powerful.

Back in Spain, both Tuesday and Thursday were public holidays, giving many the chance to 'bridge' the week twice so as to take it all off. This prompted the head of the employers' association to call this widespread downing of tools "A complete scandal", likely to cost the country more than one billion euros, or one percent of GDP. But some things are more important than money. 


Sierra said...

According to the local paper, the two 'puentes' this past week are a 'viaducto'

CafeMark said...

Still good news for your lot in Galicia. Today you now have the fast train line up and running! Ok, so it's between your cities Ourense, Santiago and A Corunna. The longer stretch down to Madrid will be a lot longer in coming. But at least the fast train is now in Galicia! Interesting video here:

Colin said...

Thanks, Mark. Not much use to us coast-dwellers, though.

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