Focus: The Euro. No Way! or Mais Oui!

Which way will Britain vote if it ever gets the chance? Here, the satirist Alistair Beaton presents the worst of both possible worlds. In the first it is November 2015 and the Eurosceptics have won. Britain has rejected the euro and learnt to love the dollar... and in the second it is November 2015 and the Europhiles have triumphed. Instead of the Christopher Wren Wild West Rodeo Experience and the Amtrak East Coast Line, we have Berlusconi Day and the TBS (Train of Big Speed). But are we any better off?
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Indy Politics

John and Mary from Birmingham are taking their two young children on a trip to London. The Authority, as the new British government is known, has just announced that Thanksgiving is henceforth to be a public holiday in Britain as well as in the United States. This is, of course, in addition to "Dubya Day", a holiday instituted in 2010 as a memorial to George Bush, tragically killed in 2008 by a falling Bible.

The British public embraces Thanksgiving with enthusiasm. Many people decide to stay at home to feast on turkey and watch The Disney Channel, which has recently replaced the BBC (New Labour's main manifesto commitment during the election of 2014). John and Mary, however, decide it would be fun for all the family to get out of Birmingham for a few days and see the sights of London. At first the kids are not keen. They want to stay home and watch I'm an American, Get Me Out of Here, the new smash-hit series that features US citizens trying to run a Middle East country. John is tempted to agree with the kids, but opts for the London trip when his wife threatens to make him watch the Prime Minister's Thanksgiving Day Address instead. John just can't bear the thought of watching the PM, Gordon Brown, explain for the hundredth time why the five economic criteria for joining the euro have not yet been met.

The journey from Birmingham to London takes 11 hours. With the Amtrak East Coast Line recently gone into liquidation, the only public transport available is by Greyhound Bus. Despite the widening of the M1 to 14 lanes, traffic is horrendous.

As they make their way through the streets of London, John tries to stifle his resentment at the sight of prosperous euro-tourists tucking into vast meals in expensive restaurants. The last time John and his family went abroad was on a weekend trip to Boulogne, which turned into a disaster: with an exchange rate of £11 to the euro, they had no choice but to sit on park benches eating sandwiches brought with them from Britain.

Mary suggests they try to see the Changing of the Guard. When they finally arrive in the Mall, they are thrilled to catch a glimpse of King William and his glamorous wife, Christina Aguilera,waving to the cheering crowds from the balcony of Big Mac House. But Mary still feels a pang for the loss of both the Queen and Prince Charles in that dreadful friendly-fire incident during the royal visit to occupied Baghdad in 2005.

There is also a more positive emotion in Mary's heart. She watched the recent wedding of William and Christina on television, and will never forget their passionate kiss on the steps of the Christopher Wren Wild West Rodeo Experience, formerly St Paul's Cathe- dral. Such simple symbols of love have been a source of comfort to Mary ever since the death of her brother in the 2006 British-American invasion of Syria. She supported that conflict, because she wanted the world to be safe from terrorism, but she sometimes wonders why it's taking so long to find President Assad's weapons of mass destruction.

The rest of the family's visit goes wrong when a security alert closes central London for 48 hours. John and Mary are now sav-ing for a holiday in France. In 10 years' time they will be able to afford a whole week in Boulogne.

John and Mary from Birmingham are taking their two young children on a trip to London. Tony Blair, now in his fifth term as Prime Minister, has

just announced a new national holiday, to be known as Euro Day. This is, of course, in addition to Berlusconi Day, a holiday instituted in 2010 to celebrate freedom and diversity in the media (not to be confused with Kangaroo Day, introduced in 2007 to mark Rupert Murdoch's contribution to the euro debate).

The British public embraces Euro Day with enthusiasm. Many decide to stay at home to feast on rucola salad with shaved pecorino lightly drizzled with virgin olive oil while watching I'm an Asylum-Seeker, Don't Let Me in Here, the smash-hit comedy from Germany, or How Clean Is Your Underwear?, the popular new drama series that has replaced news bulletins on the BBC. John and Mary, however, decide it would be fun for all the family to get out of Birmingham for a few days and see the sights of London.

Thanks to European Directive EU67945/1182/14B, John and Mary are able to buy a bunch of Brussels-approved regulation bananas at the station to keep the kids from getting peckish on the train. They have forgotten that the new TBS (Train of Big Speed) travels so fast that there's scarcely time to eat a banana before arriving in London. The kids love these new trains, though sometimes their parents wonder whether they are worth the extra 14p in the pound on income tax.

The decision to build the new East Coast TBS line through Hampstead Heath was also controversial, though most opposition melted away when Tony Blair warned people, that according to secret intelligence briefings, al-Qa'ida would be ready to attack Britain at 45 minutes' notice - unless the line was built.

As they make their way through the streets of London, John tries to stifle his resentment at the sight of prosperous euro-tourists tucking into vast meals in expensive restaurants. John had always thought that joining the euro would mean equal prosperity throughout Europe, but following Britain's failure to join in George Bush's invasion of Syria in 2006, the massive withdrawal of American investment from Britain has hit people hard.

While the kids stop to take photographs of the new euro-harmonised lamp-posts - now being phased in at enormous cost - Mary suggests they go to see the ever-popular Chessington World of Democracy, housed in the former Houses of Parliament. Here visitors can experience dramatic re-enactments of British democracy, witnessing actual debates as they used to happen before the European Unified Admin- istration Act of 2012. The kids complain loudly that this would be boring, and so John and Mary opt instead for the Changing of the Guard.

When they finally arrive in the Mall, all four of them catch a glimpse of King William and his companion Will Young as they cycle out of Baguette House (formerly Buck House) on their way to a gay bar in Soho. John still misses the old mystique of a distant, formal and heterosexual monarchy, but Mary finds the new relaxed continental style rather beguiling. She likes both William and Will, even if occasionally she wonders whether it was the right decision to replace the old Dieu et Mon Droit on the royal coat of arms with the new slogan "One Throne - Two Willies". Wishing to avoid a row with his wife, John says nothing. He still misses the Queen and Prince Charles, and has still not quite got over the shock of their mutual suicide pact.

The rest of the family's big day out goes wrong when a security alert closes central London for 48 hours. John and Mary are now saving up for a holiday in France. They estimate that in 10 years' time they will be able to afford a whole week in Boulogne.

The debate: 'We don't want to be bound by rules set up by unelected bureaucrats'

Will it be oui or non? Gordon Brown says 'Attendez!', Britain must wait until the economy is ready for the euro. But his announcement tomorrow will sound the starting bell for a debate that has been a long time coming. To open the contest, Eurosceptic Charlie Courtauld races out of the red, white and blue corner to face Europhile Jason Nissé in a battle for common (market) sense

What will happen this week?

CC: Everybody knows what's going to happen - so quite why they have to make such a song and dance about it escapes me. The Cabinet will decide that, in principle, we should have a referendum. But not yet. The only disagreement between Blair and Brown is over which of them takes us in. Tony wants it to be the climax of his premiership, and Gordon wants it to be the opening fanfare of his tenure. Tony won't hand over the keys till Gordon gives the date - and Gordon won't do that until he's firmly ensconced. It's all as simple - and as babyish - as that.

JN: If Gordon follows the pattern of his Budgets, then 95 per cent of his announcement will have been pre-leaked but a small surprise will be held back. As he only talks to about five people, and they only leak if Gordon tells them to, no one knows what the surprise will be (probably not even Blair).

If it's so predictable, does it matter?

CC: I guess not, in the long run. But in the short term, this week is crucial. Both sides are interpreting the Cabinet announcement as the starting gun for the referendum. It remains to be seen whether the voices of reason in the Cabinet (i.e. those who are said to agree with me, like David Blunkett and Jack Straw) will be as free to voice their opinions on the euro as the others. But certainly, the real debate starts now.

JN: Had the Iraq war not happened, I'm sure we would have been talking this week about the five tests having been met and a referendum this year, followed by Blair's abdication and Brown's coronation. I agree that Gordon's anti-euro stance is tactical, but I think Blair has decided he wants to be a world statesman and so Gordon's chance of succeeding him soon, or indeed ever, is fast disappearing. This will put Gordon into a sulk and Tony will need to sack him to get us into the euro. But does he have the bottle?

Is Britain losing out?

CC: On the face of it, we're on a losing wicket here. Thursday saw a cut in European interest rates to 2 per cent, while ours stayed stubbornly at 3.75 per cent. Ergo euro club members are benefiting while we suffer, argue the champions of a common currency. Wrong. Our economy may not be peaking right now, but we've suffered none of the troughs that have buffeted the eurozone over recent years. The reason euro rates are so low is that the central bankers are worried about overheating, deflation and slump.

JN: The euro's fall in value after it was launched was grist to the mill of those who said we should stay out - but it damaged our exporters no end. Now the euro is strong again, that obstacle to joining has gone. The big uncertainty now is Germany's weakness, which will be a worry for a couple of years yet. But if anyone thinks Germany will still be weak in 10 years' time, they have no understanding of the German psyche. They have the lowest interest rates for 128 years; ours are merely the lowest for 48 years. The eurozone may be overheated and suffering from deflation and slump, but so is the US. Arizona booms while Michigan goes bust, but does anyone argue that US monetary union doesn't work?

Are the Eurosceptics really xenophobic bigots?

CC: Some of them are, probably. Some of them are probably left-handed or gay too. So what? Don't judge my arguments by the company I keep. Doubtless there are some swivel-eyed unsavouries on my side. But Jason's got Peter Mandelson, Keith Vaz and Ted Heath with him - and I don't hold that against him either (or the fact that so many Europhiles are goody-goodies and bores).

JN: Getting Mandy, Vaz and Ted makes it seem like I got last choice. But I do have the majority of business leaders, Peter Hain and Eddie Izzard. Lord Owen may be genuinely "anti-euro but pro-Europe" but anyone who says "Save the pound!" is really wishing we could fight Agincourt all over again.

What will happen if we vote no in a referendum?

CC: Despite the doomy predictions of the euro-lovers, very little. Of course, the club members will find some way of punishing us - excluding us from some committees and so on, but boo-hoo, who cares? We'll still have our democracy, and they won't. Spiteful Europhiles will immediately start planning for a rematch.

JN: Tony won't call a referendum unless he thinks he will win. We will just delay and delay until it is clear we are really suffering outside the euro. Then we will vote to go in, late and on bad terms, just like our entry into the Common Market, and then moan about the bad deal we got from Europe.

What will happen if we vote yes?

CC: At first, again, not much. House prices will go up a bit, interest rates down. Inflation will go up a bit, too. But that's not the real concern. Just wait till the next general election, and try voting for a party that espouses pump-priming the economy or a massive boost to public services. It won't be allowed. People like Jason will accuse such programmes of fiscal irresponsibility, or wrong-headedness, no doubt. But that's what democracy is about: our right to be wrong sometimes - and not to be bound by rules set up by unelected bureaucrats.

JN: Charlie assumes that the eurozone plus the best-performing economy in Europe equals no change. Joining the euro will transform the dynamics of the UK. The "growth and stability pact" (which, like the Holy Roman Empire, created no growth, no stability and wasn't much of a pact) is being dissolved anyway, allowing just the sort of pump-priming that Charlie wanted. We will see a bit of inflation (much needed in some quarters) and lower interest rates. We will also see the recovery of Germany, which should give us a fillip just as we are flagging. The danger is that Europe does not sort out problems such as pension deficits, bad corporate structures and state aid. But most European politicians know they will be stuffed if they don't address these problems, so we're pushing at an open door.

When will the vote be - and who will win?

CC: On the one hand, I'm keen for a vote - at least it would get the matter dealt with. But I don't think that concerns about hearing the popular voice play any part whatsoever. The referendum will happen as soon as Gordon and Tony sort out their No 10 turf war. And who'll win? The other lot, I'm afraid. Everybody - the Cabinet, the CBI, the TUC, the Lib Dems, Hezza and Clarke, Uncle Tom Cobley etc - will be urging you to vote yes. Even, I suspect, the Daily Mail - which will be lured by the lower mortgages argument. Time to emigrate to Chile. I hear one-way tickets to Santiago are pretty cheap just now (if you pay in euros).

JN: I refer to my earlier answer, Mr Speaker. Unless Tony thinks we'll win, there won't be a vote. The longer we wait, the more detached we become from Europe, the more we become the 51st US state, with less of a say in the running of Europe than Poland. Europe might be bureaucratic but at least we get a vote in how it is run. The Chileans can tell you all about US assistance in running their country.

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