Chris Bryant: Like Paris, Europe will divide into rings. And guess who'll live in the banlieues?

A Political Life

Share
Related Topics

So much of the present euro kerfuffle is completely inexplicable.

What on earth did the Italians do to earn them the magnificent honour of having Berlusconi at their helm for nine years and two months? Could Italians not see the manifest silliness of a man who, thanks to potions and lotions and medical interventions, looks younger as he leaves office than when he came to office?

Why, when the roots of the whole worldwide economic malaise lie in the ludicrous activities of the banks, does every putative solution to the problem lie in getting more banks to give more money to other banks?

And how did the whole of Europe manage to conspire to have such a feeble set of political leaders all at once? It is quite an achievement – considering the waves of politics never crash on the 27 beaches at the same time, and it is rare for two summits to have the same set of government leaders twice in a row – but as a body this is undoubtedly the weakest set Europe has had since the war.

None of these things can I fathom. One thing I do know, though. Fracturing Europe is not the answer.

I say this because last week the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, said that it was "vital that euro members follow the relentless logic to fiscal union". What I suspect he meant is that the Government now knows that it has to help the euro to survive. It knows the euro's collapse or disorderly fracture is unthinkable for the UK because of our over-dependence as a country on financial services and because of our massive exposure to bad debt in every euro country.

The Government probably also rightly understands that if there are no mechanisms to enforce fiscal prudence within the euro, countries will almost certainly flout the rules in their hour of domestic political need. So Cameron now wants to force the euro countries effectively to become a true United States of Europe.

This will be a disaster for us. Europe will be divided like Paris between the inner and the outer rings. Seventeen eurozone countries (maybe Poland will join as Greece leaves) will dominate every decision that matters and whether we like it or not, and whether Cameron achieves (or even asks for) treaty changes to accommodate his backbenchers, we shall be in the banlieues of Europe. The days when we could muster a virtual majority out of the Benelux, the Scandinavians and the Germans will be long gone. There may even be tariff and other barriers between the USE and the outer ring. Protectionist, nationalist policies that please the domestic market but deprive us of a wider economic market will become the norm. We will languish politically and economically.

And Dominic Raab, or whoever is the next Tory Prime Minister, will not be attending European summits at all.

Not quite the reaction that was expected

It looks as if Mario Monti could be the new Italian PM. I remember him from my time in Brussels as one of the best EU commissioners. His Italian colleague, the president of the Commission, Romano Prodi, was less convincing.

With Rupert Murdoch's EU challenge to the BBC licence fee still on the table, I had persuaded Greg Dyke to come to Brussels to meet Prodi on Dyke's first day as director general of the BBC. He ushered us into his office where he had four low white sofas in a square around a coffee table. Greg, Patricia Hodgson, the BBC's director of policy, and I took a sofa each and Prodi the fourth. We explained our case. Prodi looked intensely at us and, pointing with a chubby finger, leant as far forward as he could. We, too, leant forward till we were almost touching. "You talk to me of media tycoons," he whispered conspiratorially. "I say to you one word only..." We waited, expectantly, as he paused for effect. Silence. Suddenly we realised that Prodi had fallen asleep. We looked at each other bemused until finally Greg poked him in the ribs and he sprang to life with the single word "Ber-lu-sconi!".

Stop them if you've heard this one before

As for Nicolas Sarkozy, I prefer his the music of his wife Carla to the French president's politics, but David Cameron tells a tale of when he was first welcoming the couple to Downing Street. Just as he was about to open the front door he realised that he didn't know the etiquette. He turned to his adviser on foreign affairs, Tom Fletcher. "How many times should I kiss Carla?" Tom replied, "As many as you can get away with, Prime Minister." I heard Cameron tell this at Tom's leaving do at Downing Street just before he went off to be the British ambassador to Lebanon. It was not, however, the first time that I had heard the story, as Gordon Brown had told exactly the same tale when he was PM. So either prime ministers nick each other's jokes or the Foreign Office is always consistent with its advice, regardless of party, even when it's a matter of delivering one-liners.

Raise your glasses and pause for a moment

Three diary notes. On Tuesday, the launch of Diversity Role Models in the Speaker's House. The highlight was a moving speech by Roger Crouch, whose teenage son took his own life and who has campaigned against bullying in all its forms, especially when it is based on people's real or perceived sexuality. On Wednesday, the Tory MP Andrew Griffiths and I chaired a joint All Party Russia and Beer Group tasting of Russian Imperial Stout. Political affiliations notwithstanding, Andrew spotted me last week doing what he had done earlier, shaking a bucket for the Royal British Legion. He took a photo of me with two Welsh Guards for my local paper. And yesterday 11/11/11; at 11am, I stood in silence with the children, many of them from chaotic backgrounds, of Tai School, a pupil referral unit in Penygraig. Their silence was very special.

Some things – bullying, beer and remembrance – are above party politics.

Twitter.com/ChrisBryantMP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones