Adrian Hamilton: A democratic disgrace crafted by cowards

Share
Related Topics

As a committed European – indeed, I would even own up to having urged our joining the euro at its inception – I can only call what European leaders are now up to as a complete democratic disgrace.

There is no mandate in any of the countries for the kind of wide-ranging changes in sovereignty being proposed. There is no indication that it is what their populations want. It does nothing for growth or any of the concerns of the populations of the member countries. And, what is worse, there isn't even any firm indication that it will work.

This has nothing to do with the argument over whether Britain is now going to be isolated or whether Cameron exercised his right of veto out of concern for our national interest or fear of his own backbenchers. It's not even about whether France outmanoeuvred Britain or the other way round. Summits always arouse that kind of discussion and analysis. But in this case they are simply the gyrations of politicians who don't know what to do about the markets and aren't brave enough to exercise statesmanship.

It's all very well criticising David Cameron for being too terrified of his backbenchers to work to the common interest. He has been. But what else has Nicolas Sarkozy been up to, with his wild declarations of a future federalist Europe? And how do you explain Angela Merkel's dogged refusal to allow the ECB to act as lender of last resort or full-blooded expansion of the bailout funds other than as the caution of a provincial councillor facing re-election? Little wonder the Italians and the Greeks prefer government by technocrat to elected representatives.

Contrary to the hysterical pronouncements that preceded this summit, the crisis of Europe is not primarily about the eurozone and its debt. It is much wider than that. It is the challenge that the US, Britain, Japan and every other major advanced economy is facing at the moment. The happy days of unrestrained growth, the longest period of sustained increases in national wealth in a century, are over. Stagnation is the order of the day, a dip back into recession a real possibility, and the dark days could last years, if not a decade. In the meantime, you have all the strains of a global economic architecture being restructured in favour of the newer powers of the East. The strains on the eurozone are the consequences, not the causes, of Europe's woes.

What the public wants to know, or at least feel, in this new world is what its leaders are going to do at least to prevent things from getting worse, ensure that the pain is more equally distributed and seek co-ordinated action to try to get growth back into the system. The discussions in Brussels addressed none of these issues. Instead they turned the persistent fears of the markets over sovereign debt into a crisis that demands the hasty erection of a vast new building to overawe them.

But, if it is the markets you are worried about, then it is financial measures you need to respond to them, whether in the form of ECB purchases of debt, the building of a massive bailout fund or the involvement of the IMF. If it is the difficulties of countries funding their debt at reasonable rates which need addressing, then it is perfectly possible to ensure that each tranche of bonds is bought without getting into a panic over total sizes. The regular rollover of debt and new issues are not beyond the resources of Europe to cope with.

The trouble with the new deal agreed yesterday by eurozone leaders, and most of the would-be entrants, is that it involves fundamental constitutional change proposed – not out of a vision for a future Europe but out of the failure to get to grips with the market crisis early enough or with sufficient firepower. A problem of over-indebtedness has turned into a panic over the capital of the banks. A collapse in investor confidence in sovereign debt and the risk of default have been turned into a demand for fiscal integration of the eurozone on the optimistic ground that this way no one can get indebted and the banks will all be repaid.

Yet there is not the faintest evidence that the people of the eurozone want constitutional change of this kind. Just the opposite is the case. Anyone going round Europe today must sense that nationalism is on the increase, even in France. So is disenchantment with political leadership and with Brussels. Forcing the citizenry into ever greater austerity and lower growth at the behest of Germany and policed by the European Commission is not a way to re-establish trust in government or, indeed, the ideals of a closer Europe.

If that is what Merkel and Sarkozy really want, let them put it to the test by holding referendums. Then they will have the right to introduce such a loss of national sovereignty. Bouncing your countries into such change because you say the markets demand it is totally undemocratic.

As for dear old Britain, if it is now marginalised, it is entirely its own fault. Had David Cameron played a constructive part in building up the bailout funds and increasing the involvement of the IMF instead of just demanding eurozone action from the sidelines, he might now be in a better position to prevent this leap into the dark. As it is, he was probably right to veto the general change in the overall treaty. Indeed, he had little choice in the end. But now it's not only that we will be left on the margins. The worst of it is that when things do go wrong, it will be Britain that will get the blame.

React Now

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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there