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

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape