Leading Article: Debasing the European debate

Related Topics
The close of the European Union's summit in Madrid at the weekend has demonstrated the tragic width of the gap that separates the reality of Europe from British perceptions of it. No sooner had the EU's leaders reaffirmed their intention to proceed with the creation of a single currency in January 1999, and to call the currency the "Euro", than the chorus of blinkered Europhobes rose up to denounce the project as a plot against British institutions and the British way of life. It was not only absurd but also offensive to hear one Conservative backbencher on television compare monetary union to "the Fourth Reich" on the march.

John Major did not help matters by sneering at the choice of Euro as "uninspiring", and arrogantly likening his EU partners to lemmings tumbling off a cliff. Did that really sound like a leader determined to place Britain at the heart of Europe, as he promised at the start of his premiership?

The EU wants to make a success of monetary union, not because it has conceived some devilish plan to expiate ancient British freedoms, but because it sincerely believes this is the best way to secure prosperity and stability across the whole of Europe. The German political classes, far from seeking to rule Europe by means of a single currency, regard monetary union as the most effective way of binding Germany into Europe, laying to rest fears about German power, and pooling Germany's strength for the greater benefit of the EU. Germany's worst fear is that if there is no single currency, the mark will dominate the European economy even more than it does today, sparking what could eventually be a very dangerous anti-German mood in the rest of the Union.

None of this means, of course, that there are not serious doubts about the way the EU is moving to monetary union. By shackling itself to the January 1999 deadline, the EU runs the risk of launching the single currency at a time of stagnant economic growth, high unemployment, unpopular deflationary policies and a widespread sense of insecurity among many millions of Europeans. The lack of public enthusiasm in Germany for monetary union, and the recent social disturbances in France and Belgium, caused partly by government attempts to meet the Maastricht treaty's conditions on low budget deficits, are problems that cannot just be wished away. Moreover, the EU has been too slow in addressing the difficult question of how to manage relations between those countries in the single currency and those outside.

Mr Major raised such points in Madrid, but he would have received a far more attentive hearing if Britain's EU allies viewed the Government as a constructive partner in tackling the challenges facing Europe. Instead, the whining tone of British negativism has caused our allies to shut their ears even when we have a sensible case to put forward. John Redwood's latest attacks on the most pro-European cabinet minister, Kenneth Clarke, make it even less likely that British views on monetary union will be carefully considered in Europe. This country is being forced to pay a heavy price for the continuing Tory division over Europe.

React Now

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

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Oscar Pistorius at the High Court in Pretoria  

Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison - but what then?

Rosie Millard
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album