Saturday, 19 November 2011
At last some clarity - well at least the battle lines have been drawn!
After many months of uncertainty, we are able to see how much has been achieved by the continual threat of a global financial meltdown predicted if the Eurozone crisis was not resolved. It has resulted in an outright victory for global capitalism and its relatively few beneficiaries.
Rather than challenge the system that enables global financiers to hold a pistol to the heads of democratically elected governments, the way has been cleared for the extraordinarily rich to dictate to the people's representatives what they can or cannot do - and we still do not know if those dire predictions were contrived or a true reflection of the likely outcome of a break up of the Eurozone.
What can be said is that political commentary can once again resume, after what seems an eternity, where resolution of the Eurozone crisis dwarfed virtually all other political activity - the problem may not have been resolved - but the issues are now quite clear.
Yesterday's meeting and subsequent press conference between Cameron and Merkel demonstrated that the German desire to oblige the Eurozone members to tighten their belts and apply fierce austerity measures to their ailing economies, rather than devalue the euro through 'quantitative easing', has succeeded. The change of leaders in both Italy and Greece was the first sign of this success and Merkel's clear rejection of Cameron's wish for the ECB to manage the euro, as national banks do for their currencies, and her insistence that the Eurozone leaders would be the group who would dictate future EU policy has made her victory complete.
This victory has put an end to the comfortable 'muddling through' approach that successive UK leaders have applied to our membership of the EU, whereby all options could be left open. Cameron is now faced with having to choose between being outside the central core of the Union, without influence, or to re-arrange our relationship with the EU to one that directly reflects the actuality. Time will tell what Cameron decides, but since his declared strategy, of returning powers to the UK from Brussels in exchange for agreement to Treaty changes, is in tatters - his choices have become extremely limited.
Since there is little doubt that the Tory's Coalition partners the Lib/Dems, will insist on staying as close to the centre of the EU as possible - leaving open the choice of our joining the Eurozone as soon as this is practicable, it seems the final outcome will be determined by Labour, for Cameron will not be able to achieve a majority at Westminster for any renegotiation that includes returning powers from Brussels without the help of Labour - or, at least, the help of a sizeable bunch of Labour rebels.
In recent times, there would have been no doubt that any Labour leader would have supported staying as close to the centre of the EU as possible, however, the events of the last week have demonstrated that this position is no longer tenable. Like the Tories, Labour is likely to have to decide whether the Party's long-term aim is to join the Euro, thereby obtaining influence and a seat at the top table or to contemplate a future at arms length from the Union. Since any clear action that implies that it is Labour's intention to join the Eurozone in the long-term is likely to damage its electoral chances - it seems that a problem that was solely Cameron's at the beginning of the week is likely to rapidly become one for the Labour leadership too.
Time is not on his side. Merkel has declared her intention to press ahead with the tax on financial transactions, in John Major's words - a heat-seeking missile aimed at the heart of the City of London. If this tax is introduced and Cameron has not been able to take decisive action with regard to a re-arrangement of our relationship with the EU he will have lost completely. Who knows Merkel may even insist that Clegg, as a declared Europhile, should take over the premiership to prepare us for entry into the Eurozone.