It was hard to know – as the danse macabre of the euro spirals towards its devastating denouement – which of last week’s utterances and events was the maddest. First, there was the speech by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in which, after admitting that this was the worst crisis the EU had ever faced, he renewed his wish for it to impose a tax on “financial transactions”, to provide Brussels with what has been estimated by Open Europe, the independent think tank, at up to £70 billion a year.
Since Britain’s share of the EU’s financial markets is 72 per cent, the cost to the UK would thus be up to £50 billion. But that wouldn’t last long because, as the Commission itself admits, such a tax would soon send the financial industry fleeing out of the EU, destroying the biggest single earner in the UK economy.
George Osborne may be right in saying that Britain would veto Mr Barroso’s proposal. But the very fact that the ex-Maoist in charge of the Commission should suggest anything so suicidal is a measure of just how surreal this crisis is becoming.
Equally bizarre was the spectacle of Germany’s MPs defying the wishes of most of the German people by supporting the EU’s £380 billion bail-out fund, to pour much of it into the bottomless pit of Greek debt, which has reduced the Greek people to a state of catatonic trauma. The peoples of the EU’s richest and poorest countries are thus equally powerless in the face of what amounts to a bureaucratic dictatorship of unelected apparatchiks – who, in a vain bid to save their pet project, are now talking about the need for a further bail-out fund of £1.7 trillion,
The truth about the euro project is that it was always based on a colossal act of make-believe, launched in defiance of all economic and political reality. And as history and storytelling have shown us again and again, when human beings, individually or collectively, attempt to act out a fantasy, there is a very clear and identifiable pattern to what follows.
The story of the euro, as the supreme symbol of the lunatic drive to weld Europe together into a wholly undemocratic political union, is now entering its Nightmare Stage. People like Barroso predictably claim that the only way forward is more of the same: “more Europe”. We are witnessing the unfolding of one of the great archetypal patterns that shape human affairs, one we can compare to the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The EU’s leaders frenziedly rush about trying to stop their magic broomstick running amok, as it fills their house with ever more buckets full of debt. The hapless victim of the old fable was eventually saved by the return of the sorcerer, who knew the magic spell that could avert final disaster. In the case of the EU, there is no sorcerer. There seems to be no means by which Europe’s leaders can halt the chaos that now threatens to bring down the euro, much of the world’s financial system – and, ultimately, even the EU itself.
Clueless Huhne turns his back on the only way we’ll keep our lights on
With immaculate timing, our Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, has again demonstrated why it is hard to think of any minister in history less fitted for his job. Last month, it was announced that 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas had been discovered, embedded in the shales under Lancashire, which could herald an energy resource even larger than North Sea oil and gas. Thanks to technical advances pioneered in the US, which already draws 20 per cent of its gas from shale, we might be looking at reserves big enough to power Britain’s economy for centuries to come.
Yet that same day, it was reported that Huhne had been telling an audience of Lib Dems that we must halt the “dash for gas”, because this would prevent us from meeting our commitment under the Climate Change Act to cut our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent within 40 years. He even cited approvingly an absurdly mendacious propaganda film produced by US global warming zealots vilifying shale gas.
So lost is Huhne in his green dreamworld that he somehow imagines that we can centre our future energy policy on building thousands of wind turbines. Faced with the discovery of vast reserves of cheap gas, any minister who knew his job would say: “Forget about those ludicrously expensive, inefficient and unreliable windmills, and go flat out for building enough gas-fired power stations to keep Britain’s lights on in the years ahead, when we will lose 14 coal-fired and nuclear power stations that currently supply 40 per cent of our average electricity needs.”
Of course, we are compelled to waste £140 billion on those wind turbines due to our commitment to the EU that by 2020 we will generate nearly a third of our electricity from “renewables”. But among the countless practical aspects of his job that Huhne clearly doesn’t begin to understand is that the more turbines we build, the more we will need new gas-fired power stations of the same capacity, just to provide instant back-up for all those times when there is insufficient wind to feed more than a derisory amount of power into the grid.
So we will have to build those gas-fired stations anyway – at vast expense, to be kept wastefully running all the time, emitting more CO2 than anything notionally saved by the wind farms – just to indulge the babyish dreams of Huhne and the EU. Crazier still, if Huhne manages to stop the exploitation of our new shale gas resources, he will be condemning us, as North Sea supplies run out, to importing ever more gas and oil from abroad, at a cost that a government report predicted in 2008 could soon be £40 billion a year.
So obsessed is Mr Huhne with all the fluffy rubbish associated with the “climate change” part of his job description that he has never shown the faintest sign of grasping the practicalities of the “energy” bit. He has become very much a luxury we cannot afford. But so too, it must be said, is our commitment to the EU to build those useless windmills.
Shouldn’t we now call it the BBCE?
IT IS SIX years since I noted here that Jeremy Paxman, on University Challenge, had joined the ranks of those seeking to avoid using the term “BC” by talking about “Before Common Era”. As everyone knows, except those working for what should now be called the “BBCE”, the trouble with this sad effort to avoid offending atheists such as Paxman by forcing them to use a dating system related to Jesus is that it immediately prompts the question: “So what is this ‘Common Era’ based on?”, which brings these poor sensitive souls right back to the point they wish to avoid. It reminds me of when my late colleague Paul Foot, a keen fan of the Bolshevik revolution, once claimed in print that 1917 was “the most important date in history”. I asked him: “1917 years after what?”
A historic vote on growing demands for Britain to leave the European Union will be held in the Commons before Christmas.
MPs will debate whether the Government should give voters a chance to decide the issue once and for all in a referendum.
It will be the first time Parliament has held a major vote on seeking the public’s view since the 1975 referendum confirming the decision to join the Common Market.
If MPs vote in favour of a referendum, the result would not be binding on the Government.
But, combined with growing public opposition to the increasing power of the EU, it would put enormous pressure on David Cameron to let the people decide the country’s European fate. The Commons vote has been forced on MPs – and a reluctant Prime Minister – by public demand after the crisis in the eurozone, with desperate attempts to prop up the Greek economy, led to a surge in anti-Brussels feeling.
Prime Minister David Cameron. MPs will debate whether the Government should give voters a chance to decide the Europe issue in a referendum
The decision to hold a debate was made after a petition, signed by more than 100,000 people demanding a referendum, was submitted to a new group of MPs given the job of making sure Parliament does not sweep controversial issues under the carpet.
The Mail on Sunday has learnt that the Commons Backbench Business Committee will agree to grant a one-day debate on a referendum after Parliament returns next week.
Committee chairman Natascha Engel, a Labour MP, said: ‘Given the crisis in the eurozone, this issue has become more relevant than ever. There is a clear majority of backbench MPs who want to debate this and we have to respond to that.
‘The EU today is completely different from the one the British people voted to join in 1975. It is time to examine the position again. For years it has suited successive governments to avoid debating whether Britain should leave the EU. The whole purpose of my committee is to make sure the big issues of the day are aired in Parliament. People in pubs and shops all over Britain are discussing our membership of the EU and it is time MPs openly debated it too.’
The debate will be held before the end of the year. Anti-European campaigners are divided over the question that should be put in a referendum. Some want a simple ‘in or out’ question. But others want to offer the choice of going back to an old- style trading association, along the lines of the Common Market which British voters agreed to 36 years ago.
If the nation voted ‘yes’ to this, the Government could demand that key powers over immigration, health and safety, City regulations and other issues are handed back to Westminster. If the EU refused, Britain could leave altogether.
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg is an avowed Europhile. Labour MP Natascha Engel said the eurozone the issue has become more relevant than ever
In recent opinion polls, when asked directly, nearly half of people want Britain to come out of the EU, with about a third in favour of staying in. But when the question was rephrased to give the choice of returning to a Seventies-style trade association, a clear majority chose that option.
Tory MPs plan to use this week’s party conference in Manchester to step up their demand for a referendum.
Withdrawing from the EU has support at the highest level of the party, including from Mr Cameron’s senior No 10 adviser, Steve Hilton.
The Commons vote is a nightmare for the Coalition. Mr Cameron was heavily criticised in Opposition for going back on a pledge to hold a referendum on the 2007 Lisbon Treaty which continued the process of switching sovereignty to the EU.
He fears a referendum would be a distraction from his attempts to solve Britain’s economic problems. But he will face a mass revolt if he orders Tory MPs to vote against it.
Protests in Greece over cut backs. The crisis in the eurozone with desperate attempts to prop up the Greek economy has led to a surge in anti-Brussels feeling
Although Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is an avowed Europhile, he made an Election pledge to hold an ‘in or out’ EU referendum. It was seen as a crude Lib Dem ploy to prove that whatever their reservations about the EU, most Britons want to stay in. But with growing hostility to the EU, Mr Clegg may now be hoist with his own petard. A sizeable number of Labour MPs also want a referendum.
The historic Commons debate is set to be agreed after Tory MP David Nuttall approached the Backbench Business Committee on the strength of the petition. The Bury MP said he would defy any attempt by Mr Cameron to silence him. ‘I will vote in favour of a referendum. It is time the people had their say.’
Last night, despite the growing calls for a referendum, Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the Government would not grant a public vote on leaving the EU altogether – but said he would consider putting any future erosion of sovereignty to the people.
‘The EU does have too much power, in our view,’ he said. ‘But this is a Coalition Government. We have an agreed programme on which the Lib Dems gave a lot of ground.
‘Any large-scale change in the treaties is for future years. Our place is in the European Union.’
Since Britain joined the Common Market, there have been a series of Commons votes on whether there should be referendums on EU treaties such as Maastricht and Lisbon – although none on whether we should remain in the EU. All have been defeated, largely due to Governments ordering MPs to vote them down.
The Government has suffered three defeats as a result of debates ordered by the Backbench Business Committee, including rejecting a European bid to give prisoners the vote....