Diary: EU misses UK already, Costa Losta, Mitt’s a hit, Poppycock Watch: Ed Balls, Profundity of the Week: Midwinter
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper (FAZ) cautions the European Union against shrugging away a precipitate British withdrawal.
“… the consequences for the EU itself would be harmful. For foreign, security and defence policy action in Europe excluding the UK — that’s a pretty ridiculous idea. Just a Europe that exists in the world, wants to protect its interests and exert influence, should do everything possible to bring along a country like Britain.
“Of course, its idiosyncrasies are not easy to bear, [Cameron's] demands extremely selfish. But Britain’s position is not just wrong because the British national institutions (much) closer than the European, and they tend to look at institutional development in general as misplaced priorities.” (Translation by Google)
What this illustrates is that Britain has an unassailable bargaining position in forming exactly how the trading relationship — minus the rest — will develop in the near future.
I am reluctantly coming round to Open Europe’s position that a straight in/out referendum could trap the UK in EU membership for decades if the electorate panics and votes for the status quo. This is perilous territory and could be manipulated by europhiliac politicians playing a sneaky game. Don’t rule that out.
Let’s use the muscle we have to state clearly that Britain wants a return to full self-government, trade freedom and fishing rights, plus the elimination of swathes of regulation from Brussels. Britain must no longer be owned by the EU.
Uniquely, that would be possible if the view of FAZ’s foreign bureau chief is acted upon with dispatch and determination.
I enjoyed his opinion of our weirdness, though: “Of course, its idiosyncrasies are not easy to bear, [Cameron's] demands extremely selfish.”
If you have ever been to Totnes in Devon, you will have come away with one of two impressions. Either, it’s a town for eco-nuts and vegetarian throw-backs, or it’s a place of magic and mystery in an idyllic, unspoilt country setting.
As a confirmed worshipper of the West Country in all its aspects, I naturally hold the latter view.
Totnes is unique partly because its picturesque main street on a hill is filled to overflowing with independent businesses and shops of the craft, hand-made, medieval variety. It is a throw-back, but in the best possible taste.
This year one of the big, bustling high-street chains threatened its integrity. Costa Coffee was all set to take over the spacious premises of a health food store. It had already signed the lease and had council approval.
But, hell hath no fury like perfection scorned. The extremely vocal locals sprang into action. The story even made the nationals in the form of Minette Marrin’s column in The Sunday Times this summer.
Costa knew it was doomed. Today we heard it had backed out and left the battlefield with its tapas between its legs.
The modern world had been splattered and sent packing back “up country” where it belongs.
The magic spells did their trick.
After watching the US presidential election debates and devouring the views of various pundits and commentators on both sides of the argument, I’ve come to the ineluctable conclusion that Mitt Romney should be the next President of the United States.
Barack Obama looks tired after four years in office, and with the country mired in debt — $15 trillion, can you believe? — and a massive “fiscal cliff” looming in January, the situation is becoming desperate. If the United States tips into that chasm, it will take down most of the world’s economies with it, especially in Europe.
Republican Mitt Romney in the White House would rein back the GOP’s intransigence over the fiscal deadlock, at least enough to get past the latest crisis point. He will know that the previous Republican president, George W. Bush contributed to the present budgetary dangers and will seek to steer the ship of state into calmer waters.
ObamaCare will probably be doomed, or drastically amended. Defence spending will surely be trimmed by the imminent Afghan withdrawal and a redrawing of defence priorities from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
All this might happen whoever wins, but Romney’s sharp business sense could make a difference to America’s prospects in a uniquely turbulent world. Britain should welcome that outcome.
Ed Balls is one of those politicians who think they can blag their way out of anything.
Take the structural deficit, for example. This is the part of a government’s budget deficit that covers ongoing public services and employment. Payments recur regularly until the recipients are laid off and services scrapped.
Thus reducing a structural defict is painful and can lead to other built-in costs through the automatic stabilisers: unemployment benefits and social security safety nets. These are normally benign and can provide a balancing stimulus in hard times, unless they get beyond the capacity of an economy to pay. That is where we are now.
As Gordon Brown’s mentor-in-chief, Balls was behind a catastrophic increase in these state liabilities, not least the burgeoning of risible non-jobs in the public sector.
Following today’s announcement of a welcome 1pc increase in the nation’s economic growth, Balls has been trailing round the media centres claiming there was no structural deficit when he was in power.
Naturally, the astute political editors and commentators have gone to town on him. He might have been a little contrite, but that was never New Labour’s way.
Instead, he has now lost all credibility and joins Blair and Brown in political purdah.
Profundity of the Week
“I am a dweller in Old England. I am wholly content, for my calling is philosophy. I stand aside in life, and strike no blows and make no bargain, but I learn that which is hid from others.” From Midwinter by John Buchan.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.