Woo-hoo! Europe has been saved! Again! In the wee small hours of this morning, Europe’s leaders thrashed out the latest in a long line of historic, continent-rescuing agreements.
The details are, as is always the case with these agreements, vague, but essentially the 17 members of the single currency Eurozone, plus other European Union countries that are either hoping to join the euro or have chosen not to adopt it, have agreed to tougher budget rules. These include a commitment to balanced budgets, with sanctions on countries whose deficits exceed 3% of GDP, and a requirement to submit national budgets to Brussels for approval. (When “Brussels” is mentioned in relation to European matters, it generally refers to the European Union and Eurozone bureaucracies, which are based in the Belgian capital).
The balanced budget commitment is laughable – countries cooked their books in order to join the euro in the first place, and continued cooking them for years in order to create the illusion that all was well. The requirement to submit budgets to Brussels for approval is less of a laughing matter, beginning as it does the process of rendering national governments largely irrelevant. The deal also includes additional measures to tackle the ongoing Eurozone debt crisis, but here too the details are hazy.
Never mind that this agreement merely kicks Europe’s problems down the road for a few months; or that the new rules will be flouted; or that the nations of Europe have agreed to surrender a large measure of sovereignty to the technocrats of Brussels. This agreement is about one thing: advancing the political project that is ever-closer European integration, a project driven by transnational bureaucrats, guilt-laden Germans and socialist politicians, but also by nominally conservative politicians who are either afraid of the economic consequences of being left out, or who, like grandeur-deluded French President Nicolas Sarkozy, see a Federal Europe as giving his country more clout than it could muster on its own.
Notably absent from the agreement is Britain, after Prime Minister David Cameron used his veto to block a treaty amendment that would have been binding on all 27 EU members. The British government had objected to proposals for tougher Europe-wide regulation of financial services; these included a new tax on financial transaction, which would have effectively meant a tax on the British financial services sector, with the proceeds being shoveled into the black hole of Eurozone bailouts. “Euroskeptics” in Cameron’s Conservative Party, most of whom had doubted their leader would have the spine to deploy his veto, have been pleasantly surprised.
Not surprisingly, Britain’s pro-European elites – including Cameron’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners and most of the Labour opposition, with the BBC cheerleading – are aghast, and are warning of Britain being “isolated” from the rest of Europe. The inference is that isolation is a bad thing, but Britain’s isolation is akin to that of a would-be passenger who, having sold his ticket, is standing on the dockside watching the Titanic sail majestically into the distance.