1942 All Over Again

There is an interesting article in this weeks speccie by Europhile (shock horror) Fredrik Erixon in which with more honesty than you might expect he looks at what the rise in (so-called) populist movements across Europe might mean for the EU.

Summing up he writes:

... we have centre-right parties spooked by migration and the borderless Europe. Meanwhile, the left is focusing its attentions on the single market, and would like to see scores of new policies introduced that restrict the freedom to do business across borders. For these parties, the ‘four freedoms’ are problematic. They worry about Polish plumbers fixing the pipes in France and Hungarian truck drivers delivering Amazon packages in Germany…Without the introduction of new social rights, or taxes and regulations on labour that would ‘level the playing field’ between EU countries, the left threatens to disavow the principle of free trade inside the EU… So the supposed torch-bearers of ‘ever-closer union’ are losing faith in key foundations of the whole European project. Even they want a different Europe, with stronger borders, weaker rules, and more power for nation states.

He points out that this is not so different from David Cameron’s ill-fated “renogotiation” that led to Brexit, and goes on:

Paradoxically, Brussels’s rigidity is a sign of internal weakness — not of strength. … Even if no other country is looking for the exit, many want to have more flexible arrangements … For some, it is about allowing more subsidies for failing industries or bigger fiscal deficits; others want less demanding rules about cutting carbon emissions or about refugees seeking asylum. If the EU gives much ground, the result will be a disunited Europe.

However his analysis is rather let done by this:

An era of never-closer union may be about to begin.

It is here that I think he is completely wrong.

That is completely not how the EU works, it is against its founding principles. The history of the EU since its foundation has been one of unrelenting deepening, and that institutional inertia is not about to change.

We have seen with the Euro that the internal inconsistencies are ignored by Brussels until they become an existential threat, at which point a band aid is applied to buy a little more time.  It has been clear for years that its internal struggle between debt sharing and further loosening (which is really a struggle between common sense and German intransigence), is nothing less than a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.

The political tensions described by Mr Erixon are now on track to become a second irresistible force.  The difference here is that the new power struggle is between two pillars of the EU’s fundamental structure – the Platonic executive and the nominally (at least) democratic parliament.

Given the staggeringly poor quality of the political leadership in Brussels it seems to me that the end must be approaching even faster than before. However given the political will to keep going it is likely that it will keep struggling on, running on willpower alone.

In historical terms we are still only in late 1942. The inevitability of the final outcome is starting to take shape – German troops are outgunned and outnumbered in front of Stalingrad, the US has entered the war and the flow of arms and materials to Europe is accelerating. The battle of the Atlantic has turned. Hitler kept going for another two and a half years despite the increasingly obvious facts, thereby sentencing millions more people to death.

How long will Selmayr’s will hold out?

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