In Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story the White Queen lives her life backwards (in looking-glass mode) and it seems to us that EU “royalty” have a similarly distorted view. The White Queen is adamant that there shall be “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”
Once upon a time in Europe there was jam. When the continent was recovering from the devastation of the Second World War the Common Market helped its founding member states to trade with each other and so grow their economies. There was jam yesterday.
Britain, outside of the group and losing its place as the hub of its global-trading empire, was experiencing relative decline and this enabled its own leaders to persuade voters that membership of the Common Market would halt the slide. However the British people have always had a more sceptical view of the benefits of political integration than those of other nations that had suffered invasion and dictatorship.
The intra-EU trade (and external protectionism) that had boosted the early recovery of the founding nations lost its edge and from the mid-1980s Britain’s economic growth was greater than its European partners, on average. Germany of course had recovered quickly, with help from the American Marshall Plan, and had the skills and culture to become the most productive nation in the group. The adoption of the Euro in 1999 fixed the German currency so that most other countries became relatively less competitive over time but could no longer compensate by devaluation. The Germans meanwhile continue to violate the arrangements designed to limit this effect (the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure) by running a trade surplus at twice the maximum permitted. This is ruining lives. There is no jam today.
By sticking to their plans the EU’s leaders believe there will be jam tomorrow. In fact it is more likely they are destroying their dream.
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
This is what the White Queen and the EU would have us believe:
1. That doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not the definition of insanity (to paraphrase Einstein).
2. That spending their energies trying to diminish Britain rather than making us envy a reinvigorated EU will improve anyone’s life (except perhaps their own, if it works).
3. That 27 countries would ever agree on how to deploy an EU army.
4. That the Euro is working.
5. That bullying Britain with threats of economic retaliation is an example to the world of how international cooperation means peace and harmony.
6. Exercise for the reader: what is your favourite EU myth?