How many Conservatives in the Cabinet line up with Boris in opposing fiscal union?
By Paul Goodman
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I wrote yesterday that -
- Half of me thinks that David Cameron and George Osborne are supporting fiscal union because they're terrified of the consequences of Euro break-up (which is understandable).
- While the other half of me thinks that they are supporting fiscal union because they don't want to be blamed for helping to bring about Euro break-up by recommending it.
The two explanations are of course not mutually exclusive. I also drew attention to Boris Johnson's superlative Telegraph column in which he wrote that fiscal and political union would "consign the continent to a democratic dark age".
(By the way, the Mayor more or less admitted his ambition yesterday. Or at least I think he did; with Boris, you can never be quite sure. At any rate, he said that he wants "to assume supreme power in England", before adding: "For God's sake, don't quote me saying that."
This was in the context of building new airport capacity in the south-east - at Stansted, if the Government won't go for Boris Island. He also said that men prefer to live in cities such as London and New York "because they provide "a greater range of girls at the bar, of reproductive choice".)
That's my boy!
We must assume that the Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet disagree with Boris (on fiscal union, that is, not urban women). But how many Conservatives in it agree with him about F.U - and disagree, therefore, with the Prime Minister's stated position?
I ask because James Forsyth reported yesterday that "I understand that Justine Greening told last week’s Cabinet meeting that she did not believe that a transfer union could be made to work".
Her name must thus be added to Iain Duncan Smith's and Owen Paterson's. Mr Forsyth has previously reported that Phillip Hammond has told the Cabinet that in the event of F.U "it would be extremely hard to argue that Britain's relationship with Europe would be unchanged'.
Mr Hammond was thus lining up with George Osborne, his former Shadow Treasury team boss, in suggesting that a referendum would be needed in such circumstances. And Ms Greening is another former member of Team Osborne.
The Chancellor has suggested that Greece may need to leave the Euro in order to save it. I'm sure that he will remain no less committeed to fiscal union than Mr Cameron. Nor can I yet imagine the number of Conservative Cabinet Ministers opposing F.U reaching a majority - leaving the Prime Minister and Chancellor with more yellow than blue backing on the issue.
But that Ms Greening has spoken out (albeit in private) is a reminder to keep a careful watch on which senior Tories line up with Boris and against the Prime Minister - who, on this one, has the latter precisely where he wants him.