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Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson: Even Fred Goodwin is a far more sensible chap than Clegg, Heseltine and the other €uro-fanatics

There are no ifs, buts or maybes. The European single currency was a crazy idea. It could only have worked if the peoples of the Eurozone had been ready to form a single state. As they were not, it was bound to fail. The attempt to implement it was one of the daftest experiments in all history. That demonstrates the need to fear intellectuals bearing ideas, especially when the clever men involved have convinced themselves of their moral superiority. One would be tempted to laugh the whole business to scorn, except that there is nothing funny about ecomonic stagnation, high unemployment and social instability. All over Europe, millions of people are suffering because of the delusions of the Euro-maniacs, and there will be no early relief. Things will get worse before they get better.

We have learned to fear Greeks bearing government financial statistics. (Letting Greece join the Euro; what is a strong word for insane?) We now need to fear Spanish banks bearing balance-sheets. On a mark to market basis, almost every Spanish bank is bust. That is an awful lot of toxic paper.

In yesterday's Telegraph, Peter Oborne criticised the Prime Minister for failing to proclaim the Euro's death. As Peter always expressed his contempt for the Euro delusion, his views are entitled to respect - which is not true of some even more eminent persons who will be denounced below. Even so, he is being unfair. Bringing the Euro to an end is not like switching off a life-support machine. There is bound to be chaos. In my judgment, that is a price worth paying, given that the alternative is endemic crisis. But there should be no illusions. Clearing up the mess will neither be cheap nor easy, and it will take time. Anyone who thinks differently is not thinking.

There is a further point. What are they saying now, on the continent? Are they praising the UK? Are they all ruefully admitting that we were right and they were wrong? Somehow, I doubt it. That is not how human nature works, especially in France. French officialdom cannot bear the thought that we were right and they were wrong. Indeed, they are trying to convince themselves that it was all somehow our fault. A lot of the French are as desperate to blame the Anglo-Americans today as they have always been to deny our role in setting them free in 1944. It would need a psychologist to explain why they seem much more at ease with their captors than with their liberators, but there it is. Yet the French regard themselves as a rational people. Let us savour the irony.

David Cameron is now - gently - trying to move matters on. But he has to choose his words carefully, lest he be accused of gloating. Although the implosion of the Eurozone could help us to renegotiate our relations with the EU, that will require skilful diplomacy. Anyone who believes that there is an easy way to protect our national interest in Europe is not living in the real world.

Which brings us to the Euro-fanatics: Leon Brittan, Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg, Michael Heseltine and Geoffrey Howe. There are three principal differences between them and Fred Goodwin. First, he was far more sensible. Given ten years of growth at three per cent, the takeover of ABN-AMRO could have worked. The Euro could never have worked. Second, they were far luckier. They were unable to implement their lunatic plans. Third, they are all likeable characters with lots of friends. Poor ex-Sir Fred never bothered to make many friends: rather the opposite.

So no-one is breaking the Euro-fanatics' windows or demanding that they should be put in prison. No-one is even calling for a truth and reconciliation commission, to give them a chance to apologise. Then again, they may not be in an apologetic mood, judging by Geoffrey Howe's performance in the Lords earlier this week. His Lordship was vexed. We British are still talking about miles and pints. What will foreigners think of us? He finds it all so backward, so embarrassing. He said so, without a hint of irony, let alone self-deprecation. His tone was that of a dispatch from a Victorian Governor-General, in a primitive colony where the natives were still wearing bones through their noses and eating one another. His Excellency is apologising to London, and promising to redouble his efforts to extirpate barbarism.

Well, Geoffrey, your efforts will be in vain. These barbarians will cling to their pints and their miles, just as they cling to their pounds. Your tone of pained contempt for these manifestations of national character and national pride merely proves that it is possible to be in British public life for sixty years, without arriving at any understanding of the British people.


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