I read that Ed Balls is querying the wisdom of the UK helping Portugal with a bail out. As an opponent of expensive bails outs in general – they do not solve the underlying problems – I welcome that. As a stronger opponent of UK contributions to Euro bail outs – as we are not part of the folly of a currency in search of a country to control it – I welcome this for its own sake.
I also welcome it, in case it is part of a new approach to the EU by Her Majesty’s Opposition. For too long in the UK we have had two parties that accept more or less anything coming from the EU, and just shout at the Tories that they are being underminded by Eurosceptics. This was factually untrue, but it conspired at many crucial times to ensure the UK signed up to more and more of the federal plans from the EU against the wishes of the majority of voters. When it came to elections voters voted for the two federalist parties in sufficient numbers to keep the UK establishment on track with the main thrust of the EU plan. The reasoned Euroscepticism of the overwhelming majority of Conservatives was unable to deploy to drive national policy for lack of numbers, and owing to the leadership’s past response to the majority national politicians’ mood of collaboration. The Euroscepticism of many Labour and Union members was suppressed, as a supposed way of dealing with the Tories.
Today both Labour and C onservative leaderships seem to sense a new national mood which is sceptical of the high spending plans of the EU, and worried about the way the UK is being drawn into financing and guaranteeing the borrowing of a number of EU states. The mood on the doorsteps is clear. Many do think the UK has to rein in its own state spending and borrowing. Most think charity begins at home, and dislike any suggestion that we should be involved in higher spending and borrowing to help relatively rich countries on the continent, especially as much of that spending is of questionable value and purpose.
The UK needs to be able to have an intelligent debate on what its relationship should be with the emerging country of the Eurozone. All parties say they agree the UK should not join a political or monetary union. One is forming rapidly on the continent. The six pack of economic governance measures, and the financial structure of bail out and bind in for Euro members takes that process much further. If the UK have an Opposition that welcomes that debate and asks some tough questions of the government about the UK’s role within or outside that development Parliament will do a better job. I suspect some Euroscepticism will make Labour more popular, but that is a price worth paying for proper scrutiny of these crucial issues.
Only if the Opposition in Parliament is prepared occasionally to question and vote against the drive to EU and Euro union will the British public have more reassurance that we cannot be bundled into a financial union by stealth or absent mindedness, or by a government saying it cannot keep out owing to EU qualified majority voting and past agreements of the previous government.
To have both main parties querying the size and the expansion plans of the EU budget, and to have both saying they are worried about the Portuguese bail out is progress. They are both getting closer to the national mood. Let us hope they keep this sensible approach up after May 5th. Let us hope when Parliament is allowed to reconvene there is a new realism about the UK’s future relationship with the Eurozone. Above all let us hope stricter limits are placed on how much the UK contributes financially to this dangerous and economically damaging continental monetary experiment.