EU MELTDOWN: Why this is Britain’s big chance

The Conservatives bottled out of their Lisbon renegotiation promise. Now they have a golden opportunity to make amends.

It is one of the many facets of the European Union that nothing can ever be renegotiated (especially by Britain) until that Union is in a mess. At that point, suddenly everything can be renegotiated.

I am an admirer of Frau Merkel (or rather, I was until she buckled under French pressure last week) as the one EU leader strong enough to explain housekeeping rules to the rest. But as always under the unspoken, unwritten and yet undeniable rules of the Franco-German alliance in Europe, the Merkels and Sarkozys fundamentally see the British as a nation in the way of their Grand Plan – to write the rules in a way that most suits the Franco-German interest.

This view is much more than silly peevishness on my part: the speed with which these two former enemies rushed through EU legislation to remove London’s dominant financial market position made me realise how foolish I had been to be sceptical about some of Christopher Brooker’s Torygraph columns over the years.

Frau Merkel actually said in an open press conference last Friday that “we do not have to pay attention to British opposition, because we have a majoritarian voting system”. This was the same week in which a French foreign minister as good as threatened that if Britain didn’t help bail out their mess, then as we are not part of that mess, they wouldn’t bail out ours…which has already been made worse by theirs. More French logic a la Christine Lagarde, it would seem.

The cap was put on this bottle of acid yesterday when George Osborne was abruptly informed that he could go whistle for any delays on the City-grab project on which Berlin and Paris are so obviously keen. If the EU wants to go out of its way to make UKIP the biggest Party here, then they’re going about it impeccably.

That the EU project in general (and the Eurozone in particular) will collapse at some point in a heap of nationalistic recrimination seems to me a hard conclusion to avoid. Economic hardship will breed protectionism as sure as night follows day. And in this context, Britain has a chance to wrest back some say in its own destiny – for three important reasons.

First and foremost, the Franco-German pact is wobblier than it has been in nearly fifty years. France wants to carry on being, well – France: spending too much and earning too little, while relying on the Germans to make up the difference. And Germany has had enough of this cosy arrangement….along with the latin pupils who keep doing the same. So too has the German public, 73% of whom remain very unhappy with any form of bailout.

Second, Germany will not be able to get the new stricter rules it desires without a complete redrafting of the Lisbon Treaty that was so perfect just a short ten months ago. If Hague and co miss this open goal, they deserve to be kicked from Lands End to John o’Groats and back.

Third, the UK has an ace-card: Sterling. This is a currency which, by the stroke of a Chancellor’s pen, can be whatever value we want it to be. Britain is small enough to be off China’s radar, nimble enough under its new Government to chop a big slice off the deficit, and – being outside the Eurozone – less of a viable target for Hedge Funds….at the moment.

Further down the road, the most likely outcome is that dangerously huge amounts of investor money will flow into German bonds – in the absence of any other EU Government that lenders can trust. Not only will this put the Bundesrepublik into a historically unique position of enormous power, it will also ensure – if the ToryDems plough ahead with their austerity plans – that the Sterling area looks infinitely more safe than non-German Europe. So ironically, all the EU member States really do need our help…whether they’re bright enough to realise it or not.

The downside – in which the UK flunks this massive opportunity – is a German-dominated continent in which our potential markets are slashed, Germany wins the Peace in a way far more irreversible than Hitler winning the War, and our financial wellbeing is lost for no reason.

Looked at in that light, carpe diem is not just a good choice – for any British Government, it is a duty.