Postwar Britain?s future in Europe
While some might say it is convenient for the Government to provide a French scapegoat for its diplomatic failure abroad, it also reflects a deeper frustration born from a series of failed negotiations in other forums, from beef rows to indecision on the European agricultural budget.
An idealist, Tony Blair thought he could be at the heart of a new Europe. Instead he found to his shock, when he recently attended an Inter Governmental Conference to discuss reform of EU finances, that Chirac and Shroeder had got there first and had forged an immutable deal. Blair’s hopes, and John Major’s before him, that an expanded Europe would naturally lead to a looser confederation of states and a reduced budget were dashed.
When the Iraq war is over, Blair should pause and coolly reassess our relations with other nations and consider who our real friends are. More importantly, Britain should set out to analyse our economic future. Despite regular calls for the Government to undertake an analysis of the costs and of the benefits, both direct and indirect, of our EU membership, the Government has always refused.
One US Government analysis claims that as the UK already has access to European markets by virtue of our membership of the World Trade Organisation, the net benefit of our membership of the EU is MINUS $45 billion a year. To put it another way, the EU costs us the equivalent of around 80 brand new district general hospital being opened annually.
Alliances change, nothing is for ever. France puts her self-interest first – and so now should we. France’s veto may have caused our nation to cross a Rubicon. Technology makes geography irrelevant; economic and strategic compatibility will dictate alliances in the 21st century. An informed debate on our nation’s present and future alliances, both economic and diplomatic, is well overdue.