The post-Maastricht EU has its priorities wrong. Monetary union is more likely to divide than unite. Timothy Garton Ash bets on it not going ahead and proposes that Britain should launch a "second project" based around enlargement to the east and closer defence co-operationby Timothy Garton-Ash / June 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
There is one thing on which British Euro-sceptics and British Euro-enthusiasts agree. It is the one thing on which both are probably wrong. This is the common assumption that France and Germany are going ahead with plans for closer European integration, built around monetary union, to make a European union which deserves the name.
Euro-sceptics equate “federal” Europe with a Brussels superstate. Euro-enthusiasts are divided between those who still wear the old federal badge with pride and those who fight shy of it, both for tactical reasons and because the word “federal” means different things in different European languages. Yet both sides agree that the choice for Britain is essentially whether to join in this continental project or not. Enthusiasts say we should. Sceptics say we shouldn’t, and canvass alternative futures: free trading transatlantic bridge, offshore Greater Switzerland or whatever. Both sides join again, however, in deriding the Major government’s contention that Britain is “at the heart of Europe,” successfully developing the shape and direction of the EU.
There are powerful reasons for this common assumption and that shared derision. It is true that Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a large part of Germany’s political elite are still committed to taking a decisive step towards integrating newly united Germany into a united Europe: through monetary union to political union. It is true that a large majority of France’s extraordinary ruling class-products of the grandes ?coles circulating around the commanding heights of politics and business-has an even deeper investment in the project of regaining more control over their currency and binding Germany to France, through Emu. This is a project which they have pursued for many years with great skill and singleness of purpose, and at considerable cost.
It is also true that the leaders of France and Germany are utterly fed up with British carping and cussedness. Mad cows have provided not just the latest cross-channel quarrel but also a new metaphor for this continental view of Britain. French and German leaders find togetherness in ironical remarks about Anglo-Saxon attitudes: “We welcome our American and British friends after their long flight to Europe,” and so on. In Germany, irony has turned to sarcasm tinged with real anger. What has happened over the last five years has been one disappointment too many. All right, Britain stood aside in the 1950s. All right, Britain spent years renegotiating the terms of its membership…