EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On?
During a speech in Zurich on 19th September 1946 probably the greatest statesman of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, called for the creation of a United States of Europe modelled on the United States of America singling out the essential need for Franco-German co-operation. Churchill did not envisage the UK’s role as anything other than promoter (broker). In May 1950 Robert Schuman, the then French Foreign Minister, took up the idea of Churchill and put forward a plan. We are now in 2013, some 67 years later, and what do we have that remotely resembles this vision?
On July 2nd 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted unanimously to declare the independence ‘of the thirteen United States of America’. Two days later, on July 4, Congress adopted the ‘Declaration of Independence’. The drafting of the Declaration was the responsibility of a Committee of Five, which included, among others, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin; it was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and revised by the others, and then by Congress as a whole. It contended that ‘all men are created equal’ with ‘certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, and that ‘to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’.
In spite of a ravaging war to overturn the Declaration of Independence, (the Revolution War involving both the British and the French), a new Constitution was adopted in 1789. It remains the basis of the United States federal government, and later included a Bill of Rights. With George Washington as the nation’s first president and Alexander Hamilton his chief financial advisor, a strong national government was created. In the First Party System, two national political parties grew up to support, or oppose presidential policies. This was achieved in just 15 years during a ravaging war, and this was all managed without telephones, internet, air travel, motorised transport systems, etc.
Peace and prosperity cannot be achieved merely by the creation of a political and economic framework if the people themselves play no active part in shaping society or in living together in harmony, i.e. without the consent of the governed. In the current EU system little or nothing of significance has been determined by the people and thus they rightly feel disillusioned and disenfranchised. It is a certainty that if the UK were to vote today on staying in the EU the vote would be a resounding ‘NO’. I am informed by my connections in Germany that the vote of the German people is fractured, and could go either way. The Mediterranean states would almost all vote ‘NO’ in spite of reliance on Germany for finance. So when do the politicians stop playing their fiddles whilst Rome is burning, and start to address the real issues, not least that the current framework does not, and will not work. Then sit back and ask the people what they need from a united Europe for themselves, their children and grandchildren. If the people elect for a United States of Europe, something similar as outlined in this series of essays, or as envisaged by Churchill, then fix a date and do it. If the people know and agree the plan, and the target date, they will respond.
And when the politicians start to address this plan they need to look at it from an outward perspective, i.e. how the world will see it, in order to guide thinking to maximise the value drivers available. For example who in the world knows where Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt or even Berlin are, or that they even exist? The most known cities in Europe are Paris, Rome, London, Madrid and even Vienna. How many people do you know that, having visited Washington, the capital city of the USA, came back very disappointed with that city – even the White House is actually much smaller than pictures would have you believe. But Europe has stature with its historic cities so any plan must consider how these cities can be used as value-added drivers to the outside world. For example most people in the world know where London is, and that it is one of the most influential capital cities of the world. This is the strength of the UK, a maritime nation having built longstanding reputation and networks throughout the world, and thus a major value driver. Of course this assumes that we expand Churchill’s vision to include the UK – not a given in my thinking.
One important aspect of the plan for a united Europe was to prevent conflict in the form of another major war. With the ever growing disparity of European nation states, especially within the Eurozone crises, it is not inconceivable that conflict can occur in the form of civil insurrection, or even civil war, (history shows that civil insurrection starts with the disadvantaged versus the rich, and I do not sense that ‘love thy neighbour’ is much in evidence at this time). Was this caused by the banking crisis or, as more likely the case, the shambolic mismanagement of entry into the Euro. At the end of 1996 the European member states supposedly faced a tough test to determine which of them fulfilled the strict convergence criteria laid down for participation in the Euro. Very few passed the test as defined by the strict rules, so the rules were thrown out of the window to allow all who wanted involvement to adopt the Euro – and now we know the reality of allowing totally disparate economies to attempt to converge. What makes any European politician think that they can adopt a single currency without central control of fiscal policy and management of all states involved, and the safety nets in place such as described in my essays ‘EU/Eurozone – Start Again or Plod On’ – ‘A Social State’ and ‘Taxation’.
A major crisis would create a good framework to focus minds on an integrated approach. When Churchill gave his speech in Zurich the conditions in Europe would have been ideal to create the United States of Europe – an opportunity lost. Perhaps if the Eurozone implodes the situation will present the opportunity for a ‘clean sheet’ approach, and a rapid implementation.
Should the UK join a United States of Europe? There are two ways of looking at this. Integrating Europe without the UK would probably be a much easier task, not least because of its unique position in the world. It has protectorates, protected states, mandated territories, the British Commonwealth, etc. to consider involving some 1.6 billion people. What would happen to them in our United States of Europe? In this case the UK could act as independent broker (as envisaged by Churchill) to the creation of the United States of Europe ensuring that its Constitution and political systems are not unduly influenced by national interests of stronger nation states, and is outward looking to ensure that there are no difficulties integrating further countries in the future. The initial United States of America was just 13 states, but the Constitution was structured to be inviting for other states to participate – 50 states plus a federal district to date, and counting.
The alternative is that, as so many of the pillars of a United States of Europe exist, at least in part, within the UK system, finding solutions at the outset for the peripheral issue of integrating the UK will create a comprehensive framework that would accommodate any future entry of additional members, including Russia. I see the inclusion of Russia, at some point in the future, to be the completion of a United States of Europe that can compete with any other nation in the world. However, and unfortunately, the UK has too many of the value drivers needed in a United States of Europe – difficult for the other nation states of Europe to swallow. Looking at it from the rest of the world’s viewpoint London would be the logical capital. London is the largest financial centre in the world by far thus it would also be the home of the European Central Bank and the banking regulators. We could, but not necessarily, add the Supreme Court, and even the European Parliament, – and what about a monarchy head of state?
Another solution that would have a significantly better chance of success would be the integration of just a few fully committed nation states capable of convergence in order to create and refine the structure – and then invite other members as per the USA. However I cannot emphasise how important it would be to have an outward looking, and simple Constitution friendly to all. If it looks like, e.g. an expanded Germany and/or France then I see further membership as limited.
On balance, and in spite of the fact it would leave the UK disadvantaged in some respects, especially if Europe became a fully-fledged 27 member United States of Europe, instinct suggests that the UK should not participate, and certainly not in the EU as it stands today as it is a very expensive club with little or no return on investment. I do not see a massive migration of companies from the UK into Europe for a number of practical and economic reasons. Businesses always find a way to deal with other nations, in spite of politicians.
If we discount the nation states who benefit substantially from membership what proportion of the people (not the politicians) of the other member states would today think that the EU was anything other than a faceless, expensive enterprise causing unrest throughout Europe and continually imposing unnecessary and expensive interference in their lives? What about countries like Switzerland, who traditionally have been very much aligned with Germany, but sitting on the sidelines, and not now considering entry at any time in the near future.
The UK is ideally and uniquely positioned to act as nation broker, as was the case in the removal of the Berlin Wall and reunification of the Eastern states of Europe with the West. The UK would be a natural broker to act between the USA and Europe, and between Europe and Russia and the Black Sea and Caspian states.
Any European integration plan needs a people’s champion who will stay with the plan until achieved. As the natural process is for politicians to come and go, and they are certainly not neutral in their approach, this people’s champion is unlikely to be a politician. This champion could be an individual, a small group (the Group of Five structured the USA system), or even the UK as an independent broker. This champion must have an integration plan endorsed with the full consent of the people of the countries being integrated, not just their representative politicians – the people need to be directly engaged with the process.
The failure of politicians to agree a sound plan for Europe devoid of national and personal self-interests, and to engage with the people, is an affront to democracy for such an important project, and has led to the hotchpotch of a European disintegration that we see today. Now nation states want to revisit treaties, and the people of the UK might have the chance, at last, to make their voice heard. The German government states ‘no’ to revisiting treaties and, by the way, has put everything on hold for 2 months because of German elections – what about the people out there who are hungry and need medicine?
Politicians come and go, but the process of European integration cannot change every time there is a change of political guard. Europe needs a plan, ambitious and exciting, for full implementation within 2 years, fully endorsed by the people’s vote, and it needs a people’s champion to oversee the implementation. In the hour of need cometh the ‘man’, but where is he/she for this project?
I am unexpectedly fortunate to be able to conclude this series of essays in much the way they started; with an episode of Top Gear, the UK motoring programme. Last week Jeremy Clarkson, a presenter of Top Gear had the notion to determine how much automotive manufacture took place in the UK, and asked each manufacturer to contribute a selection of what they produce to a parade in The Mall in London one Sunday morning. The TV pictures of the quantity, quality, and variety of automotive products made in the UK was truly staggering and presented a message to the people of the UK more about the state of UK manufacturing in those picture than any politician could ever explain. To these pictures Clarkson added that:
- A new car rolls off UK production lines every 20 seconds
- Honda produces 5 of their car models in Swindon
- The Toyota plant in Derbyshire exports cars to Japan
- Nissan make more cars per year in just one plant than the total car production of Italy
- Of the 11 F1 racing teams 8 are based in the UK
- Cars such as Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Range Rover are the cars of choice by the rich throughout the world
- Aston Martin has been voted the coolest brand in the world for 5 of the last 7 years
This was such a powerful 15 minutes of inspired broadcasting that the BBC repeated it again, and again as the message spread and the people connected with this better than any political message, and the resulting well-being of the people was noticeable. Contrast this with the political diatribe that comes out of the EU and it is not unreasonable to expect that the people of the UK will vote ‘NO’ to membership of the current EU disintegration.
George Papandreou: Imagine a European Democracy without Borders http://www.ted.com/talks/george_papandreou_imagine_a_european_democracy_without_borders.html
Thank you for participating in this series of essays, and I hope that you found the debate interesting. It is very difficult within the reasonable scope of a blog to include or expand all of the arguments and debate, and thus what to include, and what to leave out. For example, with my understanding of market economies, I could have written more than the accumulated word count of all 11 essays. The key for me was to find some of the fundamental triggers of a reasonable United States of Europe that at least cause people to question what is happening in their name, and at the expense of the people. Having managed a number of very difficult, multi-faceted problems during my career, not least with disenfranchised people, and time being of the essence to find workable and accepted solutions, I have developed methods to include even the most pessimistic of people, and in timeframes considered unachievable.
The most important part of any solution was the need to explain to all of the people involved (globally in some cases) where we were, and where we needed to be. These people needed to be persuaded to engage in the process knowing some would not understand and/or believe, especially when, for two such problems, the technology we needed did not exist when we started, but we had a fixed and unmoveable delivery date. In such cases it was important that they knew that I would take full responsibility for the outcome – all I wanted from them was commitment and belief. I had one IT manager, very capable but a staunch Trekkie (as in Star Trek) who, when attending a strategy presentation, would write and speak the words ‘Star Date: (whatever the date)’ and then ‘About to go where no man has been before’ as per the start of an episode of Star Trek. This action enabled him to move beyond his anxiety, and he always delivered, albeit sometimes not quite knowing how. All I did was to instil confidence and commitment into people – what I term ‘removing constraint’ – shared my vision, and took responsibility for the result, but vesting the success in them. Such people never failed to deliver, and the sense of well-being of all at delivery was uplifting. People can be mobilised to achieve great things so long as they are properly engaged, motivated, and committed.