The Spectator

Old world order

Britain has never been defined by its place on the map. Our nation’s reach and interests have always been global, not merely continental. Not so long ago, a quarter of humanity was united under our empire. Today, in empire’s place, stands the Commonwealth. This weekend, the Queen convenes the meeting of its various heads of government: a convention of friends, allies and trading partners. Unlikely as it may seem, the Commonwealth has become the model of a modern and global alliance.

The European Union, by contrast, looks more and more dated. It now appears less like a trading union than a self-help group for debt addicts. The never-ending summits are not about saving Greece, but about saving the French, Spanish and Dutch banks that foolishly loaned the Greek government €130 billion. The eurozone leaders are searching for a political solution to a simple problem: Greece is bust, and the loans won’t be repaid. This can’t be resolved by ‘political will’. The nightmare scenario is that the European Central Bank will end up printing enough money to feed to the banks, thereby unleashing inflation and forcing European savers to pay by stealth.

Twenty years ago, it might have been argued that the EU was the future, while Britain’s model of making its own alliances was the past. At that time, we heard that the eurozone would become ‘the most competitive economy in the world by 2010’ and other such claims. Now we know better. The Stability and Growth Pact was perhaps the most egregious misnomer in modern times. The British public look on with shock, not schadenfreude. Our own economic growth is evaporating, yet we are asked to accept an ever-expanding heap of job-destroying regulations from Brussels for which we pay £9 billion a year. How is that in our national interest?

It was a grave error for David Cameron to treat this week’s vote in the House of Commons as if it were a repeat of the 1993 Maastricht rebellion.

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