The last week has been bracing for me, because I have had many interesting encounters with Europhiles. Visiting Spain, I met the former prime minister, José María Aznar. In Paris, I interviewed Jacques Delors, the grand architect of the single currency. Back home, I studied the speech in Berlin by my old friend Radek Sikorski, now the Polish foreign minister, and debated with our weekend guest David Frum, the leading American journalist, who despite being eurosceptical believes that the euro must be saved. All these thoughtful people believe in European civilisation, and they are horrified by its precariousness if the eurozone breaks up. Sikorski rightly says that a currency is a matter of trust, and therefore a moral entity: its breakdown is a moral catastrophe. Their serious engagement with the issue contrasts with the British Cabinet, which this week held one of its publicity-stunt, round-the-country meetings in Ipswich, and put obesity top of the agenda. But although I fear chaos, I cannot see how you can maintain a currency which condemns half its members to permanent uncompetitiveness. Nor do I think that the necessary trust can be created. M. Delors told me that you had to get the new architecture right and, at the same time, ‘put out the fire’. But Germany wants the new architecture without having to put out the fire and the others want the opposite. Sikorski dates the birth of a functioning United States from the time when solvent Virginia stood behind bust Massachusetts. Yes, but they had just won a war. Where, in 2011, is the equivalent European bond? I agree with Owen Paterson (see page 12) that if continentals want to create a new country we must get our own country back, but I don’t believe that their new country can be created.
In Madrid, we saw the Hermitage exhibition in the Prado.