It was hard to know – as the danse macabre of the euro spirals towards its devastating denouement – which of last week’s utterances and events was the maddest. First, there was the speech by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in which, after admitting that this was the worst crisis the EU had ever faced, he renewed his wish for it to impose a tax on “financial transactions”, to provide Brussels with what has been estimated by Open Europe, the independent think tank, at up to £70 billion a year.
Since Britain’s share of the EU’s financial markets is 72 per cent, the cost to the UK would thus be up to £50 billion. But that wouldn’t last long because, as the Commission itself admits, such a tax would soon send the financial industry fleeing out of the EU, destroying the biggest single earner in the UK economy.
George Osborne may be right in saying that Britain would veto Mr Barroso’s proposal. But the very fact that the ex-Maoist in charge of the Commission should suggest anything so suicidal is a measure of just how surreal this crisis is becoming.
Equally bizarre was the spectacle of Germany’s MPs defying the wishes of most of the German people by supporting the EU’s £380 billion bail-out fund, to pour much of it into the bottomless pit of Greek debt, which has reduced the Greek people to a state of catatonic trauma. The peoples of the EU’s richest and poorest countries are thus equally powerless in the face of what amounts to a bureaucratic dictatorship of unelected apparatchiks – who, in a vain bid to save their pet project, are now talking about the need for a further bail-out fund of £1.7 trillion,
The truth about the euro project is that it was always based on a colossal act of make-believe, launched in defiance of all economic and political reality. And as history and storytelling have shown us again and again, when human beings, individually or collectively, attempt to act out a fantasy, there is a very clear and identifiable pattern to what follows.