Is London worth a Mass?
If in 1593 (as well as today) there can be little doubt that “Paris is well worth a Mass”, can the same be said of London?
“Brexit” would be catastrophic for both the United Kingdom and the EU. However, with every passing day the prospect of such an outcome is increasing, aided and abetted by often outrageous declarations. The latest is Philip Hammond’s statement that “restrictions on EU migrants’ access to benefits are “non-negotiable”! I have fingered previously the damage caused to the € and the stability of the Union by President Holland’s self-exoneration of the Budgetary Pact in his Versailles speech.
If, particularly in present circumstances, it is clearly in the interests of the EU to avoid any defections, this cannot be obtained at any price: agreeing to enter negotiations under the threat of “non-negotiable demands” is a sign of culpable weakness. The EU negotiators should simply refuse to be drawn into the discussion. The tactics of David Cameron and his colleagues are transparent: they attempt to take advantage cynically of the fears that are gripping Member States concerning immigration, the Schengen area (internal and external borders), the fight against terrorism, etc., to intimidate their partners by pushing demands that they are fully aware would be unacceptable under other circumstances. This posturing is accompanied by opinion polls having a similar objective: frightening European public opinion in the hope of exacting greater concessions.
Recent events, however, point in exactly the opposite direction underscoring that the challenges that confront the continent can only be managed at European level. As was just underlined by President Juncker, reinstating internal borders within the Schengen area is incompatible with maintaining the single currency (even if Schengen and the Eurozone are not the same). In addition, Chancellor Merkel has reiterated the imperative necessity of a “common immigration policy” if the integrity of the EU is to be preserved. Such a policy should be applicable to all 28 Member States; it is inconceivable that one or the other member would benefit from derogations even if the situation of each of them must be taken into account through the selection of the agreed base criteria.
Furthermore, an ever greater number of voices are – at last – expressing the real dangers associated with an implosion of the Union. Citizens are being overwhelmed by the events and are demanding from the authorities strong measures capable of providing them with security while guaranteeing their rights and protecting their values. We are therefore confronted with a stark choice: either aim at further integration implying further transfers of sovereignty to the Union or dismantle the EU, restoring to its members their full and unfettered sovereignty.
The first alternative should lead rapidly to a common immigration policy, the management by the EU of its external borders, the sharing of information under the aegis of a “European Bureau of Investigation” within an Agency operational on the whole of the territory and federating national services together; over the longer term, the development of a common defence and foreign affairs policies must be addressed.
The second would put each national government squarely in front of its responsibilities, making them accountable for the exercise of all political economic and social powers.
If the first alternative leads necessarily to subordinate temporarily the matters of both Brexit and EMU integration to those dictated by the current urgency, the second would, by definition, render them both obsolete.
In conclusion, one should immediately suspend any further “Brexit” negotiations which can only add to the current confusion. If England wishes, nevertheless to exercise its uncontested right, granted by the Lisbon treaty, to leave the Union (with or without referendum) it should activate unilaterally the relevant procedure. Thus the 27 other members will be in a position to shape in their own interests the reform of the Union that has become indispensable if it is to survive in the multipolar and very dangerous world surrounding it.
A Union with the constructive participation of the United Kingdom would have many undisputable advantages. However, granting England exorbitant privileges by allowing it to impose its own agenda on other members is unacceptable.
No! At present, London is not worth a Mass!
Brussels, 27th November 2015
Paul N. Goldschmidt
Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.
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