As the resident foreigner here on Enterprise Britain (I apologise up front to Antony Doggwiler but he is only half foreign so that makes him a local) I am sort of compelled to blog about ‘the veto’, so here we go.
I have lived in this country for some 22 years now and I have got used to the quaint desire to remain an island both physically and in our attitudes. It never ceases to surprise me the number of people who claim we lost our independence because we are now connected by a tunnel (which I use every month so thank you very much).
We continue to drive on the left whilst other countries in Europe (like Sweden in 1967 and Iceland –remember them? – in 1968) switched to the right. Only islands with a strong Commonwealth background still maintain the left side driving tradition. We also maintain the pint (and very nice it is too, at least the pub version) whilst our major trading partners have adopted the metric standard.
What does all this have to do with ‘the veto’? Nothing other than that it shows a way of thinking and this is unlikely to ever change. So Mr. Cameron had no choice but to ‘veto’, as his only mission, no matter what he says, is to get reelected and that requires an anti Europe attitude. That Mr. Cameron was right is clearly shown by the press and the reception he got on his return to Westminster. Nick Clegg will get over it, so no worries there.
This is not what concerns me about ‘the veto’, which in my opinion was just about inevitable in some form or other. What concerns me is the reason given, which confirms the real convictions of this government. The reason given is that Mr. Cameron wants to protect the banking system, and that is more important than our position as a trading nation.
Our banking system has failed our country, the global economy and our regulators have proven with great regularity that they are incapable of providing protection. Banks now have to disface all branches showing that our savings are protected by the FSCS – how sad is that! Our banking system is antiquated – I will blog one day about my experience in transferring money abroad – and in desperate need to be brought up to date. Our banking system is not delivering the goods when it comes to stimulating our economy so what exactly are we trying to protect?
Yes, the financial industry is a very large part of our economy and is essential to the London economy in the first place. For the rest of the country our mining system, our ship building industry, our steel industry and our erstwhile manufacturing systems were at least equally important, if not more so, but the government had no hesitation about wiping them out. All those industries were killed despite massive protests, leaving us at the mercy of our financial industry and look where that got us.
The report on the RBS has just come out and it makes you cry. They paid a ludicrous amount for ABN Amro, outbidding Barclays which fortunately and wisely withdrew. It was pure greed and had nothing to do anymore with sound banking practices. Northern Rock went under and its remains have just been given to a very flamboyant airline operator who I hope will do well with it.
All the points above we achieved without the aid of our European partners. The banking crisis we perfected under the guidance of our cousins across the other pond and whilst the Euro is having some challenges (I suspect in part due to some canny speculators possibly based in financial institutions in say London?) the fundamental European economy as a whole is in better shape than ours is.
Without any assistance from Europe we have been able to develop one of the worst transport infrastructures in our peer group, our education system is failing and the NHS Mr. Cameron is trying to destroy. Without any assistance from Europe we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate, we will set record levels for youth unemployment and our energy and recycling policies are decades behind. So whilst ministers like to blame Europe for our woes, in fact Europe has nothing to do with it. Our government has proven most capable at messing things up without anyone checking up.
It concerns me that our Prime Minister (yes he is also my Prime Minister as I pay my taxes here and have for a long time, even though I am not allowed to vote, so no, I did not vote for him) focused on the banking industry and not on the opportunities for building an enterprising nation. I suspect the UK has been marginalised and the banking industry will survive for some time, but the center of gravity will gradually shift away from London. This is now only a matter of time. In the meantime the entrepreneurs of this country are likely to continue to suffer as Mr. Cameron and friends concentrate on pandering to their banking buddies and blaming Europe for everything else.
Was Mr. Cameron right with ‘the veto’? To protect his popularity he was, his reasoning was flawed and in the longer term he is very wrong as he marginalised entrepreneurial Britain.