Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Minister for Europe

Is this job a deliberate wind-up? It used to be filled by the pompous vacuity that is Peter Hain. Now we’ve got New Labour europhiliac Denis MacShane, a man whose main distinction, according to the Almanac of British Politics, is that he bears a passing resemblance to Bugs Bunny. If I were Bugs I’d sue.

I’ve just heard him pontificating on BBC5 Live about the euro-constitution. Pretty well unchallenged, he told us if we rejected the constitution we’d be shown up as isolationist, europhobic Little Englanders, turning our backs on the future, certain to go green and scaly, blah, blah, blah.

Then he was asked to identify the single key advantage to us of the constitution- a gently underarm delivery you might think. Alas, once asked for a specific, all he could come up with was ‘jobs’.

Say what?


Are we talking about the same euro-sclerotic hulk that’s condemned Germany to those scary Weimar Republic levels of unemployment, etc etc? Jobs?

Maybe he meant jobs for the boys. Like the ones we saw in that fly-on-the-wall about Kilroy at the eurowaffleshop. Those jobs like their graces the Lord and Lady Kinnock had.

He probably didn’t mean jobs at all but more that business about the EU constitution being the only thing standing between us and the panzers rolling again. Unfortunately when asked the specific question, he panicked, and his brain stylus jumped a groove onto the next track- about Labour’s economic miracle.

Anyway the underlying idea seemed to be that if we vote against the constitution, and if everyone else wants to go ahead anyway, and if they decide to kick us out, and if they ban our beef, and if we don’t retaliate by banning their surrender-cheese and cars, and if we can’t join NAFTA, and if the polar ice caps melt, and if the Da Vinci Code turns out to be true, and if those crop circles…oh man, we’re in deep shit…you know what I’m sayin’?

Now look Den, every serious analysis of our EU membership shows the economic costs and benefits are now pretty well a wash. Yes, we would suffer some disadvantage from being outside the EU tariff wall, but world tariffs are much lower now than when we joined. And we’d escape the CAP with all those budget contributions and inflated food prices. Not to mention all that social chapter style anti-market nonsense. And of course, if we lost our rebate or we were forced into the one-size-fits-all Euro, the economic balance would swing heavily in favour of leaving. (For a good analysis of the economic costs and benefits, see ‘Better Off Out?’ an IEA paper by Brian Hindley and Martin Howe).

So Den, do yourself a favour mate- when you’re next asked how the constitution benefits us, for gawd’s sake, don’t mention jobs. In fact don’t go anywhere near the economic balance sheet. Stick with those panzers, or some major arm waving about our place at the top table, or our freedom to live in Tuscany, or crop circles, or…well, just think of something.

I’m sure Bugs would have done a lot better.

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