British politicians have always been renowned experts at 'gobbing off' about the European Union. The sport has a few simple rules: rant a lot with no real desire to achieve anything. It's a sport that has been the mainstay of the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, since he took office in 2010.
The latest examples are his attempts to loudly ask for almost nothing in negotiations with the European Commission. Today, Cameron's strategic aim of making EU nationals wait a little bit longer before they claim generous taxpayer funded welfare checks has been shown up for the joke it is by the Greeks.
Yesterday's vote in Greece demonstrates there is a real alternative to the Brussels takeover. As such, Britain, like every European country, does have a choice, if only its leaders had the vision to abandon this failed EU project.
Whatever the long-term impact of the Greek vote there must be an examination of the mechanism for it leaving the Euro. Under the existing treaties there is no way out. To create one would break the “ever closer union” commitment, long seen as the central pillar of the European 'project' and something British Conservatives have tried and failed for decades to destroy.
Yet a tiny country and it's Socialist government have just delivered weakened "ever closer union" in one hastily organised vote. If Greece leaves the Euro altogether it will be a huge game changer for Britain.
For years Eurocrats have talked about a “two speed Europe”, the problem with this is it implies in the end every country will end up in the same place: under the thumb of a powerful socialist Brussels. If Greece leaves the Euro “two speed Europe” is dead, instead a “two system Europe” would have to develop.
This would mean Germany, France and the Benelux countries effectively becoming one country with the Euro as its currency. Places like Britain would have some sort of trade deal, and maybe even continued membership of a far looser and less dictatorial European Union.
Either way the Greeks have come up with far more options for Britain than David Cameron has. Not least because they had the guts to call for a referendum and then campaign against the EU. Cameron's plan is to use the referendum to confirm Britain’s membership of the EU: heaping an historic defeat on British Conservatism (despite Cameron being Conservative Leader).
...Greeks Have Been Treated Badly...
Greece's bravery can only partially mitigate it's difficult position though. The Euro is destroying the country but Greeks would still rather eat rats than leave any club of Western European countries. Two of their nearest neighbors are the Muslim countries of Albania and Turkey, and despite decades of peace they feel threatened.
The Greeks have also had a bad press for not “paying their bills”, although this is pretty unfair. They have been pushed into a monetary union that does not include fiscal transfers. So their monetary policy is being set to please Germany, but the only thing they are given to lighten the load is loans.
The US uses things like welfare, Medicaid and Medicare to help ensure poorer states like Alabama do not experience economic problems as a result of having the same currency as Wall Street.
Washington, D.C. does not expect poorer states to take out loans to pay for these services, they expect the richer states to pay through federal taxes. If Germany is going to massively benefit from the Euro, why are they complaining that Greece deserves some compensation for the boom in Northern Europe. Perhaps German reticence to pay for Greece is proof the Euro is a really bad idea.
So Greece is in ruins: unemployment is running at 25 percent, the country cannot pay its bills and its economy will continue to tank as long as it remains in the Euro. But unlike Britain, Greece is fighting its corner, despite being small and having a lack of political clout.
Imagine if British Conservative leaders had the guts the Greeks have shown? They might actually get the concessions they want rather than just capitulate. They would forget about the minor dispute over access to welfare and start to talk about real reform. If the EU tried to ignore them they would seriously talk about walking out, and when the world's fifth largest economy starts to get belligerent other countries listen.
The fact is the British Conservative leadership has not done this, and so far look unlikely to start. As we stand today Greek Socialists have done more to deliver British Conservative aims than the British Conservative government has. Pretty shameful really. Perhaps it's time to stop being wary Greeks who bear gifts!