Euro Ketchup

Only the most zealous Europhile who secretly enjoyed being pelted with tomatos would jump on a soapbox today and argue that Britain should join the euro.

Doing so would be like pointing up at an aeroplane which has smoke coming out of both engines and is lurching groundwards and saying, “Wouldn’t it be great to be on board?”

It is the Eurosceptics who feel they are on the front-foot. Mark Pritchard, the secretary of the Conservative party’s 1922 committee wants a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

He clearly thinks it could be won. Traditionally, Britain is not a referendum-friendly country; many politicians regard these public votes as a way for cowardly leaders to avoid fighting for their convictions in the House of Commons.

But the Alternative Vote referendum in May set a precedent – and it showed right-wingers that they could win referendums. The prospect of any change to the voting system was killed off when the No campaign won 67.9% of the vote.

Back in 2007, then-Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell called for a referendum on EU membership. This idea was laid to rest in 2009.

Even voters who do not share Mr Pritchard’s conviction that the EU is an “occupying force” might want to put the greatest possible distance between the misery-hit Eurozone and the UK.

The irony is that the financial crisis is the latest drama to expose not dictatorial tendencies within the EU but a deficit of leadership.

At a time when the global economy is threatened by the potential collapse of some of our key trading partners European Council president Herman Van Rompuy has singularly failed to become a household name.

There had been talk that Tony Blair would take on this role but the EU opted for a decidedly unpresidential president.

The task of staving off economic cataclysm has fallen on the shoulders of Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

Similarly, the Arab Spring did not make the EU’s first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Cathy Ashton, a diplomatic superstar and it was Sarkozy and David Cameron who battled for intervention.

And though the EU has a deep interest in seeing peace in the Middle East it has nothing like the influence of the United States in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The euro may be in the emergency room but there is a role for a dynamic alliance of European democracies committed to open markets and international engagement.

Whether the sedated institutions of the EU can rise to the challenge is deeply uncertain.

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