I promise I am not going soft, but I am beginning to feel a little bit sorry for David Cameron and George Osborne.
As a regular attendee of European summits when Labour was in power, I always feel a bit sorry for anyone who has to eat into the weekend to go to some soulless conference centre, glad-hand, smalltalk and occasionally do a bit of genuine debate and negotiation which gets something done.
As Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun used to delight in pointing out, I was always a little bit more Eurosceptoc than TB, and it was in part the regular ridiculousness of summiteering that made me so. It also made me see the fundamental flaw in the single currency – that its driving force was every bit as much political as it was economic.
The political imperative of the EU – peace and prosperity across Europe- is a good one. But too much political capital was expended on the fixes and the broken rules that got as many countries as possible into the euro, which is now creaking under the weight of its own contradictions.
So why the sympathy for DC and GO? Well, because as George arrives in Brussels today, he righhtly said there had to be a comprehensive solution to the eurozone crisis. But he could not say, and certainly cannot much influence, what it is likely to be. But the reality is that he has the worst of all worlds – politically we are out of the euro so don’t call the shots, yet economically we are to all intents and purposes in it, as if the crisis doesn’t ger resolved, the UK economy risks being hit just as hard as the big eurozone economies.
Meanwhile, Cameron becomes the latest in a long line of Tory leaders to find that what Ed Miliband rightly calls ‘barking’ Eurosceptic backbenchers have the capacity to make his life he’ll. And as it to underline his impotence on the eurozone, be is off to Australia when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets President Sarkozy of France next week.
I’m not feeling terribly sympathetic towards Angela Merkel. Well, I sympathise with the weight on her shoulders, with every major government in the world saying she has to take a decisive lead. But the Germans, for all their reputation for financial rectitude, turned a fair few blind eyes to the economic realities of smaller countries when they let them in.
It is all a bit of a mess, and with huge consequences. In recent days I have been in Albania, Macedonia, Norway, Germany, France and the UK. In the non eurozone countries, the eurozone crisis was as big a worry as it was in the eurozone itself. I detected very little confidence it is going to be satisfactorily resolved any time soon. No wonder George was looking so gloomy.