Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Britain's "Isolation"

Recently a well-known journalist friend, lamenting Britain's "isolation," commented that the "best quote" to come out of the unfortunate meeting of European leaders regarding the EU crisis was from an unnamed French diplomat, that "Britain is like a man who wants to go to a wife swapping party but refuses to bring his wife."

Given that my friend is a woman I was surprised that she was so amused that a French diplomat would make a joke about women as chattel to be used as a bargaining chip.

In any case, as to the matter of isolation, I would say that Britain is isolated in the way was the man who stood on the dock as the Titanic pulled away. The French diplomat's line is funny but rather than offering bon mots shouldn't he have been addressing the issue of French bank's low capital ratios? It was actually on just such a point that British Prime Minister David Cameron made his stand. The Eurozone is in a debt crisis, and behind that in a growth crisis, particularly along its southern rim. That a European diplomat would, at that moment, tell jokes at the expense of another EU country seems a sign of dangerous denial and that Europe has a leadership crisis.

In the conversation cited above that same journalist friend compared this moment, with Britain's perceived isolation, to 1936. Let me get this straight. We're to believe that Britain's declining to enter fiscal union with an EU dominated by Germany is akin to Britain's pre-WWII aversion to confront Germany's increasing militarism and to PM Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler? Something is wrong with that figuration.

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