Last toast: The fall of the Berlin Wall has rendered the EU out of date (Wolfgang Kumm/DPA)
Almost overnight, euroenthusiasts have folded their tents and abandoned the field. Television editors, unable to find any elected representatives prepared to argue for closer integration, keep having to make do with a former Labour MEP called Richard Corbett, who now works for European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Barely a week passes without another pro-Brussels columnist turning his coat and claiming to have had his doubts all along (Matthew Parris and Max Hastings are among the most recent to have issued gracious recantations). Paddy Ashdown, a long-standing federalist, now says that it would be better for the single currency to break apart.
Commentators who have spent years singing paeans of praise to the European project are chanting threnodies over its coffin. No less an Establishment europhile than Sir Stephen Wall, the man who ran Britain's European policy under John Major and Tony Blair, now says: "We have seen the high point of the European Union. With a bit of luck it will last our lifetime, but it's on the way out." Sir Stephen is 64.
I can't help feeling that we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. We empirical British often make the mistake of thinking that, because something can't work, it won't happen. It's what we said about Soviet Communism and, of course, we were ultimately right. But it wouldn't have been much fun to have been born in Moscow in 1910 and lived through the process of it not working. There is, as Adam Smith said, a deal of ruin in a nation — or in a union.
The logical response to the euro crisis would be to recognise that it was wrong to jam widely divergent countries into a single set of policies. While there are no easy outcomes from here, the least bad option would be an orderly unbundling of the euro, allowing the peripheral states to devalue and begin exporting their way back to growth.
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