Surprisingly, in a recent Mail on Sunday poll a full 39 per cent of Britons believed the UK would be better off if the eurozone broke up, while only 28 per cent thought otherwise. Considering the doomsday predictions brandished all year about how a demise of the euro could plunge the entire world into darkness and perdition, this pervasive conviction that Britain would actually benefit from the deep-sixing of the single currency deserves parsing.
A breakup might possibly occasion that long sought referendum on Britain's EU membership or a renegotiation of its terms. But in the short if not medium term, fiscal and perhaps also social chaos within its primary trading partners would surely be catastrophic for the UK. That doesn't mean that 39 per cent of Brits in that poll were stupid. I've a hunch many Britons who answered positively meant something slightly different: "I realise the backwash over here could make June's flooding in Surrey look like a leaky tap. I still want to see the euro fail, never mind that euro-go-blooie is not in my country's or even my personal interest." i.e. cut nose, spite face.
That very cognitive dissonance has riven me since this whole continental debacle began. An American living in London, I have no wish to see the US or UK get any more decrepit. My few investments would certainly suffer from yet another global financial calamity, and any novelist is obviously better off when consumers keep enough cash in their pockets to buy something so unnecessary as a book. So in general I perk up when some better-than-expected American manufacturing figure comes in, and brood when growth figures for yet another quarter in the UK are revised downwards. This is rational.
What is not rational is jumping for joy every time a turn of the wheel seems to signal that the euro is sure to go belly-up. Wholly aware that the blowback from such an upheaval could negatively impact both me personally and the two countries I care about most, I still take perverse delight in the prospect of a euro collapse, for which I root with the passion that my neighbours reserve for football. Only when I tripped across that Mail on Sunday poll did I conclude that I'm not alone.