Old Thinking from Old Media

by Andrew Stuttaford

The New York Times tells Brits to stick with the EU, citing the supposedly sage words of the head of the Confederation of British Industry, the genius group that also supported the U.K.’s membership of the ERM (a precursor to the single currency), an adventure that ended in disaster for Britain (there was a golden lining, however: the U.K.’s ejection from the ERM paved the way for the economic boom of the mid-90s).

The Times drones on:

Twenty-seven countries now belong to the European Union, with several more nations like Iceland, Serbia and Turkey hoping to join. Even without further expansion, the union accounts for almost 50 percent of British trade and is its largest trading partner.

Not mentioned is the fact that the U.K. runs a trade deficit with the rest of the EU. It will be in both sides’ interest to maintain friendly trading relations in the aftermath of a separation. Also not mentioned is that according to the latest polls most Icelanders want to withdraw their country’s ill-judged application for membership. And there’s also the little unmentioned matter that France and Germany remain firmly opposed to Turkish membership of the EU, quite rightly so; it’s an idea of such asininity that it takes a Cameron or Obama to support it.

And then there’s this:

But the union’s shortcomings are all the more reason for Britain to keep its seat at the table where Europe’s economic future will be made.

Ah yes, the old seat at the table argument. Like securing a reservation for the dining room on the Titanic, it lacks much appeal.

It’s also desperately out-of-date. The Times continues:

Britain, as the Continent’s third-largest economy after Germany and France, has had a crucial role in shaping European policy, pushing the bloc toward freer trade and away from political federalism.

Yes, but in the past. So far as the latter is concerned, the momentum is once again firmly in the federalist direction that was never truly abandoned, and the Brits have (effectively) been told that there is nothing they can do about it. As a result, the reality of the matter is that the EU is just as likely to leave Britain as Britain is to leave the EU.

Wait, there’s more:

And it [the UK] has helped preserve the rights of others to opt out of unwanted initiatives like the euro.

No longer. Any countries joining the EU since the late 1990s have been obliged to sign up for automatic membership of the euro as soon as they meet the Maastricht economic criteria. That’s why Estonia abandoned the Kroon (despite widespread popular opposition) in 2011, and why Latvia seems set to sign up for the single currency in the very near future.

There’s more, but read the whole piece for yourself.

It would be nice if the New York Times could do rather more in the way of analysis of this issue than accepting dictation from Brussels and the establishment hacks of the CBI.

But that is clearly too much for hope for.

The Corner

The one and only.