All Quiet on the Western Front
After the euphoria of OXISunday comes a disturbingly normal day in Europe. The one-eyed Merkel hoped for by The Slog in the EU of the Blind hasn’t materialised: on the contrary, the word from Berlin and Frankfurt is not good.
The German leader said she would “listen politely” to what Tsipras has to say later today at the eurogroupe, which sounds less than engaged. Asked of ‘bridge funding’ for Greece while a new bailout programme is being negotiated could be a possibility, European Central Bank Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said “Whether it’s possible is something that has to be discussed.” Right. We’ll do that then.
The mood in Berlin can be summed up in three words: Grexit or Bust. That could of course add up to Grexit and Bust, but the inflexible Hun mind has moved on from glorified slavery to amputation. I understand this hasn’t gone down well with the Black Dude, although I’m sure the new Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos is delighted: a confirmed eurosceptic and respected Marxist economist, Mr Tsakolotos is among those who quite rightly see the EU as just another citizen-crushing superstate. Privately, for instance, he is keen to fire the BoG boss Yannis Stournaras – a move which, to my mind, is long overdue.
There is talk in Frankfurt that the eurogroupe session will make everything “crystal clear”. Oh dear.
I’ve been reading a Twitter feed this morning about Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech in the European Parliament. I think I can say without fear of rebuke that he didn’t come out of it very well. Probably pissed, possibly demented. Either way, the hypocritical woffle counter was clicking away noisily throughout.
Today of course Juncker will be at the Emergency Summit meeting along with most of the other pillocks responsible for destroying the Greek economic infrastructure. Lagarde won’t be there – she’s boycotting it, another helpful fit of pique – which is probably just as well, as perhaps it would’ve given Alexis Tsipras a chance to point out how terrific her contribution was to the French economy in her previous position:
An EU accountable to the People and on the ball (as opposed to the make) would’ve wrapped up the Greek deal months ago and then started to tackle two far bigger problems the Union faces: that of the French economy going to Hell in a bucket, and the biggest EU economy outside the eurozone possibly heading for secession.
I say ‘possibly’ because UKip’s leaders have made such a balls of presenting the truly dysfunctional and anti-democratic nature of the European Union to the British People, for the time being it looks as if the IN campaign may well carry the day. Looked at in terms of empirical reality – and without the usual stream of media bollocks – the case for leaving the EU before things get any worse is irrefutable. But even one of the most prominent eurosceptic Tory big beasts admitted in private last week that the UK electorate has been persuaded the risk of abandoning the EUsitania is too great.
That may well change once the eurozone’s implosion starts to accelerate. The fact that the ECB is still providing ELA to the Greek banking system shows yet again that, for all the bluster, brown trousers are now de rigueur at the central bank. Since the OXI vote last Sunday, the battered € has slumped back to 1.41 to the £. German 10-year bunds saw investors steaming into the safe port, but the Italian equivalent yields shot up by eight basis points.
In the meantime, today we can all look forward to a George Osborne Budget crammed to the gunnels with dissembling half-truths, and apples being compared to pears on the quality dimension of size. Fib-watching has become a national sport in the Budget speech since the The Draper took over at The Treasury, but for myself I won’t be watching because he gives me that same vaguely creepy feeling I sometimes got when Basil Fawlty was lying to the clientele. “The Chef sends his apologies but he can’t make a Waldorf salad today because we’re right out of waldorfs” and so forth.
This unease I have is aggregated when I remember that the Chancellor does know what he’s up to, but not what he’s doing: he has, after all, no qualifications whatsoever for the job. He read History at Magdalene and was briefly a researcher in the Ministry of Ag Fish & Food. So he’d be good on use-by dates, but not a lot else. His maths results at school were OKish, no more; he has no grounding in economics, never worked in the City, and failed miserably at every attempt to get a proper job as a journalist.
Yet somehow, having failed to clear the UK deficit, failed to keep Britain’s Triple-A ratings status and failed to diversify our ludicrously financial services top-heavy economy, George has convinced even a large proportion of seasoned financial journalists that he knows the difference between deficit and defaecate. And to top it all, the National Debt is accelerating at a higher rate than at any time: when Osborne took office, the Debt was 50.2% of gdp. It is now 80.4%.
Whichever way you cut it, the austerity policy has been a farcical, mathematically simplistic failure. Today, Britain stands out among thinking fiscal economists as the most exposed, lopsided and heavily import-dependent economy in the First World. Still, I suppose if your best friend is Charlie, the chances are you can bluff your way through anything.
So there we have it: all quiet on the Western Front. Nothing to worry about at all and this won’t hurt a bit. Breathe deeply now please….