ECONOMIC ALERT: The eurozone crisis is just getting started

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On the face of it, they seem worlds apart. Switzerland’s referendum vote against the free movement of labour, the ruling by the German Constitutional Court on the European Central Bank’s (ECB) attempts to save the euro, and the warning to Scotland that it won’t be allowed to keep the pound if it votes for independence – these might seem unrelated, but in truth they are all part of an increasingly explosive stand-off between the forces of national sovereignty on the one hand, and political and economic integration on the other. With elections in May likely to give rise to the most Eurosceptic parliament in the EU’s history, Europe’s long-running financial and economic crisis is threatening to spill over into an all-encompassing political one. According to Berlin and Brussels, Europe’s dark night of the soul – its most serious crisis since the Second World War – is now essentially behind us, with the promise of a slowly recovering economy and renewed political harmony to come. To my mind, it has hardly begun. Europe’s epic attempt to impose political union on widely divergent countries is being broken on the back of economic hardship, popular discontent, and financial disintegration. Virtually all successful currency unions start with political union, and then proceed through shared insurance, institutions, and fiscal arrangements to a common form of exchange. Europe, it hardly needs saying, is trying to do it the other way round; it has forced monetary union on an unsuspecting public, and now, via the resulting financial crisis, hopes to bulldoze through the shared fiscal and political arrangements that might eventually make it work, culminating ultimately in a United States of Europe. More
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