Monday, 19 August 2013

A Bulldog's Best Friend...

It transpires that the European Union may be set to become, in at least the case of the present altercation between Britain and Spain, the Great British Bulldog's best friend.

Spain has been beset of late by unbelievable unemployment, economic stagnation and a painful near-irrelevance in supranational EU politics. Frustrated and no doubt influenced by the approach of the next general election, the Spanish government must surely be looking out for vote winners.

And one of the great laws of modern history (along with 'Don't Invade Russia') is that if you want to court popularity at home, pick a fight with Britain abroad.

Thus Spain has embarked on a give-us-Gibraltar campaign of lengthy border checks, threats of steep new charges and incendiary rhetoric. Britain has responded… well, how? By grumbling gruffly about Franco? Of course. By pointing out the obvious fact that Spain's economy is a mess, and that this may well be motivating their fractious behaviour? Well, quite. By sending a warship? Incidentally, yes.

But not as big a ship as we sent to Argentina.

In fact, the UK's main response has been to go to the European Commission for mediation. This is curious for two reasons. Firstly, half of the Cabinet rather worship the late Baroness Thatcher, who famously reacted very firmly indeed to Argentina's 1982 invasion of the Falklands. They must be positively itching to send one of our vastly superior warships out there to 'make our point' to 'the Spaniards'.

Secondly, the semi-governing Conservatives are hardly the biggest fans of the EC. In fact, some of them would quite like to remove Britain from its jurisdiction. Yet their leader, the centrist David Cameron, has chosen to use EC-level dialogue as his policy method of choice.

It's a strongly pro-EU statement from the PM and a bit of a gamble. If the EC essentially come down on Spain's side, anti-European sentiment in Britain will grow. Certain disreputable dailies will, no doubt, be outraged. Backbenchers will bawl Itoldyousoooo and UKIP will achieve party-wide collective orgasm at Cameron's PR own-goal.

If, however, the EC takes Britain's side in the row and Spain is forced to back off, this could be a turning moment in Britain's Great European Debate. The most patriotic and militaristic elements of the press (sadly also the most well-read) will be torn between churlish triumphalism and their traditional antipathy towards all things EU.

Either way, this is both a sagacious and a laudable move from the Prime Minister. Once again, however things pan out, I am impressed, Mr. Cameron.

Oh, and by the way - good luck with the bad back.

No comments:

Post a Comment