Henry Forth writes from Brussels: If Gilbert & Sullivan were still with us, they could have written an opera about the latest EU farce: eleven governments coming up with a proposal to have a single European defence and foreign policy. They want a foreign minister and a defence minister and an elected European President.
We’re not talking about federalism, cries out Jose Manuel Barroso, the weird looking President of the European Commission. Then what are we talking about then, Jose Manuel? (Could be a tense scene in the opera, with eleven heads of state signing from the same hymn sheet.)
The dream of many European politicians seems to boil down to creating a vast EU bureaucratic empire where they can all have privileges and fat pensionable salaries without pretty much doing anything. The base has already been created. Brussels is now tailor-made for some fancy living by the Eurocrats. The offices are posh, the salaries are high, the eateries are in abundance. And, most importantly, there’s nothing much to do here and there is no responsibility for anything.
Yes, opera lovers, this is true Titipu with Jose Manuel perfectly cast as the Mikado, surrounded by Pooh-Bahs, Pish Tushes, secretaries with long lean legs disguised as Yum-Yums and hit men disguised as real life Ko-Kos. And they all gather to sing the opening number If You Want To Know Who We Are, but with a different ending. Because if you want to know who makes up all these silly EU schemes and alarums, you will never know.
So, what’s in the first act? Well, it’s a collective aria that goes something like this: if Europe wants to avoid collapsing in a pile of soiled euros and the pongy detritus of failed bankers then there has to be complete Union of Titipu. The EU has to be the United Federal States of Europe with its central bank and a finance minister. And then there should be foreign and defence ministers, to decide which new exciting wars to start abroad to spread democracy.
Henry Kissinger would have a walk-on part in this production: he would be wheeled on to the stage, asking his eternal question: if I want to speak to Europe, whom do I call? And the chorus would respond: you call an elected president in Brussels, Henry. (That may be a very tense and exciting scene.)
But evil forces in the opera would not hear about it. The UK would not be buying this plan. And nor would France. Neither would dream of allowing the rest of Europe to have a say in their nuclear deterrent policy. The UK takes orders not from Brussels but from Washington. That more or less works OK, except that the US treats the UK with contempt, even though recent British prime ministers didn’t quite get that. (It will all be put into an aria by some dodgy looking yank.)
Into this Deadly Eleven scheme comes the hero of Titipu, Nanki-Poo squeaking his most famous aria A Wanderin’ Minstrel I, who enters with aspect stern and gloomy stride as G&S had it.
Nanki-Poo is, of course, an Old Etonian and Bullingdon Club beast, David Cameron, playing the part of a British Prime Minister although not for much longer. He says we think this is such a daft idea, the federal Europe, that is, that we will not even go to the meeting that’s talking about the defence and foreign policy scheme.
Well done Nanki-Dave, that’s the ticket! Instead of getting briefed and going to the meeting to rip it apart, he wants to pretend it isn’t happening.
But the truth is Nanki mon cher, one day it will happen. A federal Europe is inevitable and has been ever since the Treaty of Rome in 1957 determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe and resolved – by thus pooling their resources – to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty. You can say, Nanki old bean that that was all a long time ago and things have changed. Right about a long time ago, Wrong about things changing.
G&S’s Titipu would survive by sticking to the old ways in a new form and by showing that the lord high executioner’s task was to scare the people into believing the whole fantasy. The Titipu of Barroso et al not only survives in the same manner, it eventually has the people outside the city walls left on the outside.
Today, no one much cares about the Deadly Eleven plan. But in a decade from now when defence budgets will be the halitosis of still-stretched economies believing that the Europeans ought to be doing more, then the Europeans of Titipu will take out the plan again and Nanki-Dave’s successor will, on the basis of wanting to run things, sign up.
By that time of course, America will only be a token member of NATO and so European NATO will become the EU’s joint defence policy. Get it? Nothing much changes that matters – as Ko-Ko always said. One neck on a block looks much the same as another and the salaries are fat which is why it’ll not change..