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"...what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” “A Republic, if you can keep it

 

The big danger to the euro is that the political  consensus that underpins it could come unstuck
Ingram Pinn illustration©Ingram Pinn

America’s debt-ceiling crisis achieved something quite remarkable. It made the EU look well governed by  comparison. Both the EU and the US systems are weighed down with checks and  balances that make it hard to get things done. But Europe currently has one  thing going for it that America lacks. All the most important decision makers in  Brussels are committed to making the system work. There are no Tea  Party types who regard compromise as a betrayal.

This broad centrist consensus was an unacknowledged strength of the EU  throughout the euro crisis. Although it became routine to complain that European  leaders always do “too little, too late”, the markets also realised that – even  if Europe’s leaders did not get it right first time – they would just reconvene,  at yet another emergency meeting, and keep bashing away at the problem. The fact  that all 28 national leaders at EU summits are committed to working together is  crucial in keeping the euro alive.

 

In the coming year, however, the big danger to the European single currency  is that the political consensus that underpins the euro could come unstuck. A  weak economy, weariness with austerity, anger about immigration and resentment  of a remote-seeming EU are fuelling the ascent of anti-establishment and  nationalist political parties across the continent.

These rising political forces are gaining ground in big EU countries such as  France, the Netherlands, Britain and Italy – and also in smaller nations such as  Greece, Hungary, Finland and Austria. Given that the EU requires unanimity for  many big decisions, even a small state that goes rogue could cause real  trouble.

As the Tea Party has demonstrated in the US, anti-establishment  radicals do not need to capture the position of president or prime minister  to gum up the system. Even if traditional pro-EU centrists continue to lead most  national governments in Europe, their room for manoeuvre at EU summits is  greatly reduced if populist  parties are making big gains back home. A Dutch prime minister who fears the  anti-EU Freedom party – which is topping the opinion polls at present in the  Netherlands – will find it much harder to agree to a new bailout for southern  Europe. Similarly, a British leader who is losing ground to the UK Independence  party will be driven to take more extreme positions in EU negotiations.

Next year’s elections to the European parliament also look like a possible  breakthrough moment for a European Tea Party. The parliament has traditionally  been the most federalist institution in Europe, acting as a lobby group for the  transfer of more powers to Brussels. But next May’s elections are likely to show  a surge in votes for eurosceptic parties across the continent. It is quite  feasible that the National Front will top the polls in France, that the Freedom  party will win in the Netherlands and that Ukip will be the biggest single bloc  from Britain.

What is more, the European parliament has recently gained new powers. While  it lacks the blocking capacity of the US Congress, a rebellious European  legislature could reject the EU budget, prevent crucial appointments and refuse  to sign off on legislation that is needed to prop up the euro.

Europe’s rebel parties are very far from forming a coherent bloc. They range  from proto-fascists such as Hungary’s Jobbik to the far-left Syriza in Greece –  and from conservative nationalists such as Poland’s Law and Justice party to  semi-anarchists such as the Five Star Movement in Italy. Some of the  anti-establishment parties, such as France’s National Front, are trying to make  the journey from the far right towards political respectability. A few, such as  Ukip and parts of the Italian right, share the tax-cutting, small-government  agenda of the Tea Party. Other rebel parties in Europe, including the Dutch  Freedom party, have cast themselves as defenders of the traditional welfare  state.

What almost all Europe’s anti-establishment parties share with the Tea Party,  however, is an anti-elitist rhetoric that casts mainstream politicians as the  servants of a remote, globalised elite. Another central theme that unites most  of Europe’s anti-establishment parties with the Tea Party is resentment of  immigration. When mainstream politicians say – correctly – that their ability to  curb immigration is constrained by EU rules on free movement of people, they  merely fuel populist rage at “out of touch” elites.

Opinion polls in the richer countries of western Europe show an increasing  voter concern about migration – legal and illegal – that is rich fodder for  Europe’s Tea Party types. Anger about the economy and about immigration are  fusing – and can then be easily directed at the EU itself, which has large  powers in both areas. As one British official puts it: “Ukip’s dream is to get  Europe, immigration and welfare into the same sentence.”

Beyond particular issues, what Europe’s rebel parties really share with the  Tea Party in America is a political style – a rhetoric that holds that the  system is rotten, that society is heading for disaster and that therefore  compromise is a betrayal. Even in the US – which has built up global confidence  in the dollar over centuries – the Tea Party’s political machinations came close  to causing a financial panic. For the EU, which is still struggling to rebuild  confidence in the euro, the rise of a European Tea Party would risk  disaster.

Me Here.........This author shows how clueless he is about the American TEA Party.  He does show that people in Europe are getting fed up with an unresponsive central government that dictates to rather than to the people.  He is so afraid of the people being able to tell a government what to do.

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