#DevoMax – good enough for Scotland, good enough for England too?

Interesting article (many valid points) but why did @Frances_Coppola say: “Wales and Northern Ireland would still be represented [in the Westminster Parliament], although there would probably need to be fundamental changes to prevent them being swamped by the dominance of England”?

Why do we draw this distinction between Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the UK? If someone claims to be English and demands fair representation for the English, they are roundly derided as little Englanders and xenophobic. Yet when someone in Scotland, Wales and Ireland says they are Scottish, Welsh or Irish and demands the same they are applauded as proud, independent people. Nationalism seems to be considered acceptable beyond the English border but not in England.

Yet there are no major genetic, racial, facial, or ethic differences between most of the people living in the UK. This whole debate about nationalism is founded on a nonsense notion that there is still a clear distinction between various local tribes. Even if there were, there are probably as many so-called Scots, Welsh and Irish living in England as there are so-called English in the rest of the UK. But if one group of people is permitted to demand self-determination, surely all should have the same right.

Now let’s look at the East of England: population 5.3m compared with 5.1 in Scotland. We are as homogeneous as the population in Scotland – we even have a proud history as a once independent kingdom (OK not since 917AD) and a rather independent state of mind (the unofficial motto of Norfolk is ‘do different’). Why shouldn’t we have equal representation and control over our destiny as people in Scotland – #DevoMax even?

Time perhaps to abolish all the district and county councils in the region and have an East Anglian parliament instead. We could build it between Bury St Edmunds and Thetford – our ancient capitals. By reducing the number of politicians and paying them a professional salary we might even reduce bureaucracy, improve efficiency and increase accountability – while attracting a higher calibre of candidate.

PS: As far as I can tell, I have a fair mix of Welsh, English, and Irish ancestors (as well as a few from the ‘kingdoms’ of Yorkshire and Lancashire) – so what does that make me? I think the answer is British.

What does Mrs Merkel mean when she calls for fiscal union?

My reply to this article http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a4271df0-2663-11e1-85fb-00144feabdc0.html#comment-1586251 in today’s FT:

Please can the FT go back and ask Frau Merkel what she really means by a fiscal union (or to use the phrase of choice from last week’s agreement – a ‘fiscal stability union’ see para 1 of this http://consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/126658.pdf).

I am pretty certain she means something very different to what most people mean, including officials in the US (which perhaps explains why Tim Geithner thought last week’s summit might come up with a workable solution – which it obviously did not).

When Merkel says fiscal union she in fact means enhanced stability and growth pact – read the summit agreement or read her proposal before the summit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8941290/Fostering-fiscal-discipline-Angela-Merkel-and-Nicolas-Sarkozys-letter-to-Herman-Van-Rompuy-in-full.html.

She promises austerity yes, rules yes, punishment yes (as made clear in April by the way http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/120296.pdf ) – but not and never (if I have understood her previous comments correctly) what’s needed for a single currency to function effectively – and that is full fiscal (and political) union.

In other words, the euro needs a single treasury (logically controlled by a single executive, answerable to a single legislature, elected by a single demos), harmonised taxes, and a generous transfer union. As George Osborne rightly observed (like many before him, who were vilified for saying as much), that is ‘the inexorable logic of ever closer union’.

Full fiscal and political union was the dream of the founders of the EU – it is what Mr Delors admits he wanted (and regrets not getting) when he helped launch the single currency. However, Frau Merkel (and I suspect nearly every German) seems dead set against such a move.

No matter how much she might talk about the long game there is no serious attempt being made to sell this vision of unification to the voters in Germany or elsewhere in Europe – because none of the euro leaders appear to really share that ultimate vision either.

So please FT, for the sake of clarity – make sure nothing is being lost in translation – the future of the euro might depend on it.

Kind regards

Huw Sayer

Can the euro be saved?

Copy of my reply to an excellent post by Martin Wolf at the FT http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c3085eb4-202d-11e1-9878-00144feabdc0.html#comment-1582226 :

Careful, Mr Wolf, with comments like this – “the initial design of the eurozone was defective, as most intelligent analysts then knew; it has also revealed – and, in the process, exacerbated – a fundamental lack of trust, let alone sense of shared identity.” (No matter that Mr Delors admitted as much only the other week.)

You risk being castigated as a euro-sceptic – told you simply don’t understand – worse still, vilified as a xenophobic little Englander – for daring to view the euro through anything other than rose-tinted spectacles.

In this febrile atmosphere it seems you are either a euro-fanatic or you are an enemy of the glorious project – there is apparently no middle ground – rational, logical, analysis routinely gets heckled as the enemy of vision. Shooting the messenger is the MO of EU Commission flunkies.

Naturally the only ‘real’ solution is to forge ahead with (as George Osborne rightly called it) ‘the inexorable logic of ever closer union’: full fiscal and political union, a single treasury (logically controlled by a single executive, answerable to a single legislature), harmonised taxes, and a generous transfer union. The dream of the founders must be realised at all costs – however painful or tragic.

I wish you luck with your words of advice but fear they are too little, too late – much as the cry of ‘Iceberg’ in 1912 could not save the Titanic – so the cry of ‘credit’ will not save the euro.

Kind regards

Huw Sayer