Why Scotland should beware of the EU

Why Scotland should beware of the EU

by Alan Sked
article from Tuesday 23, March, 2021

LAST WEEK I pointed out the various political delusions that Scots suffer from. Believing Sturgeon can survive is perhaps another one, but that is something we can discuss in a more informed fashion once the dust settles from the two reports published this week. In my last article I pointed out that it was delusional to believe the EU would allow a potentially insolvent independent Scotland to become a member state – should the Scots ever be silly enough to vote for separatism, unless, of course, an irrational EU agreed to do so out of its bitter resentment of Brexit.  

Still – and intelligent Scots should beware – all the signs are that irrationalism is fast becoming the guiding philosophy of the EU. If it was enraged by Brexit, its loss of control over its vaccine rollout has brought about sheer lunacy.  

Consider its actions – first attempting to create a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to stop vaccines being exported to Britain, in spite of all its crocodile tears during the Brexit negotiations about how a physical border would break the Good Friday Agreement. Then not long afterwards it prevented Italy from exporting 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia. The result is that countries all around the world from Canada to India have lost faith in EU commitments. Meanwhile the pernicious influence of a steady flow of irresponsible statements from leading politicians – Macron most infamously saying that Britain had cut corners to produce the AstraZeneca jab and that it was ineffective for those aged over 65, Merkel for a long time stating she would not be vaccinated with it – was reinforced when 17 EU member states suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine when about 40 cases out of 17 million had side effects, side effects which British, European and World Health Organisations almost immediately dismissed as being unconnected to the vaccine.  

This is important since vaccination scepticism is hugely more prevalent in France and Germany than in the UK where the role of the NHS in organising the rollout reassures everyone. Or almost everyone. Here we are told that the BAME population has doubts from historical experience, although according to journalist Anne McElvoy, Antivaxers are actually more likely to be those who ‘complain about Brexit, eat organic and are convinced Greens.’ 

No surprise there.  

In France and Germany on the other hand 40-50 per cent of the population are against vaccination. Why this should be so, is illuminated greatly by an article in the weekend’s Sunday Times by Dominic Lawson.  In France, for example, according to an opinion poll,  a quarter of the male population under the age of 35 fear they are suffering from some form of illness although they manifest no signs of any. They therefore buy one of the many ‘natural  remedies’ stocked by French pharmacies including Oscillo, a popular flu remedy made from one part duck offal to 10 to the 400th part water. Literally a ‘quack remedy’, as Lawson points out. The result of French hypochondria is that they buy three times as many pills and potions as we do. Yet they will resist the ‘unnatural’ vaccine, with half of French supplies stored, still unused, in fridges despite complaints of shortages. One French expert told Lawson that France, as a result, will be cured by mass infection rather than mass vaccination.  

Germany, too, has a historic preference for natural cures as opposed to medicines. German television is full of advertisements for these. And Germany, one should recall,  is also the home of homeopathy which is covered there by 70 per cent of government backed health insurance plans. So Europe is full of people who see medicine as an interference with nature, which of course it is. Unfortunately vaccination is the greatest achievement of medicine which, in Lawson’s words, “has saved vastly more lives than all other medicines combined in human history.” 

Today the UK has vaccinated over fifty per cent of its adult population including Scots, and yet our benighted Nationalists and Greens would prefer to secede from it to join the lunatics in Brussels who have so far inoculated only 12 per cent of adults in the EU and are facing a third wave of infections while we face only normality. Don’t they care about Scottish lives?

One problem for the EU is that it does not seem able to distinguish between states and companies. Its supply difficulties are with international pharmaceutical companies not with us. Britain is no more responsible for Europe’s problems than it is for what EU politicians now prefer to call the ‘British virus’ rather than the Kent variant (it was discovered in a Kent Lab).  Brussels negotiated its vaccine supplies late and with contracts that only mandated ‘best efforts’ on the part of its not always well chosen suppliers. It is now apoplectic that the Pfizer vaccine although discovered by Germans (actually naturalised Turks who developed it in America) has not been available in large enough doses in Germany while the Pfizer factory in Belgium, under a tighter UK contract, exports millions of doses to Britain. The fact that over seven million AstraZeneca doses remain unused in fridges throughout the EU due to its irrationally yet deliberately ruined reputation is always overlooked.  

Brussels, having falsely complained that Britain had banned the exports of its own vaccines, is now threatening to ban the export of Pfizer vaccines to Britain. This would be madness. Not only would it destroy the EU’s reputation for upholding contract law, but would make it an unreliable home for any future inward investment. Which international pharmaceutical (or any other) company would henceforth consider investing in Europe? Besides, starting a trade war is always unpredictable. Britain for example produces bio-material without which the Pfizer vaccine cannot be made. If she chose not to export it in retaliation, Europe would get no Pfizer vaccines at all.  

The EU is therefore in a bind. It is facing a third wave of Covid with little hope of vaccinating its way forward. Worse still, large sections of its population are refusing to be vaccinated while growing numbers are rioting in the streets for (arguably) already too loose restrictions to be removed. The resulting frustration threatens to undermine the ruling political order in Germany and France. In Germany a week ago the ruling CDU came second and third with between only 24 per cent and 26 per cent of the vote in its former strongholds in Rhineland-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg and it could well lose the German federal election in September. Macron looks set to lose the French presidency next year. And he certainly deserves to. But that may be the least of Europe’s worries. The cost of Covid and the inability of the euro area to cover it, might yet undermine the EU altogether.  

The huge government indebtedness of states like France, Spain, Italy and Greece is putting the financial structures of the Eurozone under huge strain. It is already quite clear that its so-called ‘Hamiltonian moment’ last year, which saw the establishment of a €750 billion reconstruction fund, has passed. The money provided is much too small, distributed in grants and loans (whose conditions make them unwanted) over five years and amounts to nothing compared to say the trillions of dollars proposed by Biden. Instead Europe is depending on the massive quantitative easing (QE programme) being undertaken once again by the European Central Bank which is being used to buy up governments’ debts.  

This trick was used belatedly by the EU in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis (at first only the UK and USA used it) when by 2011, a crisis in the sovereign bond market particularly over Greek indebtedness, forced its hand.  

However, QE was never popular. It threatened inflation and ended up bringing negative interest rates which reduced the savings of German and Dutch OAPs. The Italian President of the ECB, Mario Draghi (now forced on the Italians as their prime minister) was called ‘Draghila’ in the German media. In fact, QE was probably illegal under the Maastricht Treaty and a number of distinguished German academics took the ECB to court for this reason, with the German Supreme Court half endorsing their case. Today, with the massive resumption of the policy, despite that ruling, 16 more professors have returned to court. There will be no quick verdict but it could be devastating.  

The outlook is ominous. Just as Britain and the USA look like conquering the virus through successful vaccination programmes (with Britain vaccinating over 800,000 people in a single day at the weekend) the EU looks unable to accelerate its rollout at a time when infections are rising exponentially all over the Continent. This means that as the British and American economies recover this year with growth and employment reducing national deficits and debt,  most EU economies will remain in crisis with national deficits rising even further. Will the ECB still be able to buy these up and therefore prevent a new crisis in the bond market? Already fear of inflation is pushing up yields for gilts and US treasury bonds with pressure now also being exerted on the Eurozone. Indeed, during the last quarter of 2020 capital outflows from the Eurozone reached 20 per cent of annualised GDP, greater than anything witnessed during the last euro crisis. The sky is turning black with chickens coming home to roost.  

This time a crisis in the sovereign bond market could come not over tiny Greece but over Italy or even France. And political crises in France, Italy or even Germany – all of which face key elections in the near future – could provide a trigger. Would the EU then suddenly agree to Fiscal Union? Or, given the clear incompetence of the Commission, would the Eurozone break up and the EU with it? I doubt whether Germans would wish to entrust their future to Ursula von der Leyen, whose incompetence in her homeland is already legendary. More likely the rats will desert her sinking ship.  

So why is the SNP flying its flag from official buildings in Scotland? Treachery? Quite certainly. But publicly asking for a first-class ticket on the latest version of the Titanic is worse than that. It is a public declaration of desperation, bankruptcy, ignorance and lunacy and open recognition that Scotland cannot govern itself by itself. Some option to give the Scottish people in May – rule not just by the incompetent and probably mendacious Sturgeon but even worse, rule by her under the captaincy of the certainly mendacious and incompetent von der Leyen. The icebergs around the new Titanic have been duly noted. Von der Leyen will probably order ‘full steam ahead’ anyway, yet fortunately for us Scots, her ship will probably already have sunk before Sturgeon gets any chance of boarding it.  

Thank God for Britain, Boris and Brexit. The latter has saved not only the jobs of tens of thousands of Scots but also that many lives. Meanwhile, an ungracious and ungrateful Sturgeon and her cruelly stupid party, flies what really amounts to a white flag from Scottish public buildings. As I ended last time, Wallace and Bruce would be ashamed, thoroughly ashamed.  

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Alan Sked was educated at Allan Glen's School in Glasgow, before going on to study Modern and Medieval History at the University of Glasgow, followed by a DPhil in Modern History at Merton College, Oxford. Sked taught at the London School of Economics where he became a leading authority on the history of the Hapsburg Empire, also teaching US and modern intellectual history and the history of sex, race and slavery. Alan Sked is now Emeritus Professor of International History at the London School of Economics. @profsked   

Photo of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen courtesy of European Commission. 

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