The Europe Dilemma: Britain and the Drama of EU Integration
By Roger Liddle
I. B. Tauris, 2014, 256 pp.
The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU Isn't Working - How it Can Be Reformed - What Could Take Its Place
By Roger Bootle
Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2014, 224 pp.
Pity British politicians, who must contend with absurdly polarized domestic opinion when it comes to the Euro and the EU. Both these books come plastered with plaudits from British pundits and professors, yet they contain starkly opposing policy prescriptions. What they share is an extremism that would condemn either approach to failure if it were ever put into practice.
Liddle harbors genuine pro-European convictions. He believes, even now, that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom Liddle served as a special adviser on Europe, should have brought the United Kingdom into the eurozone, not only for pragmatic economic purposes but also to advance broader political and ideological goals. This fascinating book traces Liddle’s growing disillusionment as he slowly recognized that his political master, always focused on the next election, would never commit to the euro. Undaunted, Liddle devotes his final chapter to describing a “progressive” alternative to the status quo. He calls for the United Kingdom to adopt the euro and for Brussels to pursue a reflationary (and, hence, anti-German) monetary policy in the eurozone, increase stimulus spending, and craft a pan-EU foreign policy.
Bootle is a capital-market investor who advises the British Conservative Party. He believes that the EU is an illegitimate, overregulating, declining failure, and he advocates British withdrawal. Yet after pages of invective, the economic case for his position turns out to be surprisingly weak. Bootle presents no hard data on the likely impact of withdrawal on foreign direct investment, employment levels, or the financial sector in the United Kingdom. Indeed, he remains openly agnostic, and in some cases is even skeptical, about whether the country would be better off without the EU. Faced with such unsatisfying alternatives, no wonder British politicians cannot make up their minds.