“Do you know what it means for me to see for the first time in 50 years a French European commissioner in charge of the internal market, including financial services, including the City (of London)? I want the world to see the victory of the European model, which has nothing to do with the excesses of financial capitalism.” (As quoted by The Daily Telegraph.)
“Victory”? So we were at war, then? Oh dear ….. you are 60 years out of date old boy, or perhaps 500 years! Does Agincourt still hurt so much?
One has for some time had the feeling that Europe’s leaders are a mediocre lot, with “statesmen” being very thin on the ground. Unfortunately, this impression has just been reinforced by Nicholas Sarkozy’s outrageous, finger-wagging gloating about the appointment of Michel Barnier to the EU post of Internal Markets Commissioner.
From this lofty position this mighty expert on world financial markets threatens to regulate the City to “European” (aka French) “‘standards”. The rationale will be to avoid another financial crisis by “reining in” the banks. The not-so-hidden agenda will be to sap the vitality of London so that Paris and Frankfurt in particular can cream off some of the rich pickings.
This is stupid and reprehensible for a number of reasons.
Firstly, any cutting-off of the City at the knees will not result in financial firms emigrating to sclerotic, over-regulated, pretentious, high-cost, overblown Europe but to the USA or elsewhere. True, the US is reeling at present, but I for one won’t bet on the mighty beast remaining on its knees for very long. And when it does rise up again, Europe will still be the same old bureaucratic, state-interfering, suffocating, high-tax business and financial environment that we know and hate.
Moreover, Sarko’s diatribe is extraordinarily partisan. If London’s City is a world financial centre, then this is to Europe’s advantage as much as Britain’s. Sapping its vitality will hurt Europe, ensuring that more financial business flows elsewhere. In the electronic age, it is not fine French wines or German Wurst that will keep these companies in France or Germany.
And what sort of pro-Europe message are such comments going to send to ordinary British voters, who all polls suggest would actually vote to leave Europe if given a choice, which of course they will not be? Britain has lost almost all its once-mighty fishing industry, still pays to support French farming, has almost no indigenous motor industry any more … but at least we have the City. If Sarko’s hatchet-man gets his way, it will be regulated to its knees …..
Sarkozy’s comments were the most prattish, partisan, nationalistic and stupid comments ever made by one of the principal leaders of Europe. And apart from anything else, Barnier has to swear to uphold the interests of ALL EUROPE when taking up his post; the fact that he is French should be IRRELEVANT. The nationalistic cynicism of Sarkozy’s comments are breathtaking. There have been frantic efforts by Barnier himself to backtrack in recent days, as London seethed at Sarko’s comments. But you can’t undo the past. Sarkozy said what he said; one has no reason to suppose he didn’t mean it.
Yes, there have been terrible excesses, but not all the City is to blame. And German and Franco banks hardly kept their snouts out of the trough, almost ALL European banks having been clobbered, so inter-connected is the banking world. And I for one haven’t forgotten the shameful fiasco at French Credit Lyonnais a few years ago, nor the recent £5 billion loss ($8 bn) by a rogue trader at Société Générale two years ago.
“The European Model”? It is laughable ……. Continental Europe has nothing to teach us about creating a healthy economy and sustainable jobs.
Sadly, Sarkozy’s narrow-minded nationalism have been matched by the stupefying incompetence of the British government in failing to block the appointment of Barnier, a well-known regulator à la française and the last thing Europe needs. We need reforms, yes, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater was never a good idea, and nor is it now.
And Mr President – less of that finger-wagging please …..
By Chris Snuggs