LONDON –The toughest challenge in politics right now is resolving the tension between the best long-term policy and the best short-term politics. Nowhere is this tension clearer than in Britain’s debate over Europe.
Europe has disturbed and divided British politics for years. But this time is different. Now mainstream politicians from the governing party are openly making the case for Britain leaving the European Union, or at least radically changing its relationship with it – which may amount to the same thing – with the sympathy of some of our nation’s leaders and far wider support among the public.
The reason for this resurgent skepticism and hostility toward the EU is not hard to fathom. Europe is in crisis. The euro’s design flaw – an economic union motivated by politics but expressed in economics – has become manifest. Structural changes to economies that experienced a sharp fall in interest rates when they joined a Germany-dominated currency bloc now must be made quickly, in crisis, and without the luxury of devaluation.
The pain that this policy is causing has been revealed in protests across the continent and in the bitter impact on many struggling families, the young, and the elderly. The foundation of the pro-Europe case was partly the promise of ever upward prosperity. At present that promise is severely in question.