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Something to treasure

If I were Greek, I think I would be thinking pretty revolutionary thoughts right now. I would be asking why I should accept a life-time of poverty so that those who lent to my country’s spendthrift ex-government can have their money back.

I might reckon that Greece (plus Portugal and others) might do very much better to revert to economies based on agriculture and tourism and low-cost manufacturing, all of which would boom with a dirt-cheap currency. Of course, those who lent in euros and who get paid back in drachmas will lose almost all their money but if a system fails, it should perhaps be those who sought to profit from it that lose, not those who merely lived their life unwittingly ruled by it.

I suspect that will happen in the end and the euro will retreat to its more logical central European boundaries, where the various national economies have long been joined at the hip.

But while I feel deeply sorry for those poor nations being ruined by sensible German prudence, back home I am perplexed and angry that so many of those politicians who pushed so hard for Britain to join the euro are still telling us what to do from positions of Parliamentary power.

Why on earth should anyone listen to a word they say until they have shown a trace of humility at being proven so incredibly wrong? It is very rare to find an issue this clearcut. There is no wriggle room. If you were in favour of Britain joining the euro back in the 90s, then you were an idiot and should retire from public life. Let’s have a Panorama programme or two playing us all those clips of Messers Clarke and Ashdown and the like saying things which now look hilariously stupid.

It is worth clarifying perhaps that I thought then, and even think now, that it was specifically the British decision to join that would have been idiotic. For other nations, the case was far more understandable. The Germans needed to devalue their currency to better absorb the former East Germany and by adding ever less reliable countries to the euro block have since managed to keep their currency weaker than it should be while not suffering inflation, which is a cracking export combination.

The peripheral and poorer nations such as Ireland and Portugal and even Spain got huge cash inflows and credits for many years, so while in the end it has not worked, their decision to join was a much more understandable error. It was specifically for Britain that joining was always so clearly a stupid thing to want to do.

To this long-resident immigrant, it remains obviously stupid for Britain to want to be at the “heart of Europe”. There is nothing in Britain’s history or culture or national psyche that favours being part of a vast grand project designed to unite previously warring nations.

As the jubilee weekend has just demonstrated, the core values that make this country the best on earth are very different from those that make other countries wonderful. There is within the British psyche a recalcitrant cussedness, a determined independence and a conviction that small is beautiful and the British know best, which perhaps started when Henry VIII told the Pope where to go.

This peculiar national trait is endemic and should be treasured. It is what in the end kept Britain out of the euro and thus gives us a fighting chance of avoiding the worst of the current meltdown. Britain is much better when it ploughs its own path rather than the French one. God save the Queen. Make mine a pint.

Tom Baigrie is chief executive of Lifesearch

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