I wonder just how slow, or stupid, people need to be, to believe that the creation of a two-speed Europe, as opposed to any other speed you care to mention, will make any real difference to the final destination that its creators have ultimately set out for it. If we were all travelling to Brussels, does it really matter how long we took to get there, or what route we took, because after all that's our final destination, which in this particular case is a federal European super state called the United States of Europe.
I mention this, only because a number of British newspapers have been carrying headlines celebrating the fact that the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, has been reported as stating that he can now recognise the possible need for a two-speed Europe, those who are in the Eurozone proper and those who are not, the "inners" and the "outers" if you will. Of course, desperate as they are for good news on the whole European subject, the Tory led coalition government of David Cameron has seized on Mr Schauble's remarks as some sort of confirmation that their stated aims of renegotiating our European membership terms can and will be a successful electoral strategy, in the run-up to the 2015 elections, which is clearly a nonsense.
The German government of Angela Merkel have already made plain their desire to keep the UK in the European Union, up to a point, so a sop here, or a sop there that allows Mr Cameron to claim some sort of successful negotiating strategy, would be well worth the price of appearing to acquiesce to some of his demands. Remember the phrase, a "two speed" Europe, not a divergent one, not a parallel one, but a Europe that has a shared destination, of ever closer union. After all, it wasn't that many weeks ago that Chancellor Merkel addressed both British houses of parliament and informed all of our representatives and legislators that they were likely to be "disappointed" if they expected any sort of radical change to the EU, or indeed her personal vision for it. In other words, the project continues apace, with no deviations, no major compromises, just the odd tweak here and there to satisfy Europhiles like Mr Cameron in order that they can honestly try and hoodwink their native electorates.
The only reason that Germany would even entertain the idea accommodating David Cameron's wish list of repatriated competencies is purely for their own national benefit; and to ensure the success of the entire European experiment, of which Germany has been one of the chief architects. As the biggest, wealthiest and most influential economy in Europe; and the country to have gained the greatest economic benefit from the creation of the Eurozone, Germany has inadvertently found itself acting as the bank of last resort for the ill thought out and wholly ineffective continental currency. As the greatest beneficiary of the Euro scheme, the Euro's ongoing struggle to fit a number of massively ill-matched national economies into a single unitary currency has been a disaster from beginning to end, creating a situation where all of Germany's economic gains might easily be mortgaged to pay off the debts of other more profligate member states. Although Britain has reasonably stayed out of the Eurozone, as has Sweden and Denmark, their economic influence remains essential, if only because of the billions that they pump into the EU on an annual basis. Were it not for the now much reduced rebate that the UK receives back from the European Union, Britain would likely be a bigger contributor to the EU than Germany, so it is hardly surprising that Chancellor Merkel and her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, are more than happy to throw Mr Cameron a few crumbs now and again, especially if it helps guarantee the £8 billion direct membership fee that our country pays into the club every single year, not including the billions that are also being paid in other associated regulatory costs.
Number 10 may well celebrate Mr Schaubles public endorsement of a two-speed Europe as some form of tacit endorsement of Mr Cameron's half-hearted approach to a renegotiation of our European membership terms, but one suspects that it'll end up being a short-lived celebration, rather like the miner who celebrates getting rich, only to find that he's been digging up "fools gold" instead. The French leader, Francoise Hollande, has already made plain that he sees no need for any wholesale treaty renegotiations; and the leaders of Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark are also thought to be reluctant to re-open treaty negotiations, for fear of the problems that it cause within their own countries. With Qualified Majority Voting increasingly becoming the method of deciding the future of the EU; and with national vetoes steadily becoming a thing of the past, in terms of blocking new European laws, regulations and directives at a national level, perhaps Mr Cameron's purported slow and steady approach to the issue of treaty renegotiation helps to illuminate his true character? It's not that he's cautious, or thoughtful or slow and steady, but rather he's just plain stupid, but we're too polite to say so?