Anatole Kaletsky thinks the real reason things are looking gloomy for supporters of the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands is actually the generally lamentable performance of “old” European economies over the last decade and a half:
The people of France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands may be angry about globalisation or ultra-liberalism or immigration, but this reflects a deeper malaise. Their living standards are falling, their pensions are in danger, their children are jobless and their national pride is turning into embarrassment and even shame. In sum, they feel that their countries, which numbered among the world’s richest and most powerful nations as recently as the middle of the last decade, have gone to the dogs under the leadership of the present generation of politicians. And, at least in the economic sense, they are absolutely right.
He gives it to us straight:
…unemployment has been stuck between 8 and 11 per cent since 1991 and growth has reached 3 per cent only once in those 14 years.
Without wishing to be accused of economic determinism I suspect there’s something in his theory that the current mood against further European integration reflects an underlying economic dissatisfaction – even if what left and right ‘no’ campaigners are doing is attempting to dress that feeling up in clothes which make more sense to their own different ideological constituencies.
It’ll be interesting to watch the political fallout after Sunday’s referendum in France.
Update: Will Hutton considers a one size fits all approach to economic questions in Europe too simplistic.