Does anyone here remember the dim and distant echoes of optimism that arose when Portugal announced that it had successfully sold off its government bonds, and averted a crisis in the eurozone? Probably not, and, if they do, those few voices of fanatical optimism are surely silenced now, with the news that Portugal's government has collapsed. It is now beyond question: the country cannot sort out its own finances, and the EU will have to intervene.
This is an important step for the eurozone, namely because this is the last bailout it can actually afford. If Portugal collapses, the EU will have precious little left in its bailout fund to do the same with Spain, which is so inextricably intertwined with Portuguese banks that its collapse can be taken as a given if its neighbour does go under, which seems likely. Simply put, after the failure of Portugal, there will be nothing to stop the economic collapse of every other heavily-indebted country in the eurozone; and the human consequences of this will be enormous.
The bailouts are often debated over amongst Eurosceptics with a casual, distant eye. We are sometimes guilty of falling into the trap that events of the continent, by definition, do not concern us. That may be true; by the virtue of Gordon Brown's personal feud, we are, in comparison, largely unaffected by the debt crisis that is pulling the eurozone apart. But it does mean that we often forget the colossal impact that these truly historic events can have on people, as individuals.
Tens of millions of jobs are threatened. The prosperity of hundreds of millions of people is at risk. The solvency of entire nations is coming under intense scrutiny. The whole of the Iberian Peninsular could be wiped off the economic map. There will be visible scars of this turmoil for generations. We will see ghost towns and riots on the streets of southern Europe; shanty-towns and slums of the unemployed and impoverished. The nations that could previously hold themselves up as the champions of a modern western economy will be reduced to cash cows for creditors, and the people will be milked until their money runs out. Their descendants will be working to pay off this debt in hundreds of years time.
And senior EU officials knew, at the time of the euro's creation, that it was economic nonsense, an impossibility that would serve no economic purpose whatsoever. The President of the Commission from 1999-2004, the period in which the euro was introduced to most of the countries that now use it, confessed that:
'When the euro was born everyone knew that sooner or later a crisis would occur'
What? What did he just say? That the entire EU establishment - or, at least, the Commission - was aware that the eurozone was an impossibility? This is a man who - with his unelected colleagues - spent hundreds of millions of pounds in an attempt to brand everyone who raised the slightest objections as 'xenophobe,' 'bigot,' or 'conspiracy theorist,' who told us that we were nutters who were not to be listened to under any circumstances. And now, ten years later, he turns around and tells us that:
1) We were right.
2) He knew it at the time.
3) He carried on regardless.
Politicians often say things they do not believe, that is true. But how often do they hold the economic fortunes of an entire continent in their hands? This is a man who not only took a gamble with the financial security of five hundred million people; he deliberately threw it away. The safety and livelihoods of half a billion people was sacrificed at the altar of integration.
'The Euro is a conquest of sovereignty' - Dominique Strauss-Kahn, President of the IMF
'Above all, it is political' - Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, former President of Italy
'We must recognise that political unity of purpose will be vital if the euro is to work' - John Bruton, former Irish Taoiseach
There - two heads of state, a President of the Commission, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself, who once held the most senior financial position in France, have now unequivocally confessed that the collapse in the eurozone was predicted - perhaps even part of their plan. Gerhard Schroder, the Chancellor of Germany, also said something similar. Call me a far-right extremist if you please, but nothing I - nor any anti-federalist - could ever do even comes close to the deliberate destruction of the European economy for political advantage. The next time the EU cares to level an accusation of xenophobia at us, point out that it is they, not us, who have impoverished tens of millions of families for the sake of our own jobs, and we will not, under any circumstances, continue with our campaigns if we know them to be false - especially if the destruction of a continent is the result. They have done that. They have admitted doing it. And they, not us, but the heads of the EU itself, have said that it was their full intention to press on with the euro, regardless of the consequences.
As Romano Prodi says, 'the pillars of the nation-state are the sword and the currency. And we changed that.' But they did so knowing full well that it was not a change for the better.