Mother of God – what now? I don’t know whether to turn cartwheels or break down and cry. David Cameron has followed instructions from his Conservative party and gone out to Brussels as a British bulldog, only to come back knowing what it feels like to be a lamp-post used by 26 dogs in quick succession. I mean, did you see the way Sarkozy snubbed him? He must have been watching Youtube and caught the bit where Ruth Patterson responds to Niall O Donnghaile's out-stretched hand. But while the clash of personalities was a bit of a giggle, the facts and their consequences are a bit less so.
Take Ireland, or the southern part of it. Enda Kenny has decided to be really really good and go along with what everyone else is saying – firm fiscal rules, balanced budgets, punishment for anyone who steps out of line. The smack of firm government. Except then you realize that Kenny (and all the other countries) are handing over control of things fiscal to the EU, which in effect means handing over political power to Merkel/Sarcozy, or Marcozy as we’re all supposed to say now. The south has allowed itself to be cast as scullery-maid to the Great House of Germany. All that talk about having a veto in Europe? Just a little German joke, as Cameron quickly learned t’other night. On the other hand, if Enda had decided to be a bold boy and had stepped out of the fiscal club with his mate David, he’d be in even worse dodo– he’d be permanently tied to lamp-post Britain, which is not a good place to be. Except you’re a northern unionist, in which case you think of it as really good, even as the next dog cocks its leg.
There’s a terrible symmetry to it all: the south is scullery-maid to Berlin/Paris, the north scullery-maid to London. You might, in your gloom, ask yourself why this should be – why can’t both Ireland and Britain and all the other EU countries be dignified equals in a Europe of equals? Because, dear Virginia, there are no fairies at the bottom of your garden and because might is right. The EU is run by Germany and France. They're the big boys and they call the shots, as Cameron now knows to his cost. And part of Ireland is run by Britain because Britain, vis-à-vis Ireland, is the big boy. Co-equals, friendly neighbours? Eat my shorts.
It’s a hard lesson, Virginia, and God knows we’re learning it again in the hardest of ways. Worst of all, having been consigned to the role of scullery-maid, the south doesn’t know if this latest Marcozy wheeze will work. Cancel the cart-wheels, would you?