Once again I post from the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Though not exactly tropical, the weather is actually unseasonably warm: + 3 degrees Celsius.
In a brief moment I check out the news, and with it Mark Mardell's generally excellent Euroblog on the BBC website.
Unfortunately, I end up in a kind of dispair at the unrelenting determination of the British to destroy their own national interests. Mark had blogged about the fact that the European Investment Bank had provided finance to the commercial operations of the BBC. The extraordinary howls of protest that this normal commercial transaction has provoked, marks out the protesters as blind bigots. Their line of reasoning is that the editorial line of the BBC is pro-European (a debatable prospect in itself), and that this is because of the money that has come from "Europe" i.e. the European Investment Bank.
The EIB, though originally set up under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, is not a part of the structure of the European Union. Its shareholders are individual nation states, and it functions under the strict oversight of of external auditors and internal risk controls, which are fully transparent.
Like that of the World Bank and the IMF, the mandate of the EIB is intended to focus of development projects, though these are judged within a commercial context. The idea that the BBC is somehow being bribed to trim its editorial line would be outrageous- if it were true. It is simply not true, no matter what the paranoid Europhobic bigots might chose to beleive.
The fact is that the level of Europhobia in the UK is now reaching psychotic levels. Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP, was extraordinarily offensive the other day when he argued that the European Parliament was behaving like Stalinist Communists. Ten EU member states have managed to shake off the yoke of Communism, and suffered death and Communist oppression on an industrial scale. The result is that, certainly here in Estonia, it would be hard to find a society more committed to democracy. To suggest that these countries would willingly relinquish their freedoms, is just plain wrong. As a senior CEE diplomat said to me- "we are becoming more and more disillusioned with the utter failure of British leaders to engage with EU at any level; we increasingly feel patronised and ignored, and British isolationism is not just dangerous for the EU, but for the UK too".
The Europhobes have constructed a non-existent bogeyman. The fact is that the UK is going to pay an ever higher price not just for going it alone, but for telling those countries that choose a higher level of integration and co-operation that they are the enemies of freedom.
The contrast between the Northern Rock fiasco and the rather more deft way that the European Central Bank has handled the bail-outs in Spain is instructive. It is not just a function of the Bank of England and the FSA making mistakes in the bail out. The fact is that the greater liquidity of the Euro finance markets allowed the ECB more flexibility in financing their problem instituions. The less liquid Sterling market offered much less potential, especially given the sums involved.
Unless the British stop conducting the debate on the European Union as though the EU was some kind of pogrom against British liberties, then the nation as a whole risks becoming treated like the embarassing, aggressive British drunks that in summer litter the Old Town square here in Tallinn. British national interests are being sold down the river alright: by the bigots who can not be bothered to get their facts straight, and whose visceral Europhobia is offensive and irrational.