The immediate danger is that, by the time these lethargic leaders are appearing on the media saying "time is short to save the euro", the markets, which move at the speed of light, have already discounted that some time ago, have realised that politicians are very likely not going to save it and are now moving to ensure that it is impossible to do so.
The convenient, short-term lesson which many are drawing is "Britain good, Europe bad". This, as Britons, nicely fits with our comfy scepticism towards Europe. Hugo Young's brilliant volume on Britain's fraught relationship with Europe, This Blessed Plot, documents how Europe's history, from Churchill on, is full of Britain being at the centre of the constitutional decision-making, while standing outside of the main results of it. We have become experts at deciding what everyone else should do.
It started with Churchill at the creation of a modern Europe which did not include us, passing late entry into the EU by Heath, on less good terms, and arriving at Blair's central role in defining the euro, while remaining outside of it. Cameron and Osborne are just the last in a long line of British politicians of all parties to carp or cheer alternately during a major European upheaval, but always with the proviso that it is from the sidelines.
We are not a Great Power and never will be again. We are a great nation, but if we continue to behave like a Great Power we shall soon cease to be a great nation.This "Europe bad" reading also plays to the prejudices of the Tory right, whose visceral dislike of all things European is so emotionally-based that it often rejects anything containing the word "Europe" out of hand, before even listening to the argument. And, at present, they clearly hold the dominant view on the issue within their party.
When your opponent reacts emotionally, rather than rationally, to a policy challenge, sooner or later they will come unstuck because people will see their inherent contradictions. And, as John Rentoul pointed out in the Independent on Sunday, there is also a risk that there may be another round of damaging Tory in-fighting on the subject:
What would be dangerous for Cameron's chances of re-election...would be if the economy, already falling behind Osborne's "on the road to recovery" forecasts of last year, became part of a divisive argument within his own party about Britain's relations with the rest of Europe.
This post first published at the Huffington Post