Brixit battlelines drawn

The crisis in Algeria prevented David Cameron from delivering a highly-anticipated speech in Amsterdam today, during which he planned to lay out his vision for the future of Britain's role in Europe. But excerpts were released to the media ahead of time:

"There are three major challenges confronting us today. First, the problems in the eurozone are driving fundamental change in Europe. Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world soar ahead. And third, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain," Cameron was due to say.

"There is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems. People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the Continent," he was to add.

"More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the eurozone. More of the same will not see the EU keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the EU any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same," he was to say.

The British leader was to warn that: "If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit."

But he was also due to note: "I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it."

Cameron hasn't endorsed the idea of an in-or-out referendum -- favored by some members of his party -- but says that voters "want some changes to that relationship [with Europe] and they would like to be given a say."

Cameron's in a bit of a tough spot. He's not willing to go far enough in the euroskeptic direction for some Tories, but his partial embrace of their position puts him at odds with his coalition partner Nick Clegg, of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, as well as the Obama administration, which has cautioned London against considering a "Brixit" scenario. 

 

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Krugman vs. Estonia: The opera

You may recall last June, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves went medieval on Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in a Twitter tirade (Twirade?). Here's how it went down:

Let's write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing: after all, they're just wogs:

Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a "wasteland". Must be a Princeton vs Columbia thing [Ilves went to Columbia for undergrad.]

But yes, what do we know? We're just dumb & silly East Europeans. Unenlightened. Someday we too will understand. Nostra culpa.

Let's sh*t on East Europeans: their English is bad, won't respond & actually do what they've agreed to & reelect govts that are responsible.

Now apparently, the whole affair -- which really only lasted for an afternoon -- is getting turned into an opera. FT's Beyond Brics blog explains

Written by US composer Eugene Birman, it will be performed by the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Risto Joost during Tallinn Music Week on April 7.

According to the libretto’s author, Scott Diel: “‘Nostra Culpa’ (Our Fault) is a short 16 minutes operatic piece which takes up the age-old economic disagreement of austerity vs. stimulus”. Keynes couldn’t have put it better himself.

As FT's Rob Minto points out, even 16 minutes feels a bit long for a four-tweet feud. John Adams had a bit more to work with for Nixon in China. But I'm still curious to hear how it will turn out -- and who will be the hero.