Angela Merkel was once dubbed 'Frau Nein' for her refusal to be dragged into European policies that would over-extend Germany. Her strong leadership was compared by some to that of Margaret Thatcher, a new 'Iron Lady' for our fiscally turbulent times.
How things have changed. Merkel has become 'Frau Ja', at least when it comes to her plans for the EU to snatch what little self-determination its member states now retain.
At a joint press conference with David Cameron on 7 June, Merkel went far beyond her recent statements regarding Germany's willingness to cede sovereignty to a new, all-powerful iteration of the European Union. That's no longer enough. Now, according to Merkel, all EU member states must give up representative government, national interest and all semblance of liberty and freedom to the Brussels bureaucrats. In her own words:
"We need more Europe, a budget union, and we need a political union first and foremost. We must, step by step, cede responsibilities to Europe."
If you've been poisoned, does the emergency room doctor prescribe you more poison as the remedy? If you're morbidly obese, should you be rushed to an all-you-can-eat buffet and forced to gorge yourself to help you lose weight? Nor should the remedy for the ailments of the European Union, and they are many, be "more Europe"!
If this was the extent of Merkel's folly, it would be concerning enough, but the German leader had more to say about her phantasmagoric vision for the EU:
"We don't have a European public - domestically, every country has different priorities. A European public, a European audience needs to be created."
So, let me get this straight: It's a bad thing for a country to have its own priorities? For its politicians to do what is their raison d'être in any democracy, namely representing the wishes of their constituents in an elected parliament? Apparently democracy is well past its 'sell by' date and such things would just be selfish, at least according to Merkel and her EU cohorts.
One of my issues with the EU from the beginning was its attempt to homogenize the distinct culture, heritage and history that makes each European nation what it is. Merkel's new plans make it clear that common currency was just the first move in the endgame of also removing individuality from each EU member's economic and banking policies. Self-determination be damned. Never mind that the makeup of every European nation's economy is (heaven forbid!) completely different, or that a chancellor of the exchequer (or equivalent) of the elected party should have the right to declare a budget plan for his or her country alone.
Beyond the practical implications, there is also something profoundly patronising about Merkel's attitude. It's like parents who give their newly licensed teenager keys to a car that they have purchased, only to snatch them away when the youngster's driving is deemed irresponsible. The difference, of course, is that these parents have the right to do such a thing, as they are the decision makers in the house and have paid for the car.
In contrast, for all Germany's financial contributions to prop up the collapsing roof of the EU's house of cards, Merkel does not have the right to discipline the supposedly misbehaving leaders of elected governments across the Continent. She was elected to rule Germany and just Germany and, while it's the modus operandi of the EU to meddle in its member states' affairs far beyond its jurisdiction, she has gone too far this time. The "fiskalpakt" would just be the conduit to a complete political takeover - something that no true British patriot can entertain.
And what of David Cameron? The prime minister is making all the right noises to satisfy Euro-skeptics in the Conservative Party and beyond. In response to Merkel's comments, he said:
"If you think you can just establish a European Parliament and a flag and everyone will be loyal to it, that's nonsense."
Good on you, Dave. I just hope you mean what you say, and are not merely paying lip service to boost your flagging polling numbers.
Cameron also shot down Merkel's call for "party families" across national boundaries - borders that would be effectively erased if she had her druthers. In response to this proposal, Cameron said, "The idea we're going to have genuinely European-wide parties when countries have so many institutions, traditions and thoughts is unrealistic."
Again, top marks for defiant rhetoric. But what Cameron must avoid is the dithering that Winston Churchill once called "merely a frothing of words." Instead, we must see tangible, decisive action from our prime minister, who should heed Churchill's timeless appraisal of Britain's ideal role in the European community: "We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not compromised. We are interested and associated but not absorbed..." The first step to guaranteeing British interests, no matter what Nick Clegg thinks about it, must be to call a referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Let the voice of the British people roar a collective "Nein" to the German chancellor, Jose Manuel Barroso and the other would-be masters of our fate, through the ballot boxes they will relegate to history if we let them.