"Gordon has learned to talk European" claims Mark Mardell. He certainly has, if his superlative-drenched speech to the European Parliament yesterday is anything to go by. Just as he told the US congress that the United States is a uniquely great country - and earned a Blair-worthy eighteen standing ovations in the process - so now he tells the assembled ranks of Euro-federalists that their great bureaucratic regulation-producing machine as "among the finest of human achievements and... a beacon of hope for the whole world"; how without it there could be no peace or prosperity; how its mission now is to turn the world into a global EU. There was even a cunning dig at the Americans:
And so, starting at our debate today as we prepare for the London summit next week, I propose that we as Europe take a central role replacing what was called the old Washington consensus with a new consensus for our times.
Of course, the "Washington consensus" was an international agreement; just as the career-saving deal he hopes to secure at the G20 would be international. But the subtext is clear: it's now Europe that is, or should be, making the rules.
That's the sort of language they like in Brussels, the sort of language that feeds their complacency, that dignifies their inflated expenses claims. No wonder that the leader of the parliament's socialists described the speech as "brilliant" and "courageous". On the other hand, "Charlemagne" of the Economist notes that for all his fawning, Brown "received tepid applause from a half-empty chamber." (At least the authorities at Congress had the good manners to pack their half-empty chamber with interns and cleaners to create at least the appearance of interest). Charlemagne concludes that the those MEPs who bothered to turn up may have liked Gordon's message but "didn't believe him".
Brown always used to cultivate the image of a Eurosceptic, most notoriously turning up late for the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, so the photographs wouldn't show him smiling alongside the other leaders as democracy was kicked into the dirt. It wasn't just for show, though. His enthusiasm for the United States, however corny his speech to Congress, was deep and abiding - however un-American his corporatist, big state instincts. Keeping Britain out of the Euro was his greatest achievement as chancellor, perhaps his only achievement: however bad our economic woes are today, they would surely have been even worse if a decade of inappropriately low interest rates, set by the European Central Bank, had pumped even more air into the housing bubble. The right policy, no doubt - but one hardly calculated to win him friends in Brussels. Now, however, he needs them.
Here he is laying it on with the proverbial trowel:
So I stand here today proud to be British and proud to be European: representing a country that does not see itself as an island adrift from Europe but as a country at the centre of Europe, not in Europe’s slipstream but firmly in its mainstream.
And that is why I am proud that by a large majority our British Parliament ratified the Lisbon treaty.
The first sentence is purest tosh and, apart from anything else, bad geography. As for the second - well, it's nice to have a prime minister so proud about having betrayed his manifesto commitment to give the British people a referendum. I'd hate to think he was ashamed of his behaviour.
The real danger is where Brown's new-found love of Europe, born of his desperation to salvage something from the wreckage of his premiership, may lead. Several European governments, notably the Germans, want to see regulation of financial institutions - even of hedge-funds - transferred to a European level. Given that "regulation", or the lack thereof, is generally seen as having got us all into this mess, the wind is with them. And it may seem only sensible to go along with such moves; especially if you're Gordon Brown, and can portray yourself as "leading" the world in creating a new economic system.
Because this economic crisis began in the financial sector, and because that sector looms larger in the British economy than in many others, Britain is more badly affected than most. An easy, tempting conclusion is that Britain is therefore "too dependent" on financial services and therefore needs to "rebalance". But the good times will return, and financial services will once again be needed - and if they have decamped from the City of London it will be very difficult to get them back.
The Japanese are currently experiencing a collapse in exports, largely because the products they specialise in - high-tech, high-value, vanguard electronics - are (like banking) particularly badly hit by the global recession. But no-one would suggest that Japan gave up its electronics industry and went back to weaving silk. That, more or less, is what now threatens Britain. Over the past twenty years, the financial power of the City has grown beyond the reach of jealous Eurocrats. So important was it, indeed, that protecting the City was written into Gordon Brown's "five tests" (remember them?) for joining the euro. Now, however, he seems to be in almost indecent haste to offer up the jewel in Britain's economic crown to the gods of Brussels, the better to secure his legacy.
By surrendering the City to what is effectively foreign oversight he may be preserving his reputation as an international dealmaker, he may be showing himself a good European, he may gain the plaudits of the German chancellor (though he is unlikely to get anything substantial in return). But the price will be paid for generations.
If you haven't yet seen MEP Daniel Hannan's brilliant demolition of Gordon Brown's pretensions, here it is.