Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Tories and French socialism

The difficulties of a French "No" vote in their upcoming referendum are nicely summarised by Netlex, though sadly in French, and I don't have time to do a full translation. You could try and make do with Babelfish, but it's a bit rubbish. Short(ish) highlight bit:

"si les conservateurs reviennent au pouvoir, ils ont également pris l’engagement d’obtenir la renégociation de leurs engagements européens, tout comme prétendent le faire les partisans du “NON” en cas de victoire, mais pour des raisons exactement inverses. En effet, les conservateurs trouvent que les fameux “droits sociaux” sont un obstacle à la création d’emplois, et qui freinent le développement économique de la Grande-Bretagne.

"[A] 'Conservative Government will negotiate to restore our opt-out from the European Social Chapter and liberate small businesses from job-destroying employment legislation'.

"Voilà qui donne une idée de ce qui attend les Français qui voudront renégocier les dispositions de la Constitution, quand ils vont devoir affronter les Etats qui défendent des positions diamétralement opposées aux leurs.

"..Il est donc très clair qu’en cas de victoire d’un “Non” français, l’Europe va entrer dans une période de crise, et d’instabilité, et ceux qui pensent sans doute sincèrement, mais très naïvement, que les Français seront en mesure d’imposer une “Constitution sociale” à des pays européens dont la majorité n’est pas de Gauche, vont aller de surprises en déconvenues."
Approx paraphrased translation:

If the Tories get in, they've said they'll renegotiate with the EU, just as the [socialist] supporters of a French "No" vote in the upcoming referendum have said - but for precisely the opposite reasons. The Tories see the social rights the EU preserves as holding back the UK's economic growth - and so we see what will await those French who want to renegotiate the constitution to gain more rights from countries whose ruling parties want less.

It is therefore clear that in the event of a "No" vote Europe will enter a period of crisis and instability, and those who wish to impose a "Social Constitution" on countries whose majority is not left [or those who wish to remove rights from countries which are] will be in for a severe disappointment.

Even shorter paraphrased translation: Renegotiation of the constitution may be impossible.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Hew BG said...

Nosemonkey,

This is an interesting post on an interesting issue.

I'm not quite sure that I concur with your final remark.

Two reasons:
1) If renegotiation is impossible then in effect we are already f**ked. We have no alternative. Resistance is futile. That kind of thing.

If this is the case, why bother consulting the people?

This, on its own, is the single strongest reason for voting "no".

2) The fact that those who wish to renegotiate have such wildly opposing reasons for doing so does not imply that renegotiation is impossible. It implies that agreement of any kind is impossible. It implies that we should not even be contemplating throwing our lot in with others of such wildly different aspirations. It implies that the basis of the document - a common European demos - is flawed or non-existent.

These are strong reasons for voting "no" _NOW_ to expose these rifts and, if that is the only way to resolve the differences, part ways amicably now, rather than find we are really badly stuck later.

4/12/2005 06:06:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Sadly I think the main problem is that it demonstrates that this could be the best constitution of this type that we can get at the moment - the old thing of if both sides are complaining, you must be fairly neutral.

Of course, a lot of people (occasionally myself included, depending on my mood) don't think that this type of constitution is what is currently needed...

People keep going on about the US constitution as being a good model, and it is - to an extent. But I'd say the EU needs something even simpler - a mere statement of principles followed by a few new treaties to tidy up the mess left by the ongoing French opt-outs from the Treaty of Rome and such like. It also needs a two-tier system - perhaps even a three-tier system, as the Eurozone means a two-tier one is already in place.

You may be right. A "No" vote may sort out the mess - as long as it actually does promt a proper re-think, and not simply resentment. They certainly rushed the Convention on the Future of Europe, and didn't appear to consult widely enough among the people. More time may produce something better. That would be my hope.

But at the same time - as a good pro-European - I'm increasingly of the opinion that they need to get something new in place NOW. A few more years of the current system - with the CAP, CFP, Commission corruption and ongoing lack of accountability - and all support could be lost.

The major problem: no one knows what the hell's going to happen. A "Yes" vote almost certainly won't lead to any significant increase in Brussels' power over individual member states; a "No" vote almost certainly won't mean we have to pull out altogether.

What either actually will mean is incredibly unclear - but a "Yes" will at least mean that it will finally be possible to tackle some of those problems which have been going on since the 50s, and which we haven't been able to get rid of thanks to individual vetoes. And I am looking here primarily at France - they have by far the most to lose from the constitution. Hence the rapid referendum and growing oppositon.

It's all very confusing.

4/12/2005 11:00:00 pm  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

"tier"

are you sure you spelt it rite.

4/12/2005 11:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Hew BG said...

Nosemonkey,

"Sadly I think the main problem is that it demonstrates that this could be the best constitution of this type that we can get at the moment - the old thing of if both sides are complaining, you must be fairly neutral."

This is an eminently sensible analysis, but for one crucial thing. It assumes that we need a constitution in the first place.

If - as was hoped for by the Laeken declaration - we really properly asked questions like :

1) What is the EU for?
2) what is the irreducable minimum upon which everyone can agree (i.e. what is the basis of a demos and hence a constitution) ?

we would probably find that the only overlap between the answers to 1) and 2) would be around a free trade area. We might even find that we had to eject France to make the thing work (on the basis that they don't really want to participate in free trade)

If following that, we were offered a referendum with a scale of say 1 to 10, where 1 is a re-enactment of D-Day etc and 10 is a EUtopian single state, I suspect that the average in the UK would be somewhere around 3 or so, basically the EEA with its four freedoms.

It remains fascinating (and dare I say, pertinent) that France, which is otherwise the perfect European, is currently holding up the fourth freedom, that of free movement of services....

4/13/2005 04:56:00 pm  

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