Monday, May 30, 2005

Blair returns to EU wait and see

Probably the best bet at this stage:

"What is important now is having a time for reflection with the Dutch referendum in a couple of days' time and the European council in the middle of June where the leaders will discuss the implications of the votes that have taken place."
They certainly need to work out a fresh strategy. If, to keep the rest of Europe happy, Britain has to hold a pointless referendum of its own, let's get the bloody thing out of the way quickly to save time and money which would otherwise be sluiced off by a protracted campaign.

There was never any real hope of winning it in the UK. That was the whole reason for Blair delaying the referendum so damn long, hoping we'd be guilt-tripped into ratifying it if every other member state had already said yes or - probably in his most hopeful and unrealistic moments - that the debate in Britain would be so involving that the British public would be able to make an informed choice. And an informed choice, naturally, would be to vote Yes in spite of the treaty's flaws simply because it's better than what we've got at the moment.

But now that someone else has pipped us to the post and punched a 10% margin hole in the side of the constitutional boat (and the Netherlands will vote "Nee" in two days to boot) there is less than no point in waiting until September 2006 - just as there is, really, less than no point in having any more referendums at all. If they insist on persevering with the ratification process - for which I can understand the reasoning from a purely PR point of view - then they should get it over with sooner rather than later so that the real debate can begin: what now?

At least Blair's managed to avoid the hyperbole of some on the French Yes campaign, like chief strategist Dominique Moisi: "This is a turning point in the history of Europe -- there will be a Plan B in the technocratic sense, in that Europe will continue to function and exist, but psychologically it will cease to exist in the same way."

But still, Christ - you can see why they're taking this badly:

10 Comments:

Blogger Episode said...

This is soul destroying, especially from a country such as france.

5/30/2005 02:32:00 pm  
Blogger Guy said...

Brittany globally voted yes, interesting.

5/30/2005 04:43:00 pm  
Blogger sean said...

Soul destroying? This is glorious. Marvellous. A great day for democracy.
Vive la France!

5/30/2005 05:12:00 pm  
Blogger Eddie said...

Do you think maybe too much is being read into this, given that we know many socialists voted No just to give Chirac a bloody nose?

Personally, I believe this result says more about the political situation of France, rather than the political situation of the EU.

5/30/2005 06:31:00 pm  
Anonymous ronnie in new orleans said...

Don't be so downtrodden Nosey.

Putin is trying to put the old Soviet Union back together... maybe Tony and Gordon should talk to him.

More important, what did Bush have the CIA put in the wine? A real blog storm brewing here.

5/30/2005 08:56:00 pm  
Blogger aEuropean said...

Hi Nosemonkey,

Thanks for the live-blogging plug and for your work over the UK Election, which inspiring me to live-blog the referendum in the first place.

I have always had respect for your posts, for being a voice of reason on Europe, in a country where euro-scepticism/reluctance pervades the mass media. However, I have read your recent posts over the previous days with great regret, regarding your lack of confidence in the ability of the British people to have an intelligent debate on Europe. More succinctly, I am talking about your lack of support, even in principle, for a referendum in UK, even before the French result.

I supported and campaigned for the constitutional treaty for the same reasons that I think you and the majority of Britain would pragmatically vote for it, if we were given that choice in a referendum, namely that it reforms the European Union for the better. I am very sad that France has rejected the treaty because it ultimately delays any serious debate on Europe in the UK indefinitely.

I cannot see how Britain will ever have a semi-intelligent debate on the future of Europe and Britain’s role within it until some serious political capital is put at risk at the ballot box. This is why the French result is sad for the UK. It makes it incredibly difficult to push Blair and the Labour government to put their political capital in risk.

Pro-Europeans in the UK have for too long struggled against the lack of general awareness of European governance, biased mass-media, the euro-myths and cowardly civil servants and politicians too easily willing to blame the European bogeyman for anything and everything.

It is time to have a debate. The risk of not having a debate far outweigh the risks of leaving the issue of Europe in the dark or losing the debate. We risk leaving people with a false impression of Europe for the foreseeable future. This damages our economic and social future. A future affected by the market forces of globalisation. We have a population who love their NHS and key public services. A European model of capitalism is possible, one which makes us even more competitive than the US because of the stability which social cohesion brings. The UK, as much as France, needs Europe, but the difference between the countries is that France understands this implicitly and the British people do not. The French are divided over Europe but at least each group has a vision of the Europe they want. The British not only don’t have a vision of Europe, they don’t understand how such a vision can benefit them.

Britain needs to have a rigorous debate on Europe. The referendum is the only spark capable of starting it. Nosemonkey have some faith in the pragmatism of the British public and think about supporting a referendum, even if we can only support the idea in principle after the Straw-Blair wriggle manoeuvre this morning.

5/30/2005 10:02:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

I understand fully where you’re coming from. But, at the risk of sounding like the kind of anti-democratic elitist which us pro-EU lot are so often accused of being, I don’t reckon the British people are ready for the debate yet. The level of ignorance in Britain about the EU is astonishing, and you can’t have a wide-ranging public debate if the people know next to nothing about the subject – especially if it’s a subject in which the people have consistently shown so little interest.

If a referendum were to take place in September 2006, as originally mooted, then had the debates already started there would have been a vague chance of people making an informed choice. But if any referendum now happens it will have to be sooner rather than later to stop the rest of the EU hanging around with all the current uncertainty. There simply won’t be enough time for anything beyond the usual petty squabbling and name-calling which is so often a feature of any arguments about the EU in this country. And, on top of all that, the debate would now almost certainly focus on “what’s the point if France has already said no?”

I agree entirely that we need a proper debate on the EU in this country. I don’t think having a referendum at the end is the best way of going about it. The current chaos, if we’re lucky, may spark the debate on its own. But with a new series of Big Brother just started, I doubt it.

5/31/2005 11:39:00 am  
Blogger Episode said...

Nosemonkey is correct i am afraid. The UKIP advert on TV a while back was frankly racist, also regardless off what happens britain WILL be its xenophobic self. They spawned Kilroy silk for gods sake.

5/31/2005 03:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Dave said...

Great debate but the British People are well aware of what we want. We want an evolving relationship with Europe, where mainland Europe has respect for the UK and the relationship is based on respect for our differencies and not on a "common European identity". The European way of promoting the negative aspects of non-conformity rather than the positive is an anathema to the British. An example of this was the Euro, the French, Germans and the Commission all promoted the Euro by saying that if we did not join we would sink, inward investment would fall etc - duh.

We applaud some of the sensible and well considered European policies such as cross-border cooperation, the ability to work without work permits etc but we deplore the blant protectionism and self-innterest which is blighting Europe.

Lets get back to cooperation, return power to national parliaments and sideline the federalists in favour of a loose association of nations.

9/07/2005 01:50:00 pm  
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12/18/2005 03:45:00 pm  

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