Friday, April 30, 2004

Up or Out!

Nice to see that the old Europhile penchant for threats and blackmail hasn't given up the ghost. We've already had Neil Kinnock and Michael Heseltine do their best to bluster the strangely unenthusiastic British into supporting the proposed constitution, or else ...; now it's His Serene Highness Jacques Chirac's turn to browbeat the Brits into yielding to the "inevitable."

BRITAIN could be forced to leave the European Union if its voters reject the proposed new constitution in a referendum, President Chirac suggested yesterday.

The French leader, who is resisting pressure to commit himself to a referendum, noted that states that fail to ratify the constitutional treaty would be scuppering the agreement for the whole EU.

At a press conference to convince France of the merits of the expanded EU, M Chirac referred to proposals aired in Brussels and Berlin that would require member nations to ratify the constitution or leave the EU. This could be a “positive solution”, M Chirac said. “I am not against the idea of using methods of friendly pressure with countries that are refusing the constitution because that blocks all the others.”

M Chirac’s remarks reflected his exasperation over Tony Blair’s decision to put the constitution to a risky plebiscite.

Damn that Tony Blair for giving the British people a say! What sort of game does he think he's up to, giving the French canaille ideas well above their station?

Pressure is building from across the French political spectrum for a popular vote on the EU constitution. According to polls, 75 per cent of the public want a popular ballot.

The President is reluctant to hold one because of the strong possibility of a “no” vote from a public that is unhappy with his presidency. But Mr Blair’s pledge of a referendum has raised the stakes for M Chirac, whose personal popularity has sunk 11 points to 44 per cent over the past month.

A more diplomatic version of events than M Chirac’s was voiced in London yesterday by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former French President who led drafting of the constitution treaty. In the case of a “no” vote, “Britain will not be in the core of the system, but at the margin”, he said.

Under a “ratify-or-leave” scheme devised by the EU Commission, the 25 member states would first approve and ratify a separate treaty which would give countries two years to endorse the constitution or give up membership. Departing states would retain their existing EU rights on trade and movement as associate members. However, this scheme is highly unlikely to come about because of the initial need for approval by all member states.

M Chirac’s comments followed a suggestion by Chancellor Schröder of Germany that a mechanism must be found for putting the treaty into operation even if Britain or other states blocked it with a “no”.

Herr Schröder tells us that Ordnung muss sein; orders are orders, and once the enlightened rulers of Europe have decided on a constitution, the people of Europe are bloody well going to have it, whatever they might decide to the contrary. Why is it that so many European politicians have difficulty grasping the concept that the larger the EU gets, the looser a body it has to become if it is to prosper in the long run? Why should Spaniards get to legislate on German sausages, or Germans on the constituents of "genuine" British Ale?

To the free movement of people and goods, I say an emphatic yes; to a European "state" with a single foreign policy, a single tax regime and a single criminal code, I say three times no! National laws fit poorly to cover all of the regions they legislate for as it is, and it is the height of hubris and insanity to imagine that Europe-wide laws are going to be any better. Only a fool would think it likely that a union of the sort of which certain federalists dream could act as a catalyst for anything other than greater conflict between the peoples of Europe, seeing as regions like Catalonia, Corsica and Scotland are already thorns in the flesh of the much smaller political units of which they remain parts.

Predictably, in light of how terrible the idea of a European "state" is, the New York Times is only too happy to endorse it, anything that involves the surrender of sovereignty on the altar of "multilateralism" being ipso facto a good thing according to the NYT worldview.