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But still under sentence of death.

That is why I have such mixed feelings about the apparent breakdown of talks to finalise an EU Constitution:

European leaders are playing down the scale of divisions at their Brussels summit that made it impossible for them to agree on a constitution for the EU.

The can play it up, down or any way they damn well please. This is not the end, merely a brief setback. There is far too much vested interest in this wretched process for it to be simply left at that.

Nor has this impasse been brought about by anything as welcome as reflection or second thoughts. Assuming any of the participants have ever read this monstrous charter, it is probably a stretch to assume that they have even given it a first thought. No, the bandwagon has been brought to a grinding halt by an intractable bunfight over their respective looting voting rights:

Negotiations broke down over how voting will work when the EU expands from 15 to 25 members in May.

Poland and Spain insisted on keeping voting rights already secured, while France and Germany want a system to reflect their bigger populations.

Glueing an entire continent into a permanent state of indenture will have them feverish to sign the dotted lines but fail to stroke their egos sufficiently in the process and they will make a brave stand. I have long since passed the point of expecting reason or common sense to prevail; there is not enough of either of those qualities among Europe’s political classes to fill a thimble. But at least their over-arching need to all get their snouts in the trough has worked in our favour (albeit for now).

But, lest we forget, Mr Velveteen (and his huddle of Vichyites in the Foreign Office) is no better. He simply cannot wait to get this whole train back onto the tracks:

Tony Blair insisted, however, that the humiliating inability of heads of government to get beyond the first items on the summit agenda did not spell doom for the constitution. “We have got to find a way through. We have got the time to do it,” he said.

If Mr Blair gets his way this country will cease to exist in any meaningful or material sense. We will have been delivered up as a mere component of a big, despotic, inescapable dirigiste asset-stripping operation. This is what he wants and he wants it more than anything else.

But why? Why does he want to assassinate this country? What is impelling him and this cadre of political fixers to want to drive a dagger through our hearts? If we can find the answers to those questions then maybe we have a means of turning this stay of execution into a true and lasting victory.

18 comments to Reprieved

  • gunner

    Well we had the same troubles over 200 years ago here in the states. I am not up on the whole EU debate, but has the idea of a two house system like we have here been thought of? I do understand that Europe more then likely will go to a one house government, but our system helped create a balance that is pretty good.

  • Bernie Greene

    Is there more to the reason than just the dream of a new Superstate with greater power over greater numbers with greater security for itself and even less accountability?

    Imagine a boot coming down on a human face forever….

  • Guy Herbert

    For those as detatched from this as gunner, it is worth pointing out that no “Houses” are proposed at all, the European Parliament is peripheral to the EU law making process and this argument. The “votes” being argued about are weighted votes in the European Council, an intergovernmental body more like the UN Assembly.

    Those votes will formally be exercised by the governments of the countries, but in practice usually (as they are now) by civil servants sitting on a body that doesn’t appear in the Constitution at all: COREPER, the Council of Permanent Representatives. This, with the Commission, the Union’s own civil service, forms the real government of the EU.

  • toad

    Well if the EU constitution is agreed to, Tony has the chance to become the head or one of the lesser heads of it. Since it is basically a “transnational government” in which the elites appoint elites to run it, it will be a politicians dream. No running for office by appealing to the great unwashed periodicaly. Just a nice rotation of power seats among a few with no loss of pay until you are ready to retire on a very cushy pension. Premier of the UK, heck that’s too much like work. It will be like a civil service job with coperate CEO benefits forever and forever amen.

  • Verity

    First, I knew this would happen. There would be a disagreement of some kind as a smokescreen against the electors. See? They’re looking out for our best interests! They have had to retire (temporarily!) in failure. We can feel safe in their hands.

    And I knew that Blair would be presented in the British press as some kind of peacemaking archangel doing his best for mankind. He has everyone’s best interests at heart! What a sport, trying to reconcile all those Bolshie Europeans in a nice, reasonable tone of voice.

    Listen, everybody: it was *choreographed* this way.

    The elephant in the living room, of course, is that Blair has absolutely no business being at a meeting discussing the abnegation of Britain’s sovereignty at all. He has no business discussing a “constitution” for Britain with foreigners. All these “disagreements” are to reassure the European electorates that it’s just some boring, petty new treaty that’s being discussed – not their birthrights.

    Blair is scared to death of holding a referendum on whether the British wish to surrender their birthright, for once and for all, to Brussels. Tony Blair has been on a two-year job application – since 9/11, for the unelected “presidency” of what we are told to believe is a non-country, or the other newly to be created post of “foreign minister” with a vast new “foreign ministry” under him. My gut feeling is the door to the president’s headquarters has Dominique de Villepin’s name on it. Tony’s after the foreign ministry (sneer quotes continued throughout) slot –“Look at me, everyone, I am so international I just can’t stand it. Did you see me on Airforce One with the president of the US? This one here’s me with the president at the White House. Here I am at the Commonwealth conference using my emollient, not to say greasy, diplomatic skills. This was me on my 10 day tour of Asia for meetings with important leaders. Here’s me in the Sammy Davis Jr Nehru jacket doing the namaste deal in India when I took time out to jet off to the sub-continent to avert a nuclear war. This whole page is me getting on and off planes waving a Koran just after 9/11 when I appointed myself the Western world’s ambassador at large to the Middle East. This one’s of me in Moscow with Putin. I ordered a black, full length astrakhan coat to go to Moscow in, but Alastair wrestled it away from me.”

    By the way gunner, the British Parliament has comprised two houses for several centuries. We’re well schooled in the balance of power that this creates, thanks. The Europeans aren’t, however, which is what this whole discussion is about. Guy Herbert, I don’t know how you have the patience.

  • Guy Herbert

    It’s not patience. I don’t know what else to do. I’m inured to the role of Cassandra.

    After quarter of a century of being misunderstood, and having even the misunderstandings mocked, I long ago lost all hope of being believed.

    I’m not as sure as Verity this “bust up” is deliberately choreographed. But it certainly serves the purpose of misdirection. The other thing it does is deprive the Berlusconi (who is unpopular with Eurosocialists) of the glory of being a founding father, Monnet’s apostolic successor.

  • mike

    But why? Why does he want to assassinate this country? What is impelling him and this cadre of political fixers to want to drive a dagger through our hearts? If we can find the answers to those questions then maybe we have a means of turning this stay of execution into a true and lasting victory.

    Because he wants to go down in history, simple as that. Given that he’s failing/failed to get the UK into the single currency, he’s looking for other ways to secure his legacy.

  • Verity

    Also, gunner, if you’re “not up on” the ongoing 30 year EU debate, how do you know you “had the same troubles over 200 years ago”? There is absolutely no similarity by any stretch of the imagination that the EU debate is even remotely similar to the founding of the US.

  • Verity

    Mike – yes, you have it. 59m Britons are to be sold down the river for the sake of one man’s megalomaniac ego. That plus a job and a sense of overweening self-importance for life as – sneer quotes – Foreign Minister with a vast fiefdom.

    Guy – I agree about their not wanting Berlusconi to have what in their scheming minds is a success, but I think the meeting was scheduled now so they could get a failure out of the way under Berlusconi. This will be presented as having “cleared the air”, and they can get on with the business of shredding democracy and national sovereignty later.

  • R C Dean

    I’m not so sure that this is choreographed or survivable. The EU has, in a sense, done all the easy stuff, and now that it is nut-cutting time, with real power politics issues on the table, I am not surprised to see the negotiations foundering.

    Keep in mind that the EU is polling poorly. This would be a very bad time to “choreograph” a disagreement like this.

    These are not cosmetic issues that are being bandied about. The “core” EU countries are reneging on a promise made to the second wave countries on the critical issue of how many votes they get. The second wave countries want a blocking or veto position, and the core countries don’t want to give it to them. This is definitely the kind of issue that can scupper a deal and put it six feet under.

    The other issue is whether the EU as a whole will have the ability to enforce its edits against member governments. Again, this is a core issue – if any government is free to disregard fiscal restrictions, then the Euro becomes a very dangerous currency to be part of. Again, this is a legitimate walk-away issue for both sides.

    Saddam captured (but not dead, blast it – why do I have all these highly trained killers on my payroll if they aren’t going to kill the right people?) and the EU foundering. Its starting to look like a merry Christmas after all.

  • It is too early to conclude what the consequences of this breakdown are.

    We should not forget that many EU treaties were often agreed in a final rushed round of negotiations because none of the leaders were willing to raise their heads above the parapet and take the blame for stopping the Project (note the NuLab parallels).

    A hopeful reading of this un-negotiation is that some Member States are no longer sufficiently bound by their European ideology to subsume their national interests within the greater whole.

    Europe no longer commands consensus.

  • Well the EU is not longer relevant either. It was set up as a form of protection against the eastern block. Its outdated and unnecessary.

  • M.

    France needs the EU to justify their delusions of granduer.They need the UK army(the only deployable military outside the US) to fight wars and they need UK oil and pension funds and E. Europe as a private market to sustain their own economy.This requires that France keep E. Europe down,Germany passive and UK dumb to pull it off.

    The US has problems as I’m the first to admit,but when I look west,I don’t feel so bad about us.
    Boy,do you folks have problems!

  • Verity

    M – That’s the best analysis of the EU that I’ve ever read! I couldn’t argue with a single word!

  • toad

    The prime motivation ofAmerican Revolutionary War was about a “political freedom” that is having a vote on the HM government tax policies (plus some lust for power). If I understand this EU stuff correctly the citizens of the UK will be losing political, personal, and what little sovereignty they have over their offspring and possesions. To me this much worse than anything George III did to the colonies. So where is the revolution?

  • mike


    Brits will bend over backwards and take almost anything. Bill Bryson said that for this reason the Brits would have taken communism well, since they’ll take all kind of hardship and seem to like queuing…. Satire of course, but there’s some home truths in it.

    Thank gawd I live in Holland now… not that that’s a whole lot better!!!

  • Guy Herbert

    RC Dean writes: “The other issue is whether the EU as a whole will have the ability to enforce its edits against member governments.”

    I don’t see that that’s at issue at all. There’s virtual unanimity that it should. The wrestling is about who gets to steer the ship (or be seen to be steering the ship) in the medium term, not whether to get on board or not.

    Having been through one revolution in a decade the Easterners don’t fancy carrying the can if their people think they’ve been sold to a new Soviet empire. Likewise Bliar and Aznar, both of whom could come unstuck at home in ways not open to governing consensus coalitions in many of the other countries, would like to do things in a different order, so as not to wake the sleeping dogs.