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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What a shambles

The pro-euro camp have come up with their case for the new mini-constitution.

It's a joint publication of the Centre for European Reform and "Business for new Europe" - a ludicrous front group set 'inspired' by Peter Mandelson, which operates out of the offices of a lobbying firm called Finsbury.

Its a very amusing read.

After a good deal of beating about the bush, it tries to make the case for the new text.

One arguement is that the mini-Constitution is needed for enlargement. Eh? Didn't Sarkozy just say that Turkey is never coming in? As his aide Alain Lamassoure put it: "EU leaders have been lying to Turks for the past few years and the new French leadership believes we must stop doing so… The sooner we will have the courage to say this openly to Turkey the better."

We don't mean to be harsh but has there ever been, at any point, any suggestion whatsoever from France that they might let in Turkey if we sign up to the mini-Constitution? Or is this 100% pure self-delusion?

Another old argument is then dredged up. If we say no there will be "a loss of British influence". In fact "The Germans would not be amused that Britain had effectively destroyed what they hoped would be the crowning achievement of their EU presidency" (ooh - nasty).

Its difficult to know where to start with this sort of defeatist argument. One basic point is that we have already tried making sacrifices to look communautaire. Where has it got us? Take the EU budget negotiations - we gave away over £7 billion pounds for nothing but the promise of a "review" later.

The reality is that we need to have our own vision and insist on it. If your first priority is never to have an argument then you will never get anywhere.

Another argument is that if we said 'no' then "The more integrationist countries would start talking about ‘variable geometry."

One word: "great".

A flexible Europe (multi-speed is the wrong word because it implies everyone is going in the same direction) is the only way out of the EU's fundamental dilemma: some member states want more integration, other want less.

Lastly and leastly, the supposedly 'clinching' argument for the mini-Constitution is that the Union would become less capable of dealing with the many external challenges it faces". The paper lists Doha, the middle east, and Kyoto 2 as examples.

But the EU has flunked every one of these challenges. It is the main obstacle to a real development round. During the hostage crisis, EU members refused to endorse even the most mild sanctions on Iran (like no more export credits). And the EU's resposne to climate change is a joke: EU Emissions are up, not down, since it signed Kyoto, and the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme is a catastrophic failure which as squandered a fortune while allowing emissions to rise.

If we are ever going to get the EU to take these things seriously, the last thing we should do is legitimise the current EU's failings by giving it more power. The answer instead is to make our continued £10.5 billion a year payments to the EU conditional on progress - for example a meaningful Doha offer.

The bottom line, and the fundamental difference in our approach, is that we believe you don't get what you want in Europe by just going with the flow. Over the last ten years (maybe even the last 35) we have tested that idea to pretty much destruction. Now we need a fresh start, not more of the same.

(PS - you can get our contrasting take on the mini-constitution here)

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