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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

all we have to fear is...

Harry Truman said that "the best threat is a vague threat".

It's also true that the best horror films are the ones where you don't get to actually see the big scary monster too early in the proceedings.

And so it proves for the euro-loons.

There has been an interesting game of ping pong going on at the FT.

Last week Wolfgang Munchau was muttering darkly about how there was a secret mechanism to chuck Ireland out of the EU if they didn't correct their "no" vote.

This prompted some gentle teasing from his FT colleague, Gideon Rachman, who is a a former Brussels correspondent. He wondered what exactly this scary secret mechanism was.

Goaded by this, Munchau has retuned to the fray. He says:

"I wrote that it was possible to exclude a country from the EU as long as there was a political will. Let me explain today how this can be done, in all its gory detail."

But lo, when exposed to the light, the full ludicrousness of this threat is revealed. First he makes what looks like a confession:

Can a country be excluded from membership of the European Union? The answer is no. Does a non-ratification of a treaty by a single member state prevent a treaty from entering into force? The answer is yes. Both answers are as true as they are meaningless.

Nor does he think that holding a gun to the head of the poor Croatians would work:

Whether the enlargement threat will impress the Irish eurosceptics is unclear. I doubt it. My impression is that the Irish No voters are mostly concerned with their narrow Irish-related issues.

How dare the Irish vote on Irish grounds...

But finally he gets to the bottom line:

There is, of course, the ultimate threat; not a trial separation, but permanent divorce. The Lisbon ratifiers formally leave the EU, and re-group under a new rival organisation.

Munchau fesses up

In reality, this is not so much an option, but the thing you do when you have run out of options, the strategic choice of last resort. Like a nuclear bomb, it is a useful device to be used in an emergency, not something you plan for.


It's rather like the terrible bit in Jaws where the terrifying killer shark finally comes out of the water to try and munch the hero, and it turns that it is actually a huge comedy rubber 1970s blow up shark. Not very realistic. And not, therefore, very scary.

Postscript: Now Rachman has written back. He wonders what was so great about the Lisbon Treaty anyway.

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