Wednesday, June 18, 2003
HMV - 18th June 2003, 23.26

Peter Mandelson writes in the Financial Times on the issue of the European Constitution, setting out in public the themes that many in the Blairite circle share in private. Europhilia is the love that dares not speak its name, for fear of upsetting the public.

The New Labour Europhiles hold Euroscepticism in contempt and prefer to view this body of opinion as a 'dark force of conservatism', which will wither under its own contradictions. Mandelson's philosophical cod-Marxist determinism is clear to see when he gropes for an argument to describe a movement that he perceives to be a "reactionary force".

The constitution's anti-European detractors are to be found in the Conservative party and the Europhobic press. Plenty of rope, but no ground, should be conceded to them and in time they will be defeated by their own hyperbole.

Europe will succeed due to the support of those political and economic interests that, in the 1930s, would have been described as 'progressive'.

For Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's convention essentially reflects what Tony Blair has been seeking: a more effective European Union rooted in the democratic legitimacy of its member states. It certainly offers a vision that Labour and the Liberal Democrats, business people and trades unions can back with enthusiasm: deeper integration, where it is justified by the benefits, but without substantially more Brussels centralisation.

Thus, Mandelson is willing to trade the peculiar traditions of the 'common law' for the perceived advantages of European integration. and yet, he stops short of crystallising an objective for Europe. There are vague hints: such as a common foreign policy and the eventual harmonisation of criminal law. The article is couched in the 'progressive' discourse that New Labour utilises though it is rare to see a Marxist determinism surface as it does here. Since a teleogical politics is chosen by this group, Mandelson's unconvincing finish that "Mr Giscard d'Estaing has produced a smart balancing act" tells us that the Constitution is considered an important stepping stone upon the road to a European state, not the supranational mess of the current regime.

If critics of the European Constitution are pinning their hopes on British diplomats renegotiating many of the points in this document, Mandelson's article spells out the stance of many Blairites: European integration is a more important goal than British national interest.

Those who want to unpick the threads should beware of the whole package unravelling.


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