Thursday, November 27, 2003
Blair's Bluster

I must admit that I thought the statements issued by the government on Tuesday were primarily for domestic consumption. However, it is reported today that the redraft of the Constitution, under the Italian Presidency, has removed the national veto from foreign policy and subjected this area to qualified majority voting.

Blair hoped that a clear and simple negotiating stance would deter the more federalist countries in Europe from encroaching upon the "redlines": preserving some freedom of action for Britain and allowing the toytown army to waltz across Iraq under US protection. Already involved in negotiations over the military planning unit with France and Germany and aware that the neutralisation of the Growth and Stability Pact has embittered the smaller countries, Blair has realised that the possibility of a full constitutional text for 2004 is diminishing.

In times of pressured negotiating, the European Union has a fairly successful track record. Most of the Member States do not wish to be considered responsible for the demise of the constitution and they will often make the necessary concessions or compromises to attain the winning post. With reference to Britain, one must ask which of the redlines that Blair has so assiduously publicised will be diluted. The most likely candidate is defence and Hoon's mumblings of downsizing, at the behest of a Brownite Treasury that prefers rancid butter to seized up guns, acts as a portent for the future.

If teh Constitution were to fail, the federalists have already started to make noises about a 'closer union'. The grouping includes France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and possibly the Netehrlands. If they were to develop an integrated model of governance, a European core, this could be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending upon how the institutions of the European Union reacted to this avant-garde. Its existence could either provide a stimulus to those bureaucratic and judicial elements that provide the dynamic for integration and harmonisation within the EU or it might encourage the fissiparous elements to demand the repatriation of powers, the greater use of opt-outs and the practical application of subsidiarity.

By writing this Constitution, the European elites have shown that even the structures, ideology and future of Europe remains a subject of division, argument and possibly failure.

(22.45, 27th November 2003)


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