Friday, June 18, 2004

A bicycle made for an unknown number

Just to show that this blog is not written by a bunch of political wannabes, I intend to boast again about my media appearance.

This morning I took part in a discussion on the Constitution, which was reasonably even-handed: an economist from the LSE telling us that withdrawing from the single market or, even the EU, would be economic suicide and a single taxation system is needed for a single market (one wonders what his students make of him); and a representative of Britain in Europe.

The BiE man thought there was no need for a single taxation system for the single market to function, citing the United States as an example, but tried hard to prove that the eurosceptics must be wrong because they have cried wolf so often and none of it has come true.

I represented the eurosceptic view, pointing out that a great deal of what we warned about has come true and talking about the serious problems with democratic accountability and shift in power that are in the Constitution.

The presenter was reasonably sympathetic to my point of view, proving that the shift in media attitudes is still there.

Among other things I pointed out that the vote last week showed quite clearly that the peoples of Europe, as opposed to the Euro-elite, are calling for a brake on the process of integration. Why, in that case, is there such a rush to pass this Constitution? Why is every slowing down or lightening of the burden seen as a terrible set-back?

Alistair Stewart, the presenter and newscaster, added that he had heard that argument from a number of people who were basically in favour of the EU and further integration. They thought that things were going too fast and going wrong. Re-thinking was called for.

And what did the man from Britain in Europe say? He went on about the need for changing the structures as the EU now consists of 25 members. (Clearly, he has forgotten that the Nice Treaty was pushed through using those very arguments.) Otherwise, he added, it will grind to a halt and none of the benefits will be seen.

The "benefits", one assumes, are a sclerotic economic system, intrusive legislation, protectionism and lack of political accountability.

After the programme I looked at the latest news reports and what did I find? Complete disagreement on every subject under the sun. Whether the argument about taxation between Blair and Chirac is for real, or, as my colleague has suggested, a farce put on by two posturing politicians, there are all sorts of problems there.

The small countries are banding together on the question of voting rights, clearly more interested in protecting their own interests then in making "Europe work", personal rows are breaking up all over the place and there is clearly no agreement on who is going to be the next President of the Commission.

The French and the Germans want Guy Verhofstadt as a "good European", though he is also a man who did as badly as anyone in last week's election [see Something stirs in Belgium]; the right-wing federalist EPP wants Chris Patten but as he is British, though a europhile, he is persona non grata with Jacques and Gerhard, that famous comedy duo; the British are still pushing for the Portuguese Antonio Vitorino.

This bicycle seems to have lost its steering rod. Or, to use another metaphor, so loved by the europhiles, this convoy is sailing in all different directions. In what way is it a convoy?

Where does that leave the rest of us? Well, apparently, the people of Europe are not wanted on the long trip to the utopia of European construction. They are not European enough. They will be informed in due course.

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