Thursday, June 17, 2004

Pull the other one, Tony

The papers are full of headlines such as "We won't give up red lines", attributed to Gordon Brown and "Britain plays hard ball over EU constitution".

Do they really think we are that stupid? As we pointed out in yesterday’s Blog, Britain's "red lines" – the very few that Blair is still interested in – are already safe. And on the headline issue of taxation, Britain was by no means alone. Many of the accession countries – not least Latvia – were totally opposed to the EU acquiring power to force member states harmonise tax levels, so the proposal was not going to fly anyway.

No, the constitution – what is left of it – is a done deal, and all we are seeing is the ritual pre-summit posturing to give Blair and Co the opportunity to come out proclaiming that they have done "a good deal for Britain". On BBC Radio 4's "World Tonight" programme last night, even Michael Ancram made that point, which shows how utterly transparent this seedy little ploy really is.

And that is what the summit is reduced to – pure theatre. Blair will tell us what he has "protected" but will not tell us how much power he has given away to the EU.

Nor will he remind us of his speech in Warsaw on 6 October 2000, when he declared that he did not believe a constitution was necessary – the text of which is now, strangely, no longer available on the No, 10 Downing Street web site. For the record, therefore, the relevant text is reproduced here:

"It is perhaps easier for the British than for others to recognise that a constitutional debate must not necessarily end with a single, legally binding document called a Constitution for an entity as dynamic as the EU.

What I think is both desirable and realistic is to draw up a statement of the principles according to which we should decide what is best done at the European level and what should be done at the national level, a kind of charter of competences.

This would allow countries too, to define clearly what is then done at a regional level. This Statement of Principles would be a political, not a legal document. It could therefore be much simpler and more accessible to Europe’s citizens.
"

Now, however, we are told we need a constitution to "safeguard Britain’s position at the heart of Europe". Pull the other one, Tony.

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