Sunday, May 22, 2005

The best outcome

The papers today are full of speculation about the outcome of the French referendum, of such confusing diversity that it is pointless even trying to summarise it.

Interestingly, though, after Delors recently let the cat out of the bag about there being a “Plan B” in the event of a French "non" – only to have it denied - The Sunday Telegaph is now revealing that there was a Plan B after all.

In the event of a "non" the 25 EU members plan to issue an emergency joint statement, as long as the rejection is by a small margin. The statement would insist that the constitution lives on and that ratification must continue. Britain would therefore go ahead with its referendum.

Under this plan, the treaty would be voted on again by the French after its ratification by all other EU states. However, if France votes against the treaty by a big majority, a possible outcome dubbed a "grand Non", many EU leaders accept that the constitution would in effect be dead, and it would be futile to try to shore it up with an emergency statement.

While some pundits suggest that we would be better off with a French "oui", the prospect of a French "petit Non" seems to be the best possible outcome. Not least, this would maximise the political pain for Tony Blair – with Britain holding the EU presidency over the crucial period, he would be expected to broker the deal that brought the French back into the fold.

The sight of Blair squirming to justify the constitution to the French – who are already suspicious of its being an "Anglo Saxon Trojan Horse" – is a treat too good to be missed, especially as, at the same time, he will be trying to sell the text to us, as being "Good for Britain".

Altogether then, Wayampi Indians notwithstanding, we on this Blog will be hoping for a very narrow "non" – the narrower the better.

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