Friday, May 13, 2005

Contaminating the argument

It might be an odd choice of phrasing, but that is what is being said about the decision by the campaigning group, Britain in Europe, to wind up its advocacy of the euro.

According to The Times this morning, the organisation has "abandoned its founding purpose” of scrapping the pound ahead of the EU referendum campaign, amid alarm that voters' hostility towards the single currency was contaminating arguments over the proposed European constitution."

Lucy Powell, director of Britain in Europe, has confirmed that her organisation had dropped all references to the euro after a board decision to "decouple" the issue from the constitution.

On the face of it, this represents a major, if unacknowledged defeat for the Euro-luvvies, but it also shows up an element of confusion on the part of The Times. Britain in Europe was in fact founded (or, at least, formally launched) on 26 March 1974 for the specific purpose of fighting the 1975 referendum.

It was relaunched in October 1999, to take on the campaign for the euro – which it now seems to have abandoned – so its current move can be seen more in terms of it clearing the decks to take on the function for which it was first established.

This seems to fit in with a suggestion, again reported by The Times, that Blair is considering pursuing a referendum even if the French and Dutch deliver "no" votes. On the back of this, it seems "diplomats" - i.e., our enemies in the Foreign Office - are already examining how the government could "rescue" the treaty (i.e., ignore the "no" vote) in such circumstances, one option being to revive those parts of the constitution which do not require treaty change, while going ahead with a referendum.

As to the referendum itself, Blair is holding his cards close to his chest, declined to give a date for the poll. It would be "done in a stable and orderly way", he told journalists in a press conference in Downing Street yesterday.

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