Thursday, May 19, 2005

Move over children...

"A No vote is a vote for repatriation of power", says the leader in the Daily Telegraph this morning.

The paper is right, of course, as it goes on later to say, in the same leader: "A 'no' vote would not simply be a vote for the status quo: it would be a vote for the wholesale repatriation of power from Brussels and the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty."

That is why the Euro-luvvies are so terrified, knowing that their bicycle metaphor is all too true: stop peddling and you fall off. There can be absolutely no doubt that if the "project" does not keep powering forward, with treaty after treaty – if it once falters – the whole thing will start unravelling.

Thus, if there is a vote, and if the kindergarten currently masquerading as a "no campaign" doesn't manage completely to screw it up and by some miracle we deliver a resounding rebuff to this ghastly constitution, there will be a debate and all the options will be on the table.

That saying, we have no time for the simplistic – even facile – UKIP mantra, which sees our relationship with "Europe" in the puerile terms of a "free trade agreement". Our dealings with the continent are far more complex than that, requiring agreements on a vast range of issues, from postal charges and telephones, to air traffic control, environment and pollution and, yes, even security and defence.

In that context, as the Telegraph puts it, "since this is the first time that we have been asked our opinion in 30 years, it is only natural that we should wish to express a view on the various transfers of power to the EU that have happened over that period," but what is really at the heart of the debate is our precise relationship with Europe.

And this is what our hapless (that word again) Commissar for Truth and Reconciliation, Margot Wallström, was getting at in the speech she never gave in Terezin, when she complained about those "who want to scrap the supranational idea" and want the EU "to go back to the old purely intergovernmental way of doing things".

This is a battle of philosophies, where the one side is content – nay willing – to manage international affairs on the basis on sovereign nation states freely entering into agreements, and abiding by them, and the other side which treats nation states like recalcitrant children, which must have an overarching nanny-like, supranational commission imposed on them to keep order.

Thus, when we come to vote for the constitution, if indeed we are allowed to, a "no" vote will amount to a defeat of the "supranational idea" and open the way for a re-ordering of Europe on the lines that the tranzies dread – intergovernmentalism.

Here, the idea of "leaving the EU" is equally facile. It makes absolute sense to have some kind of international organisation to aid in the process of ordering our affairs with our neighbours. The question is what sort of organisation – and the battle is over intergovernmental or supranational, not whether we retreat behind the ramparts and isolate ourselves from the world, as the Euro-luvvies would have it.

It is, therefore, time we stopped messing about, and came out into the open. We have to stop being mealy-mouthed about where we want to go, and dominate the debate on our terms. So, forget about the kindergarten of the "no campaign". Move over children - the grown-ups are coming.

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