Thursday, June 02, 2005

Actually, the people got it wrong

Already the mice are nibbling away at the "no" votes. It is only a matter of time before the élites have convinced themselves that everyone who voted against the constitution actually meant to say "yes".

By no means in the vanguard with the first line of attack is our very own not-so-fragrant Margot who argues:

We will probably now see a debate that follows with also interpretation of exactly what kind of No this was. I have met a number of those who participated and said "No" in this referendum but who believe in European integration. They say that they don't think that this Constitution is the solution but they want European integration to continue and they believe in the European project. It is clear that people voted "No" for many reasons.
This approach is echoed by the phalanxes of dismal hacks (and, in the interests of gender equality, hackettes) who have been falling over themselves to ask "no" voters – in both the French and Dutch referendums – why they voted, then stentoriously pronouncing that they were all voting for different things – anything other than against the constitution.

The one useful contribution to the debate made by Liam Fox, shadow foreign minister, has been to comment precisely on that. It is an arrogance, he proclaimed, to argue that the "no" voters did not know what they were voting for, while the "yes" camp were so perfectly aware of what they were doing.

In the few instances that "yes" voters have been asked why they voted, there has been an equal array of motives – from wanting to "counterbalance" the United States and improving the economic situation in Europe, to increasing democracy. There was even one idiot – a Dutch man – who thought that the constitution would reduce the bureaucracy. From her comments, it was evident that his wife did not agree.

Anyhow, the definitive line is now being put by Sir John (now Lord) Kerr, who so ably assisted Giscard in cobbling together the constitution. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's World Tonight, he pronounced that the Dutch had not voted against the constitution. The had voted against the EU as it was now, reacting against the very problems that the constitution was intended to remedy.

On the back of that, we have a smug, grinning Barroso telling a perplexed Paxman on Newsnight that every member state has a right to give its opinion on the treaty and, in any event, all the 25 member state leaders had signed up to a procedure. All he wanted was for them to "respect the procedure".

That "procedure" is of course set out in Declaration 30, which the commission president argues means that all member states have committed themselves to attempting to ratify the treaty. On 16/17 June, the whips will be out to make sure that all those leaders reaffirm the sanctity of the procedure.

Thus, as did Balkenende, in his address half an hour after the exit poll result had been declared, call for all other member states to continue with the ratification process, so have all bar one of the other member states, especially Chirac and Рthis evening РSchröder. Tony Blair is now in a minority of one Рthe only leader of the 25 EU member states who has not committed to "respect the process".

He cannot now embark on a critical EU presidency, due to start on 1 July, at odds with every other head of state and government, marked down as the man who "pulled the plug" on the constitution. One way or another, he will fall into line, and the ratification procedure will continue.

Strangely, and contrary to all the wiffle emanating from the corps of hacks, that actually gets Blair off the hook. With the ratification procedure continuing, any broader discussion on the "direction Europe is taking" – or whatever – will be put on hold, pending the remaining countries doing their duty.

Over the next few days and weeks, we will of course continue to be swamped by the drone of ignorant hacks – who have never bothered to learn anything about the way the EU works and are now called on to interpret events they do not understand. There will also be endless vapourings from useful idiots like Denis MacShane, he who never misses an opportunity to parade his own stupidity. But the fact is, the ratification process will continue.

And what of the peoples of Europe (or of France and The Netherlands)? Well, they may have spoken. But they got it wrong.

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