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The music has stopped…

Posted by Richard Monday, June 06, 2005

That is the theme from The Times leader this morning, which enjoins "EU leaders" not to play "pass-the-parcel with a dead constitution".

With Schröder and Chirac declaring that the ratification process should continue, the paper suggests that this can, logically, only mean that they favour pursuing one of two strategies:

They either hope that universal approval for the constitution elsewhere will force deviant voters in two countries into line or, more plausibly, they want to share the blame for the failure of this venture by having other governments endure the intense embarrassment suffered in Paris and The Hague. Neither approach is honourable or credible.
If they continue, says The Times, the British government should "politely tell Paris and Berlin that the music has stopped."

If indeed the music has stopped, it would explain, as The Business remarked yesterday, that "many British eurosceptics are feeling strangely depressed this weekend."

Their immediate euphoria after last week's crushing rejection by the people of France and the Netherlands of the dreaded European Constitution is now a distant memory, replaced with a sense of dej vu at Tony Blair's remarkable ability to snatch victory from the jaws of what should have been a big defeat.
Certainly, without a referendum, it will not only be Eurosceptics who will feel cheated, and the lack of a poll will leave a dangerous vaccum in British politics. Integration will continue apace, yet without legitimacy, leaving the whole question of where the project is going unresolved.

Interestingly, one person who did express relief, if not delight at what he believes is the cancellation of the referendum is Lord Haskins, chairman of Britain in Europe, who last night told BBC's Westminister Hour that: "some of us feel a sense of relief that we no longer have this noose around our necks".

Yet the same Lord Haskins, just over a year ago was telling The Daily Telegraph that: "A positive vote on the EU constitution should finally dissipate the destructive scepticism which has prevailed in Britain about our relations with Europe."

For Haskins to revel in the cancellation, therefore, must mean that he is content that the "destructive scepticism" should continue for, without a referendum, there is absolutely no possibility of a vote, much less a positive vote.

Thus, while he and his colleagues may welcome a halt to the music, they should be aware that the boil has yet to be lanced. And while the absence of music can always be tolerated, untended boils can do very nasty things.