Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Today's the day…

As the song goes... only they ain't teddy bears and this ain't no picnic – more like ritual slaughter in fact. Perhaps there should be an EU meat inspector present to ensure that the animal is put down humanely.

Actually, this is fantasy. For sure, the Dutch will almost certainly vote "nee" and the best of luck to them. Currently, polls are giving the campaign a 20 point lead and it is hard to see anything that could happen in the few hours left that will change the balance. If anything, as time passes, the "nee" vote will harden and some pundit are predicting a final score as high as 70 percent.

Nevertheless, The Times, amongst other newspapers, is predicting that this vote will kill off the treaty. I do not believe that for a minute. There, perhaps lies hubris, but I still don't believe it. Despite saturation coverage, I have almost given up listening to the broadcast media, unable any longer to tolerate the torrent of drivel.

Anyway, to support its case, The Times cites unnamed commission officials who are "privately conceding" that a second emphatic 'no' from a founding member would probably prove fatal. "There is a limit to what we can say before the Dutch vote. But things will change afterwards if they say 'no'," one commission source is claimed to have said.

The paper goes on to say that no country wants to be held responsible for killing the constitution by being first to abandon a referendum, but diplomats are saying that "everyone is talking to everyone" about how to proceed. "We don't want to be the first to say 'no'. We won't say 'no' unless there is a general decision not to go forward," says one diplomat from a state which has promised a vote.

However, all this is low grade stuff, although the paper does go on to cite Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary and Neil (now Lord) Kinnock, both arguing that the constitution is dead. Frankly, though, if either said it was raining, I would go outside to check.

More substantially, The Times admits that the UK is the only country not to commit itself to moving forward with ratification, with all other EU member states officially saying that their plans to ratify it have not changed. It is going to be very hard for any of these countries to break ranks.

In the meantime, the Swedes are said to be more enthusiastic about having their own referendum, at least according to one report.

This is based on an opinion poll by Sifo and published in the daily Aftonbladet. According to this, 65 percent of voters want a referendum, compared with 58 percent questioned in a similar poll three months ago. Only 27 percent believe that the planned parliamentary ratification would be acceptable.

Furthermore, some 41 percent of the 1,000 voters polled by Sifo said they would vote "no" in a referendum, with 23 percent saying they would vote "yes". The "undecideds" stood at 36 percent.

The contagion, it seems, is spreading and even little Luxembourg is reported to be "wobbling". If I didn't know so well how the "colleagues" thought, I might even have my doubts. But then, as I have observed, this ain't no picnic.

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