Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A few empty soundbites

Peter Riddell in The Times this morning seems to agree with Tory Diary that the worst is over for Cameron. This is not least because of his Party's stance on the EU referendum, where Labour ministers, "have appeared to be reacting, rather than setting the agenda."

That the ground is slipping away is presumably what has brought arch-Europhile, MEP Richard Corbett out of the woodwork, with a piece in the Guardian's "comment is free" slot. But, if there was a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of lies and half truths that can be packed into a piece of text, Corbett would be the world record holder.

For instance, in June, says Corbett, "the 27 EU heads of government agreed a mandate to draw up a reform treaty that will replace the abandoned constitutional treaty." Er, no. In June, the European Council agreed a mandate, instructing the heads of government to draw up a treaty which is now called, misleadingly, a "reform" treaty.

The treaty does not exactly replace the "abandoned constitutional treaty". It effectively duplicates it or, to be more precise, amends the existing treaties to produce a document that is, to all intents and purposes, the constitutional treaty. Thus, the constitutional treaty has not been abandoned. It has simply been arrived at by a different route.

But, says Corbett, "the most controversial elements of the latter have been dropped." Well, the flag, the EU anthem and the motto have been dropped. Controversial? Maybe, but will the EU stop using its flag, anthem and motto? Er, no. As for whether these were the "most controversial aspects of the treaty", that is a matter of opinion – and a minority one at that. Many people think that the whole treaty is controversial. Certainly, even with the tiny parts of the original missing, it is still controversial.

And now for the big lie: "The proposed reform treaty will instead focus on modest adjustments to the existing EU system." But, since the constitutional treaty is almost entirely intact (with some additions, like turning the ECB into a Union institution), how can this justify claiming that the new treaty will now merely "focus on modest adjustments" to the existing EU system?

Yet, observes Corbett – i.e., despite the new treaty merely "focusing on modest adjustments" - "some are still advocating a referendum".

Oddly enough, in June 2005, Corbett complained about an attack by The Times on his beloved constitution: "No attempt at argument, no analysis or discussion … Trashing the EU constitution with a few empty soundbites …".

But, when it comes to trashing those whom he happily refers to as "Europhobes", it seems that it is perfectly acceptable to rely on "a few empty soundbites".

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