My colleague has recently written about the soon-to-be former-external affairs commissioner, Christopher Patten, suggesting that, although we always acknowledged his knowledge and intelligence, we may well have to revise our opinions.
If we needed any more incentive to do so, that was amply provided in the print edition of The Times, with a story headed "Britain winning fight in Europe, says Patten". The text (at the time of writing) was not available on the internet, owing to a mix-up by the Times staff, who have posted the wrong story under the headline.
For those thus deprived, the essence of Patten’s claim is that "Britain is winning its way in Brussels, European integration is ‘at the end of the road’, and the Franco-German axis is seriously weakened". Furthermore, "everyone thinks it is going in our direction – everyone thinks that the constitutional treaty, for example, represents a huge achievement for British diplomacy."
"For us to propose throwing out the treaty and opening up all these arguments again is crazy," says Patten. "It does represent most of the things we are arguing for. Why are Fabius and others in France going to campaign against the treaty? Because they think it is too British".
"The process of economic and political integration is in most respects at the end of the road", he adds, then arguing of the current state of the EU, "This is very different from the original vision. I certainly believe that this is a different vision from the one which is defined by conventional Europhile rhetoric".
Thus, after more in this vein, Pattern concludes, "The main problem with the EU is not what it does, but its failure to win hearts and minds." He feels the EU is such a success – creating a single market, a single currency and co-operating on justice and environmental issues – that it will be copied around the world.
One only has to read my earlier Blog to see immediately how hollow is Patten’s claim that "The process of economic and political integration is in most respects at the end of the road". In fact, "hollow" is too much of an understatement – "laughable" might be more appropriate. If the man really believes what he is saying that he is so stupid that he should not be let out alone.
Stupid he may be, but we do not believe that anyone outside a registered institution can be that deficient. But the alternatives are either that he is lying, or that he suffers from that peculiar delusion of the "chattering classes" of having convinced himself that what he speaks and believe is the truth.
This, however, is the man who is probably going to lead the "yes" campaign on the constitution, so his remarks may also be seen in the context of his opening shots of the campaign. That would not make them any less mendacious but it does define the context.
This should give us some comfort. If the "yes" campaign is going to front as its main arguments that the constitution represents a victory for Britain, and that the process of economic and political integration is "… at the end of the road", then we are going to have a very easy time of it.
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