Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A dose of fantasy

You can take an old wheelbarrow and have earnest discussions about its failure to fly. You can even decide you want it to fly, and carry a load of happy passengers to far-distant shores. You can add a fuselage, wings, engines, control systems and all the paraphanalia of modern aircraft, and it will perform the functions that you so desire of it.

There is only one slight problem with that idea though. By the time you have finished, your original creation will no longer be a wheelbarrow.

That is the essence of the dire, mindless garbage that is filling our airwaves and polluting the pages of our newspapers, that comes dribbling out of the mouths of inane politicians and self-important, brainless commentators. Yes, you can have "reform" of the European Union. You can do all sorts of things with it. You could, for instance, turn it into a progressive, free-market trading group, an association of free, democratic nation states, co-operating with each other for the common good, and you could then "reconnect" it with the people.

There is only one slight problem with that idea though. By the time you have finished, your original creation will no longer be the European Union.

And that is why Blair's current round of evangalism is utter tosh. "'Old Europe' must reform or crumble, Blair warns leaders", is the headline in The Times this morning, offering the latest dose of Blair fantasy. "People throughout Europe will carry on rebuffing their leaders unless the European Union changes its priorities and cuts agricultural spending," Tony Blair declared last night.

Since this is a family blog, the expletive is deleted, but imagine it is there – all eight letters of it. People throughout Europe rebuff their leaders – their national leaders when they do not deliver. In this, the EU is not an issue, except where it is seen to obstruct those national politicians in their task.

And, while the CAP is universally unpopular, it removal is no panacea which is suddenly going to make the EU popular. It will still be the EU, still just as dire an organisation, and still as unpopular as ever, to those who give it any thought.

The Blair line, therefore, has all the hallmarks of one of his half-baked, half-thought-out "initiatives", from the same stable that has police constables spending 70 percent of their time chasing "targets" and completing paperwaork rather than fighting crime. It is a fantasy, a passing fad and, in the final analysis, an irrelevance.

Furthermore, CAP reform is never going to happen – at least, not in the political life-time of Mr Blair, or even his successor. Someone needs to ask him - what part of "fixed" do you not understand? The agriculture budget is fixed until 2013, under the "Agenda 2000" settlement, agreed in Berlin in 1999, an agreement to which, incidentally, Mr Blair was party. Even if they were willing, no French politicians will touch it – they dare not. It would be political suicide.

And if there is going to be no "reform", equally, there is not the slightest chance of a British prime minister, or even God himself, taking over the leadership of "Europe" and leading it into the path of rightousness. On that wheel has been broken every prime minister who has been foolish, or blind enough to aspire to such a vacuous ambition. If he persists in his fantasy, Blair will join them. It will not be "Europe" that will crumble – it will be him.

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