Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Head in sand

Charles Kennedy thinks we should "bury the treaty and create a new vision for Europe".

So he tells The Independent today, in another exciting instalment of Lib-Dim drivel to which we have become accustomed.

Tony Blair was right yesterday to call for a "pause for reflection", he says, but that is no excuse for a lack of a proper strategy. It is time for a dose of realism – "particularly from pro-Europeans like myself."

For someone who is so often accused of negativity, let me at this stage offer my own “positive” vision for Europe. We all go to Brussels, in an entirely positive frame of mind, and positively raze the Berlaymont to the ground. We ship the debris to the North Sea and pile it in the water, to provide a Cod refuge, and then we grass over the site, planting long-lasting land mines to prevent the site being ever used again.

Anyhow, this is not for the egregious Kennedy who, for his first "dose of realism", wants the European Council to recognise that the constitution is dead and suspend the ratification process (er.. if it is dead, why only "suspend"?).

He then says, "the problems that the Constitution was created to address remain. So at some point we will have to revisit the powers of the Union." Fine… except that the constitution and the powers of the Union are part of the problem. Actually, they are the problem.

But, he adds, "the overwhelming need is to re-establish the trust of the people in the EU." And which planet does this man live on? What trust? When have the people ever trusted the EU?

Kennedy's second "dose of realism", though, is that he wants a "moratorium on significant treaty revision." We need a period of stability, "removed from the constant churn of treaty upon treaty that we have lived through over the past decades." In fact, what we want, Mr Kennedy, is the EU to be scaled down (to nothing) and the powers returned. The status quo is not acceptable.

So we come to the fantasy. "There is much of the necessary reform agenda that can be achieved within the existing treaties. And nowhere is there greater need for reform than in the EU budget itself. The Government is right to resist renegotiation of the British rebate, unless it goes hand in hand with thorough reform of the Common Agricultural Policy."

Here we go again. The first man to propose reform of the CAP was Sicco Manholt, in 1961. And he invented it. Ever since then, "CAP reform" has remained a standing item on the community agenda, and it has proved – and will continue to prove – its most enduring item.

Nevertheless, Mr Kennedy still believes "passionately" that it is within Europe that Britain's interests are best protected. His greatest fear is that "without a referendum in the UK, the Government will allow the pro-European argument to wither."

That cannot be allowed, says Kennedy. "In Britain, and across Europe, we need to re-engage the interest and awareness of the people in what the Union is - and what it is not. For the Liberal Democrats that means setting out our pro-Europe, pro-reform agenda."

Thus comes his "third dose of realism". This must be faced by pro- and anti-Europeans alike, he says. That, he tells us, is that the world will not stand still and wait for us Europeans to sort ourselves out.

Actually, rather than burying the treaty, it sounds more like Mr Kennedy is burying his own head in the sand. Time to get those bulldozers moving.

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