Sunday, June 26, 2005

I just love it

Confirming its growing reputation as an incisive commentator on EU affairs, The Business today offers a trenchant editorial on the Blair "smoke 'n' mirror show" under the heading: "Yet more Eurobabble from Tony Blair". The first two paragraphs are absolutely vintage:

If the congenitally gullible British media is to be believed, Europe has a new liberator: he goes by the name of Tony Blair and Britain's newspapers and broadcasters think he will triumphantly ride into Brussels on Friday (1 July) to inaugurate Britain's presidency of the European Union (EU) by unleashing a radical programme of market-based reforms and a bonfire of red tape that will make Europe great once more. Needless to say, this is pure nationalist fantasy, the latest manifestation of the conceit long embedded in the British political elite that if only its politicians were more committed to the EU then they could lead it. As an aspiration it is even more ludicrous than usual because this time it is to be achieved largely by the British Prime Minister's supposed force of conviction, charisma and skills as a salesman, allowing him to bypass Europe's discredited leaders and convince the people of the need for a dramatic break with the past in a mere six months. Forget New Labour, New Britain; now it is New Labour, New Europe.

The ludicrously-high expectations of what Mr Blair can achieve were exemplified by an embarrassingly naive double-page spread in the Blairite London Times on Saturday with a headline that would have made the old Pravda proud: "Britain is blowing a wind of change across Europe". We hate to rain on anybody's parade but this sort of journalism needs to take a cold shower because, to be blunt - it ain't gonna happen. Mark our words: it will all end in failure and embarrassment, for the Prime Minister and his desperate cheerleaders in Britain's Euro-sceptic press and the Tory Party, whose intellectual collapse accelerates by the week.
Cutting to the chase, the paper confirms this Blog’s own view that, at best, Blair may achieve one or two marginal reforms which, in best Blairite fashion, will be trumpeted as epoch-making (whereas, in fact, they will make no difference to the EU's decline). At worst, it says, and more likely), he will have no impact whatsoever on the course of European events, in line with most of the other recent presidencies, including the Dutch who were supposedly going to launch a deregulation drive.

The paper points out another issue familiar to our readers that, under the Treaties which shape how the EU operates, all proposed legislation or reform must originate from the Brussels Commission (the permanent bureaucracy), not the European Parliament, not ministers and therefore not Britain. In something of an understatement, it says:

That makes change even more difficult. For example, the British government has said that it will use its Presidency to slash red tape and save "hundreds of billions of euros". Aside from the fact that this is an aspiration it has yet to achieved in Britain, which must raise some doubts that it can do it on a European scale, it is simply unachievable given the current way the EU operates, regardless of the "significant political support" London claims from other members to pursue such an agenda.
The rest of the editorial is equally trenchant and well worth a read, not least the reminder that the dysfunctional Blair-Brown duumvirate is steadily re-shaping Britain in Europe's image. Thus do Blair-Brown mimic what they affect to despise. By adopting the social chapter, signing up to two integrationist European treaties and pushing through a huge number of large regulatory initiatives, Britain's supposedly fabled labour market flexibility has been drastically eroded. The British model is dying the death of a thousand Brown-Blair cuts and looking more like the sclerotic economies of continental Europe every year.

The paper concludes by saying that Europe's political establishment should relax. For Mr Blair to go to Europe and call for modernisation cannot possibly be construed as endorsing real free-market reform when the Blair-Brown government has spent its time doing the opposite at home. It is, therefore, it says, high time the British media regained its faculties and ceased treating Blair as a vanquishing hero. Nobody is happy with the status quo in Europe; but the European Establishment is not turning Euro-sceptic; neither is Blair.

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