Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Overdosing on fantasy

Britain's presidency of the EU, which begins next month, comes at a portentous moment in Europe's history, says The Daily Telegraph leader. The next decade's budgetary settlement; the Union's institutional architecture; the social and economic policies to be pursued - all are up for debate and redesign.

What utter, total, self-deluding tosh. And if this is the considered opinion if one of Britain's leading "quality dailies", the organ to which thinking people are supposed to turn for information and guidance, heaven help us all.

Yes, the "budgetary settlement" is up for debate. The extent to which it can be redesigned is debatable – in reality, all we will probably see is some trimming round the edges. But as to the Union's "institutional architecture" and the "social and economic policies", forget it. These are bound up in the treaties and can only be changed through the mechanism of an Intergovernmental Conference, leading to a new, amending treaty.

In case The Telegraph hadn't noticed, the French and the Dutch have just deep-sixed the last attempt at a new treaty and there is no prospect of another one in the near future, nor even an IGC which would lead to one.

Despite this, The Telegraph uses its false premise to launch into a prolonged episode of fantasy, declaring that: "the long progress towards political unification, dressed up in the false logic of historical inevitability, has met its rightful end in the referendums in France and the Netherlands, and a new project must be fashioned instead."

You just can't get the staff, these days, I suppose – even Telegraph leader-writers, so it looks like they’re having to recruit from the nursery, from writers schooled on Janet and John, and little else. And these Janet and Johneteers see "the plain choice" as between a dynamic, open and entrepreneurial Europe of nation states and a defensive, decaying superstate. Grow up kiddies – there's a real world out there, and you ain't even close.

The choice, dear kiddles, is no choice. Nothing has changed. Nothing is going to change without the fabled IGC and – read my lips – that is not on the cards. It isn't even on the distant horizon. Short of a collapse of the EU entirely – Oh happy day! – we are stuck with the status quo.

Anyhow, ignoring all this allows the kindergarten to romp away with the idea that General Blair is attempting to reconcile, in a harmonious third way, the divergent trends in European politics, which the boys and girls rightly dismiss as a non-starter. Blair's relations with the EU, they then say:

…resemble his relations with the Labour Party. Once an enthusiast for socialism, his achievement was in fact to make Labour change its ways. He clearly now wishes to do the same for Europe. We are no unabashed enthusiasts for New Labour, but we prefer it to the Old variety. If Mr Blair can accomplish a similar transformation of the EU, it would be a start, at least.
Neither Mr Blair nor Old King Cole are going to achieve anything of subtance, dear kiddles. Change is not on the agenda. You are overdosing on fantasy.

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