Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Driving a wedge?

Although Her Majesty's Government has not exactly been high profile in opposing the forthcoming (or so the "colleagues" hope) EU treaty, prime minister for not much longer Blair has expressed his preference for a cut-down version, making only minimal changes to the existing treaties.

Furthermore, on certain issues – particularly justice and home affairs – there is a commonality of interest between the UK and the Czech Republic and Poland, each of which countries have expressed their own reservations.

Thus, described in somewhat colourful language, England Expects may have happened upon the strategy which the EU intends to employ to defeat this unholy triumvirate.

Courtesy of this blog, we learn that the rabid Europhile, Andrew Duff – a Lib Dem MEP for Eastern England has been suggesting that, "If the English can be defeated then the opposition in Prague will disappear", having clearly discarded any loyalty to the land of his birth.

His treachery, however, may explain why the Finanical Times is reporting that, out of the blue, German chancellor Angela Merkel is to offer Britain an “opt-out” from some of the most sensitive parts of what she hopes will be the revamped treaty.

And, high on that list of "opt-outs", it seems, is police and judicial co-operation on criminal issues, for which abolition of national vetoes is being considered.

This, the FT says, would take the political pressure off soon to become premier Gordon Brown, who wants to avoid a referendum on any new treaty at all costs. He is also nervous of giving ammunition to the Conservative opposition and the (sometimes) eurosceptic British media, either of which could seize on any removal of the national veto as grounds for a referendum.

Hans-Gert Pöttering, president of the EU parliament and, we are told, a confidant of Ms Merkel, is certainly of the view that this would help secure a deal and, if the Duff indiscretion is any guide, it is calculated to take the UK out of the game and leave Prague and Warsaw bereft of a powerful ally.

The funny thing is that, unlike say, the huge battles at Maastricht when John Major fought tooth and nail to secure an opt-out from the euro, Blair has not even asked for anything yet and has even not decided whether he actually wants any opt-outs.

It is, as they say, a funny old world.


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