Tuesday, May 31, 2005

They Only Followed Their National Anthem

I'm relieved at the outcome of the French vote on the EU constitution, although perhaps not as triumphalist as some other bloggers. I'm relieved more because it will hopefully save me the pain of having to vote "yes" to a constitution that I fundamentally dislike on many levels, but probably prefer to the status quo. Additionally, we all know that a vote on the EU constitution in Britain would be seen more as a vote on the principle of the EU, rather than on the direct issue of how it should be governed, and I would fear that with a "no" vote, the next referendum would be one on whether we should leave the EU altogether. That is something which would be highly damaging to Britain's interests, and something I may pick up on later. In any case, a French "no" is much more a repudiation of the constitution than a repudiation of the EU, and will hopefully see a renegotiation of the constitutional treaty.

In any case, Chirac did not deserve to win the referendum campaign - it was a nasty, nationalist, un-European campaign. Quite why committed Europeans like Schroeder were prostituting themselves before the French to desperately secure a "oui" is beyond me, but it was unbecoming. The French tried to use the European Parliament to send out signals about the "social model", and when that didn't seem to work, they could always try a bit of Brit-bashing in opposing our rebate - despite the outright hypocrisy of opposing the British rebate whilst supporting the unreformed Common Agricultural Policy. Such an un-European campaign, willing to play on nationalist sentiment, not only highlights some of the difficulties that face the ardent supporters of "ever closer union", but doesn't deserve to win support for a constitution that aims to allow for pragmatic supranational solutions to be found to supranational problems.

Of course, the French response to the referendum is to appoint an even more unappealing nationalist as their new Prime Minister (who, incidentally, according to the BBC has never run for elected office). Still, those who fear the spread of the overregulatory burden of the social model needn't fear it too much. Even if the EU constitution won't kill it off, one other thing is guaranteed to. International competition.