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France votes 'No' Double whammy against EU Federalists whitewash vote FCO wastes our money Constitution - the truth slips out
EU ID cards exposed Right man for the job?' Britain's phoney election How to save billions 1975: renegotiation was a farce

 What's New in 2005...

Blair dodges debate BLAIR FUNKS THE FIGHT
Remember the gung-ho Labour manifesto boast that that the EU Constitution was good for Britain and good for Europe? Or the commitment to hold a referendum and campaign wholeheartedly for it?

The government's decision, (6.6.05) to dump the enabling legislation into cold storage looks limp, even if there is the face-saving hint that they "reserve completely the right to bring back the Bill providing for a UK referendum should circumstances change" (FCO website).

If holding a referendum was such a worthy idea in the first place, why whinge that the only people who would benefit from it are the 'Europhobes'? (Independent, 4.6.05). It's still the same Treaty and the British public hasn't changed its pre-election scepticism? This is the same mighty leader who refused to debate head-on with other party leaders on BBC1 Question Time in April.

A clue might be that the Dutch government (3.6.05) said that ratification in other countries can continue but that the Netherlands will not co-operate. "The Constitutional treaty is over and finished", said prime minister Balkenende. (EU Observer news).

The Dutch stance will not be acceptable to Euro-bullies such as Chancellor Schröder who might want to force through the Constitution via the time-honoured EU tradition of making bolshie electorates vote again. Blair's Presidency of the EU promises to be a fraught one of trying to reconcile the irresistible force of the political elite with immovable object of public opinion.

At least on current form, Blair can lead the next Labour Party conference in singing a song for Europe:
"The people's vote, we must deny"
"We'll keep the white flag flying high"

French people reject EU No to Europe Logo

On 29.5.05, the French referendum rejected the European Constitution by 55%-45%. The heavy rejection of European integration sent shock waves across Europe. There were several reasons.

Some pointed out the personal unpopularity of President Chirac and a reaction against high unemployment, but France has been both following and driving EU policy. Others noted a reaction against the idea of Turkey joining the EU. True, there is no specific move to this in the Constitution, but membership has always been open to 'European nations' and the EU has encouraged Turkey's.

Some claimed it was public opposition to the 'neo-liberal economics' in the Constitution. However, the BBC's Paul Reynolds gave a well-reasoned report on how "The problem... is that in many key areas the constitutional treaty essentially repeats existing policy".

Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper (30.5.05) spoke of the feeling of the EU as "obscure omnipotent power that is advancing uncontrollably". Switzerland's Le Temps (30.5.05) put it down to "a crisis between 'the elites' and 'the people'. Britain's Daily Telegraph (31.5.05) noted that the massive 'No' vote could not just be written off as a protest vote by radical groups, and that the under-26 group 'unthinkably' voted against it.

President Chirac will be embarrassed to be reminded of his suggestion that Britain could be forced to leave the EU if its voters rejected the Constitution in a referendum! (Times, 29.4.04).

Dutch people reject EU Heavy vote against EU

On 1.6.05, the Dutch referendum rejected the European Constitution by approximately 62%-38% (some postal votes came in late). Like the French referendum, turnout was higher than expected, as was the margin of rejection (a huge 24%).

Reasons quoted included dissatisfaction with the Euro after steep price rises, being the largest contributor per head to the EU, fears on the loss of control on immigration and the prospect of Turkey joining the EU.

As in France, there was a reaction against unemployment (at 7%) but in contrast a feeling of being bullied by bigger EU states. The Netherlands had previously been regarded as a 'stronghold of European integration' (Guardian, 2.6.05).

On BBC1 Breakfast Time TV (2.6.05), Peter Oborne of the Spectator blasted Lord (and former European Commissioner) Neil Kinnock's view that people had voted 'in ignorance': "They knew exactly what they were voting against".

There were a whole range of unique national perceptions. Earlier, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf had parallelled Eurovision Song Contest voting with a loss of Dutch influence in a 25+ member EU that was increasingly East European.

Voters ignored Foreign Minister's warnings of economic disaster through rejecting the Constitution. The 'Yes' campaign were so desparate that they claimed it was needed to prevent war and terror. Complaints from viewers forced them to withdraw a TV commercial featuring rooms full of coffins from Yugoslavian massacres and films of Jews being deported in trains in WW2 (Times, 24.5.05).

(Footnote: Using 'Nazi/Holocaust/anti-semitic' imagery was highly inappropriate as the Dutch suffered under Nazi occupation. It might also be seen as hypocritical of EU supporters after the outrage at reports of funding terrorism via EU grants to the Palestinian Authority)

Elites reject vote

After the French vote, Spain's El Pais (30.5.05) regretted "as from today, Europe has no direction". They could not be more wrong. 'Europe' will continue under the existing Treaties which commit to 'ever-closer union'.

A Treaty is normally dead if one of the countries fails to ratify it. But not in the EU - Denmark (1993) and Rep. Ireland (2002) were made to go back and vote again after their people rejected EU treaties in a referendum.

Luxembourg currently holds the Presidency of the EU. Its leader, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that if the French and the Dutch voted 'No', they should have to hold their referendum again (interview with Belgian daily Le Soir, quoted on, 26.5.05).

Juncker also flannelled the French result: "Many of those who voted 'no' were voting for more Europe. If some of their votes are added to the 'yes' vote, we have won." (see EUreferendum blogspot) .

Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot claimed it was a mistake to let his people decide. He said: "We were opposed to it... We always said that this subject matter was far too complex to be made the subject of a referendum." (Sun, 1.6.05). Presumably he didn't complain about general election that his party won on the grounds that the public had to consider all sorts of other 'complex' issues as well as 'Europe'.

Wilfried Martens is President of the hard-line federalist EU-wide 'party', the 'EPP' (both Dutch and French governing parties are members). While claiming he respected the 'clear decision' of the French people, he added We should not forget that the Constitution was based on a very large consensus among all Member States. We will not get a better Constitution if we start the process again. Therefore, the Constitution, or at least the most important parts of it, have to come into force...."

Hans-Gert Poettering is Leader of his European Parliamentary Group, 'EPP-ED'. He felt "The "No" of two EU countries... could not be allowed to speak for all the other 23 members of the Union... the ratification process must go on."

He claimed that nine countries, with a total of 220m citizens, had already ratified the Treaty, and warned that a final failure of the Treaty would mean "less democracy".

In eight of those, it was ratified only by politicians, and in the ninth, Spain, only on a low referendum turnout.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Parliament's Socialist Group (PES), crowed very presumptively: "Nine countries, representing 49 per cent of the population of the EU, have already endorsed the Constitution. Many more will follow. We cannot allow the wish of the majority of our people to be thrown casually to one side. We cannot allow one or two countries to stifle the ambitions that the majority hold for Europe". (Press Release, 1.6.05)

German Socialist Chancellor Schröder had previously urged that a mechanism must be found for putting the treaty into operation even if Britain or other states blocked it with a "no" (Times, 30.4.04).

'British' Commissioner Peter Mandelson, hoped that other member states would carry on and vote 'Yes', then France would supply the necessary 'statesmanship and unity' that the future EU required. "One country, even France, does not have a veto, but this vote cannot be ignored". (Daily Telegraph, 31.5.05)

Sovereign nations should and do have a veto on Treaties that could unacceptably bind them. The fat-cat politicians claim to want 'a more democratic' EU. In practice, they like democracy only when it gives them what they want - an even greater transfer of power away from elected national governments to their emerging Euro-state. Beware.

Our 'Constitutional Crisis' feature

In 2004, economist Ian Milne wrote "The Costs and Benefits of the European Union" for the think-tank, Civitas. His evidence indicated that there would be no net loss of jobs or trade if the UK withdrew, but there could be net benefits of up to £20Bn.

A team at Cardiff Business School has compared the scanarios of withdrawal and adopting the European Constitution, and can identify theoretical benefits of up to £200Bn through withdrawal.

Some of the assumptions, such as on the UK having to bail out continental pension schemes are very much a 'worst case', although if the UK continues to let the politicised European Court dictate policy, even such drastic measures might be conceivable.

Still, it is worth reading for a view of costs and trends, and seeing how even adding up conservative estimates could produce substantial savings.

Click for review in The Business

Website for stockists, the IEA

Eurofanatic Denis 'MacInsane' is out, and the new Europe Minister is Douglas Alexander MP.

The Sunday Telegraph (22.5.05) claims that in the previous Friday's Guildhall speech, Alexander made a very 'Brownite' case for Britain's future in the EU, and "a practical Europe which delivers real, practical benefits".

Like the Chancellor, he spoke of a confident Britishness that "has not been undermined by membership of the EU". Not much of a change then? Why was he appointed?

One line of speculation is that he will be more measured in his passion for Europe than MacShane (not difficult!).

Another, more cruelly, is that if Britain resoundingly rejects the EU Constitution - as predicted - the Brownites will carry the can. It's unlikely that he'll be remembered as 'Alexander the Great'.

However it might be simply be that Alexander was the Cabinet Office minister who had the responsibility for pushing through the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. The alert will recall that this legislation provided drastic powers for the government to set aside the British Constitution and institutions and deal with any civil unrest. This experience might just prove relevant in bringing in the European Constitution?

Our Civil Contingencies Act feature

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This page updated: 7 Jun 2005 links updated: 11 Jun 2005

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