Thursday, May 19, 2005

Prospect of a French "non"

From the Beeb:
"Britain should not have a referendum on the EU constitution if the French vote no to it, Sir Menzies Campbell said."
Um, is it just me or is this one of those "Pope a Catholic" sort of stories? Like all EU treaties, this one to facilitate enlargement has to be ratified by all members and if France votes "non", it's dead in the water and they'll have to go back to the drawing board so it would be fairly pointless people voting on something that's not going to happen.

I must say, I share Third Avenue's attitude to referenda - but when you say that, you tend to get a sort of inverted snobbery with people getting defensive, thinking you're accusing the masses of being dense or something.

This is bollocks: the "people" aren't the least bit interested in wading through the mangled prose of the EU constitution - and this is not a sign of stupidity but their good sense and indicative of them having better things to do, I'm glad to say.

The only reason I know anything about this sort of thing is because I had to for a paper on European integration when I was at university. I can't say the experience left me with the feeling that everyone should learn this stuff. Rather, I would say to anyone that, should they get the opportunity to read half a dozen books on monetary union, don't! These are hours of my life I'll never get back, dammit!

Anyway, people only advocate referenda when they think they're going to get the result they want - hence the tendency for Euro-phobe Tories to insist on one every 10 minutes; they're confident the Daily Mail/Sun axis of xenophobia will win the day.

The thing is, I wouldn't be so confident if I were them. Opposition to the EU is fairly soft and if the French vote "oui" and we have to have one, cue lots of mainstream politicians and celebs in a marketing blitz trying to persuade everyone that they'll die if they don't vote "yes" and people like John Redwood and Tony Benn on hand, serving as useful illustrations for the government's line that anti-Europeans are all loonies (conveniently forgetting that the EEC used to be a Tory policy while Labour was committed to withdrawal - although you can trust Tony Benn to remind them).

Anyway, if the French say "non", I reckon we should use the intervening time to have German-style legislation banning referenda.

Now, why do the Germans have this constitutional provision? Something to do with the fact that the diminutive Austrian corporal that ran the place from 1933 was rather keen on plebiscites, wasn't it?

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