Thursday, December 22, 2005

Blair's failure over Europe

I had one of those rare moments yesterday. I was sat in a friends shop chatting and listening to the radio news. A familiar voice came on, and I found myself agreeing with every word. Then I realised it was Blair. The great shame of the UK electoral system is it denies the UKIP tendency seats at Westminster, letting Blair off the hook when it comes to genuinely putting the case within Parliament. The Tories aren't in favour of withdrawal, even with Cameron, and none of the other parties really challenge him. Hearing him ripping into Farage was brilliant. It's just such a damn shame that Blair gave up on Europe so early in his term (you know, back when he was popular and some of us believed in him?).

Meh, enough from me, John at Atlantic Rift has an excellent post up on the reasons Blair gave up on making the case, as usual, it's because he didn't want to alienate the media:
The Labour party, dealing with the realities of government and still having their own doubts, quietly abandoned the cause. There’s little chance of the Conservatives, now led by a nice cuddly Eurosceptic rather than a scary foaming mouthed one, taking up the slack. And the Liberal Democrats are still in no danger of getting into government.

The splendid isolationism of Farage and his ilk doesn't represent Britain's interests - but while Blair will not explain to the public why, he shouldn't be surprised that they can so dominate debate.
Britain's place is within Europe. It has to be. Our press doesn't want to admit it (in fact, Murdoch seems very much in favour of the only sensible alternative, that of an Anglosphere dominated by the Yanks), and our politicians aren't making the case. The opposed are winning by default. Political cowardice of the highest order, but then, populism means saying what they want to hear, not saying what they need to hear, doesn't it Tony?


Andrew said...

Britain's place is within Europe. It has to be.

You know, that isn't much of an argument. You can't criticise Blair for failing to make a case and then not even give a hint of what that case should be. Nor do you define what 'in Europe' actually means - does it mean being part of a free trade agreement, or does it mean full-fledged political union? I see no reason why progress must necessarily be towards very large superstates in the future.

Serf said...

Britain's place is in Europe....

Because without the CAP and the Reach directive, Germany would have invaded Poland.

We need the EU like we need a hole in the head. It undermines our common law and our traditional liberties and offers half baked nanny socialism in their place.

Jonn Elledge said...

In a century's time the world's big powers are likely to be huge states like the US, China and India. Britain alone will have little economic or political clout in a world that works on that scale - how could it? Keeping all national sovereignty at Westminster will count for little the UK is too feeble to do anything with that sovereignty.

By pooling sovereignty in certain areas - particularly economically - with our allies, we could make ourselves stronger: we won't always get our way, but when we do it'll count for more.

That doesn't mean that Europe as it stands is perfect; in fact, it's mainly bloody awful. The CAP; the lack of democratic legitimacy; the lack of R&D spending; the fact that several of the continent's largest economies are spluttering. All these things and plenty more need fixing.

But if Britain is to retain any influence in world affairs it will be as part of a larger block. I think it's better to make the effort to get Europe right, despite the continuing incompetence of President Chirac, rather than just accepting our fate in obscurity.

The Pedant-General said...


"I think it's better to make the effort to get Europe right, despite the continuing incompetence of President Chirac, rather than just accepting our fate in obscurity."

And how do we do that? By merrily caving in and letting Chirac take us to the cleaners for absolutely jackshit in return? By cravenly grabbing our ankles everytime anyone suggests that we are "bad Europeans"?

Or, just perhaps, by saying: "this is a crock of shit, is going to get much much worse and is being paid for by us. No more. Either you do it our way or we take our money (and trade deficit) somewhere else."

Sort out CAP and the budget rebate is a no-brainer: there will be such a monster swell of cash left in the budget that we will be able to scrap it entirely. But Chirac has to move first. Blair completely failed to put him on the spot.

MatGB said...

Agree P-G, Blair's inability to deal with Chirac is a problem. But Blair is one politician, Chirac is on his way out as well.

The failure of one or two politicians is a reason to chenge the politicians, not the institution itself.

Jonn Elledge said...

Anatole Kaletsky - a Eurosceptic - wrote a lovely piece explaining why Britain should scrap the rebate the other week. While it remains in place, it allows France to direct all budget debate towards the rebate and prevent Britain from pushing for CAP reform. The CAP is the big issue, yes - but it's not going anywhere while the rebate remains, I suspect.