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Blair's last stand

Mark Mardell | 00:01 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2007

Tony Blair is feeling distinctly unsentimental about his last appearance on the world stage as prime minister, at this crucial summit. He will be centre-stage not only because it’s the end of 10 years of family photos and late-night deals, but because Britain is one of the two countries making it difficult to replace the constitution.

angela merkelA lot is at stake. While European leaders waver between predicting a crisis if there’s failure and the admission that life would go on, it is very clear that it will be seen by many as a monumental failure if there is no agreement. It would almost amount to a humiliation for Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. And for the new boy, President Sarkozy of France, failure would be almost as bad. Allies of Tony Blair say that’s why it’s right that he, not Gordon Brown, negotiates. He can make the most of his personal relationship with those two leaders and take the hits on Gordon’s behalf. And, yes, they have been speaking nearly every day about this summit.

Mr Blair thinks reaching an agreement is touch-and-go. But there is one advantage to negotiating in Brussels, in his view. The horridness of the Justus Lipsius building, standing on the main dual carriage way through the centre of the city, focuses minds and makes leaders want to leave as soon as possible. But he is in no doubt that this will be tough, and his message to other leaders will be uncompromising.

Britain has already won a great deal of what it wants. The word “constitution” abandoned. A “reform treaty” in its place. The title “foreign minister” dropped. But he will tell the other presidents and prime ministers that he must get not 90% of his demands but 100%. This makes me think that an agreement must be just about in the bag. But some of his demands seem almost calculated to offend. For instance, he wants it made clear that Javier Solana, or whoever becomes whatever it is they decide to call now the new foreign affairs chief, is just a servant of the prime ministers and presidents of the European Union and can’t go off and make policy on their own.

Sour feelings

There’s no doubt some countries feel sour towards Britain. Earlier this week, in Luxembourg, I was at a news conference held by the Czech deputy prime minister. When one journalist referred to “the constitution” he wagged his finger and said with a smile, “The treaty you mean”. Some of the journalists erupted. Spanish and Germans objected, with genuine passion: “But you signed it! If it was good two years ago, what’s wrong with it now?” If that’s what mere hacks feel, imagine what the politicians say. I tried to draw a senior British diplomat down this route, suggesting the British red lines were all about domestic politics not about the national interest, as perceived by the government. Urbanely, he replied there was no difference. Not for diplomats anyway.

tony blairMr Blair intends to be a great deal more forthright. He is unapologetic that his problem is with the home front. It’s one of the reasons he wanted to negotiate at this summit, rather than hand over to Gordon. He will tell his counterparts from other countries that, yes he signed it two years ago but there’s no point agreeing to something if the government is going to be forced into a referendum. It would mean another two years of uncertainty, and if the referendum was lost Europe would be back at square one in 24 months’ time, with some saying they had to start all over again. His message will be: “Look guys, do you want a deal or not?” There is no point in him agreeing to anything that comes in beneath the bar he has set up.

Some will argue, as do the Conservatives, that he has set the bar artificially low, knowing that after a great deal of huffing and puffing he can jump it with ease. This is certainly true about some elements of the “red lines”. No-one has suggested, recently, that the veto on tax should go. But it’s a red line. There are other subjects like making sure Britain isn’t out-voted in policing and justice which are not in the bag, but where there is an outline agreement that is unlikely to come unstuck. But other areas, like protecting British labour law from interpretation by European courts, is trickier. Mr Blair may demand an assurance the Charter of Fundamental Rights will only apply to European institutions, not countries’ national law. Yet there is currently an insistence in the draft treaty that it will be legally binding.

Making the case

There is no question that even if Mr Blair wins every single one of his demands and there is icing on the cake, like the Dutch demand for a bigger say for national parliaments, the Conservatives will still demand a referendum. There are plenty of things that Mr Blair likes that they do not. A president of the council. A smaller commission. They want a referendum if more powers go to Brussels. He would argue that giving more power to Brussels can give more power to Britain, or at least Britain’s arguments, whether you are talking about energy policy or an extension of the free market.

Of course, the blunt fact is that the government thinks it would lose a referendum, and it is probably right. Many enthusiasts for the European project think that is Mr Blair’s fault for not making the case strongly enough. He sees himself as a passionate pro-European who does make the case, but blames the media for not reporting it. He thinks if the press changed its tune, public opinion would become pro-European very quickly.

He has no time for Eurosceptics, feeling they are ridiculously old-fashioned. He admits there is now a new breed, not xenophobic, with sophisticated arguments. But he thinks it’s absurd to argue that a smallish country like Britain would have more clout negotiating with China or India on its own. He sees the relationship with Europe and the relationship with the United States as combining to give Britain a far bigger role in the world than without these alliances. And he strongly believes that it just happens you can’t be semi-detached from Europe. Perhaps you can’t from the States either.

He thinks that the role of a full-time president for the council is important, to give coherence to just this sort of negotiation in future. But on the brink of giving up a major political role, he isn’t in the mood for another one. And it’s not on offer for a couple of years even if there is agreement in the next few days. President Bush’s suggestion he should play a role for the quartet in the Middle East is a different matter. He doesn’t rule that out. So he might be back on the world stage sooner than we would have expected.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:32 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • John Phillips wrote:

Why doesn`t Blair take the hint and stop meddling in wor5ld affairs. He is an overdue `has been`.

  • 2.
  • At 12:40 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Bob Jones wrote:

"He has no time for Eurosceptics, feeling they are ridiculously old-fashioned. He admits there is now a new breed, not xenophobic, with sophisticated arguments. But he thinks it’s absurd to argue that a smallish country like Britain would have more clout negotiating with China or India on its own. He sees the relationship with Europe and the relationship with the United States as combining to give Britain a far bigger role in the world than without these alliances. And he strongly believes that it just happens you can’t be semi-detached from Europe. Perhaps you can’t from the States either."

Thats all well and good, but what does that have to do with Law & Justice?

Is Britain really stronger with the EU setting our laws? I suppose criminals might like the unified laws?

  • 3.
  • At 02:22 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • anglyan, IL wrote:

Personally I find very funny that, when France rejected and hence killed the constitution, nobody blamed it for doing that -well, not much- , even though former french president Giscard d'Estaign was the driving force behind the text.

And now Poland and UK, which are simply trying to play their game and being coherent with their national interests, have suddenly become the bad guys of the EU.

It is true that uniting in a single entity is a way of getting influence in the world, but so it is showing character, independence and being a tough and fair negotiator.

  • 4.
  • At 02:25 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Cody Hamilton wrote:

Blair sees the geopolitical trends that will define the this century as a result of the emerging powers of China and India.

He sees all too well that Britain, a mere spec in the world's global population, cannot hope to deal alone when faced with China, a nation holding 20% of Earth's populace.

China and India's increasing prominence have raised the bar on the international scene. Europe must band together to play on such a scene, else it will fall short and not play at all.

  • 5.
  • At 03:00 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Peter Walker wrote:

I would like Mr Mardell to find out the views of MEPs to the suggestion of a member of one of the European Royals being elected as permanent President. Knowing that most of the Royal families are related to one another would help the citizens of the various States to feel more united.

  • 6.
  • At 05:32 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Watchet wrote:

TB (Tony Blair) for special Mid-East reprentative? And just when we thought that the world was finally getting rid of this disease! No thanks. Let's have a well-deserved rest from all TB's fantasies, illusions, & spin.

Blair "might be back on the world stage sooner than you think"? Please - no. No more. Does he have to humiliate himself with his nose up Bush even after he's left office?
And if he's got the support of Israel and US, he'll come over as soiled goods.
For god's sake go.

  • 8.
  • At 08:16 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • ally g wrote:

It seems that a lot of spin is going in at the moment to raise expectations of a fight. The UK press is largely dominated by "UK on collision course with Germany" style headlines. The truth of the matter is that this deal has been largely agreed in advance. Without the pre-summit spin, the Tory press would have been up in arms about the UK signing this Treaty given that it was rejected two years ago. Now, they get fed a line that Blair is signing up to a deal that is a clear victory for the UK (opt out on the Charter) and the plucky Brits are once again fighting their corner in Europe. The story then becomes all about the opt out and how it was won, conveniently forgetting about the fact that the UK has signed up to a deal in a way that was unthinkable two years ago.

  • 9.
  • At 08:33 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

The penultimate paragraph has to be the one area of Blair's entire portfolio where I agree with him.

Yet he was prepared to invade another country to keep the relationship with the US alive, but he's not prepared to accept a treaty granting fundamental rights to British citizens.

In a way this sums up the last 10 years in which labour has slowly been turning this country into a surveillance (and more dictatorial) society where big-brother-blair holds the strings.

As a relative new comer to the "debate" about Europe and the Constitution et al, the problem I have is that when we originally signed up it was to a Common Market, not to a EU Superstate. Had the truth been told there is no way that the UK would have been in the EU.

Tony Bliar is right to say that they would lose a referendum were one to be held, so why the hell is he negotiating, he has no mandate, and no right to give our sovereign powers away.

If as Blair wants, we do go further into the EU, what are the prospects of losing half of Parliament, as 80% of our laws come from the EU, why do we need our politicians?

  • 11.
  • At 08:41 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Simon George wrote:

Why oh why, do we fall for the same three card trick every time before these summits?

By which I mean;

Looming Disaster – The Euro villains are going to steal your babies in the night.

Tough Talk – The BRITISH will keep the Euro villains baby stealing activities on the other side of the channel at the very least, and will work to limit it to baby borrowing only even then.

“Triumph” for Britain – Baby stealing has been stopped. Hooray! Oh by the way 52 QMV votes have been created in a tidying up exercise but you don’t care about that, think of the babies who have been saved.

And then weeks later when someone gets round to thinking through what was agreed, it turns out to have been a something else again.

I do not care a jot for the negotiating tactics of Blair/Beckett/Brown etc, I only care about the detail of the outcome, let us wait and see what happens, and whatever does happen, can we at least accept that the first press release / briefings put out the UK government will not tell us that. Instead read the text, the whole text, and then draw our conclusions.

  • 12.
  • At 08:48 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

We saw Tony Blair's negotiating technique when he supinely surrendered the British rebate without getting any return. The French farmers toasted Tony, while the British taxpayer cursed.

Blair's negotiation technique is to arm himself with a white flag, and go into the negotiations with the intention of using his arms.

Why should we believe Blair will be any more effective this time? He won't even have to answer in Prime Minister's Questions for his abject surrender.

  • 13.
  • At 08:56 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Ravindran wrote:

The interminable puffing and huffing which is the staple diet at Brussels anyway,can afford to go on without the world losing sleep over it,except for the mounting exasperation felt by the EU citizens.But there is no threat to world peace or regional balance of power, so let them (I mean the Bureaucrats and Politicians)keep chewing.But Middle East is altogether different.So may be, Tony Blair can seriously take up the suggestion of President Bush in opting for a role there,Iraq notwithstanding.

  • 14.
  • At 08:59 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Robert du Gay wrote:

Britain should act like the others in Europe, if its not in our interest break the rules.In the likely event Scotland break away from the United Kingdom and perhaps followed by Wales where would Englands voice be then.

  • 15.
  • At 09:10 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Kev wrote:

All I want is a referendum on whether or not we remain part of the political EU. No Government has had a mandate to integrate us into a federal super state, only a mandate to integrate us into a trading bloc. If any UK Government wishes to continue to transfer powers from the UK to the EU then the UK electorate should decide whether they should go ahead. To just assume that a fiddled vote in 1975 (where yet again the politicians lied to the electorate) is a mandate for a federal Europe is delusional. We, as an electorate have a right to decide on our future in Europe. Blair stated in the last Labour manifesto we would be offered a referendum on a EU Constitution. Changing the name to a treaty does not change the content of the document. A dog born in a stable is not a horse!!!

As for you pro Europeans… The basic principle of the EU is the same as the Soviet Bloc. An unelected bureaucracy managing the various states using subversive tactics to control the proles. By monitoring and controlling them through harsh laws and fear. So do you support the Sovietisation of Britain and France, Poland and Belgium? I don’t. I support close ties with Europe whilst maintaining our own sovereignty and democracy. I want to be in Europe, not ruled by a Soviet style unelected bureaucracy.

  • 16.
  • At 10:37 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • James Gleadow wrote:

Life would go on. We are perfectly capable of running our own society and do not need Brussels to do so. There is no monumental failure in recognising significant portions of the people of Europe (Fr, GB, Hol and Poland) do not want these further developments and the leaders should listen. My vision of Europe is based on a market to trade goods and common defence but no centralised power in Europe. We resisted such power at Waterloo, Quiberon Bay, Blenheim, Dunkirk, Ypres and that was crucial for the freedom of Europe.

  • 17.
  • At 10:45 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Martin Porter wrote:

I wouldn't be surprised if Tony Blair does a deal In Europe that secures his european legacy but costs Britain vital areas of sovereignty.

  • 18.
  • At 11:14 AM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Chris Wills wrote:

I have friends in Germany and their attitude is the same as ours on the whole. They don't want the superstate any more than we do in Britain. They want less of a border so they can travel, holiday, shop and work easier around Europe.
It seems to me that on both sides of the Channel we are the same and have the same problems. The only ones who want some kind of superstate seem to be the politicians - now there's a big surprise.


I would like to take this opportunity to stand up for the Justus Lipsius building. Apart from all the ugly art the past presidencies have left behind, it is generally a very pleasant building to meet in. (The rear, where the secretariat work, is slowly coming apart, but that is something the leaders never get to see.) Looking down on the Rue de la Loi and the Schumann roundabout below is more calming than annoying, so I'm afraid we can't really count on delegations making a deal just to get away...

  • 20.
  • At 12:21 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • brux wrote:

What a fake!

Blair signed the constitutional treaty and now adds new and pretty silly demands (I want to see the UK judge who denies the right to strike just because the Charta is not copied into the treaty).

He is shamelessly playing to his domestic audience (or rather Mr Murdoch) and neglects the wider interests of Europe, probably because some lowly White House official (or Mr Murdoch) told him so.

As you may guess, I am in Brussels and people here, independent of nationality, have enough of British obstruction.

Britain is no longer considered a country of fairness and common sense. And the big delusion that Britain can somehow control the EU will explode soon. The 18 or 20 EU friendly countries will simply move on and leave Britian in its beloved splendid isolation. Whether this is good for British citizens and the economy is very very doubtful.

  • 21.
  • At 02:31 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • JohaM wrote:

The European superstate is the most successful Eurosceptic invention until now. It is amazingly easy to scare people...

  • 22.
  • At 02:48 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • A. Curtis wrote:

"He sees the relationship with Europe and the relationship with the United States as combining to give Britain a far bigger role in the world than without these alliances."

The Iraq War should have shaken Blair out of his delusions, but it seems not even losing his position as PM can do so.

Churchill instructed future Britons to maintain the relationship with the United States at all cost if Britain were to keep its voice in the world. To Blair, it didn't matter if the cost was turning Britain into George Bush's lap dog, which is exactly what he did no matter how much he fools himself into believing he moderated King George.

"[T]he relationship with Europe and the relationship with the United States" combines "to give Britain" the role of a toady, perhaps important but definitely loathesome. It's certainly loathesome to Europe, loathesome to many Americans that have argued against the Iraq war, and I hope it's loathesome to the average Briton.

As an American, I hope Britain can mend relations with Europe and continue to be best friends with America, but blind loyalty is not required of friendship.

  • 23.
  • At 03:05 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • john s wrote:

All the comments posted seem to indicate that many Brits have no time for European integration. So why shouldn't Gordon Brown simply announce that Britain is withdrawing from the EU and shutting off the Channel Tunnel ? As far as "sovereignty is concerned, how many British MP's have been able to visit Menwith Hill ? (FYI, it's an American base in Yorkshire)

  • 24.
  • At 03:08 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Thomas Patricio wrote:

Hi Mark,

I just want to start by telling you what a great job you’re doing in covering this issue. Since you started the blog, I’ve become addicted, checking it five, six times a day for new posts and comments.

As for the constitution/treaty, I would just like to state that I hope the whole thing fails. The fact is that eurosceptics won’t be happy no matter what. If Blair gets all the concessions he’s asking for, they will still scream bloody murder. I think it’s time to scrap the whole thing and quit on the idea that every EU member needs to move together towards deeper integration. It’s time to consider the separation between a Europe with unrestricted free trade, which hopefully every European country would be a member of, and a political federal Europe, which any country/region can join through a referendum. The reason I say country/region is because if the UK decides to hold a referendum as suggested by Kev (15), and Scotland decided to be with Europe while England decided to stay out, then Scotland would be in its right to leave the UK and join with Europe. If Wales and Northern Ireland did the same, I wonder how much clout would England have then? I also find it funny when eurosceptics, like Kev(15), compare the EU to the Soviet Bloc and then act offended when they're seen as ridiculous

As for the more rational eurosceptics, maybe they’ll eventually realize that being on the outside in a world with three Super Powers (U.S., China, India) and a whole bunch of big influential countries (Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia) will make their countries small and irrelevant, and eventually realize that European integration has been an ongoing process for over a thousand years and that for the first time, it is being done in a peaceful manner through dialogue and mutual respect.

Thomas Patricio
Toronto Canada

  • 25.
  • At 03:25 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Charles W. Brauer wrote:

Britain must regonize if they want to be part of an European team they must be prepared to comprimise!

No last minute credits for outgoing Prime Minister Blair.

Either you believe in Europe or else you schould stay out.

Charles W. Brauer

  • 26.
  • At 04:08 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Giuseppe wrote:

This discussion is a bit late. It should have started in 2003/04, but at that time politicians and journalists alike were too enthusiastic about the ever-expanding EU, with enlargement in 2004 looming large and the Constitution peddled around as a logical icing on the cake. The truth is that - for the EU - enlargement (its timing and its massive scale) has been a huge mistake. No real preparations had been made, and it will take decades for most of the EU 12 countries to catch up with the rest. The reform of the EU institutions should have been agred before, not after the enlargement. Now it has become an option, not an obligation. And, of course, with enlargement, which they pushed for, the British have managed to dilute the semi-confederal, supranational features of the EU, thus blocking for generations to come its growth and effectiveness in world affairs. In so doing, Tony Blair - and those leaders who helped him, including the highly demagogic Europarlamentarians - has managed to hide from view the non-participation of the UK in the Euro (what happened to the referendum?) and to weaken the European Commission. The Commission was the only European institution worth of its name. Now, after 5 plus years of Mr Prodi, it has become a sort of OECD, with little leverage over the national governments (remember the clashes with Mrs Thatcher's government in the '80s?). Without this nominal enlargement, the EU would have considered letting in 1 country at a time over 10-plus years, and faced its real challenges: getting all the members states into the Euro-zone, having a common security and justice system, as well as (why not?) a common defense and foreign policy (which nowadays remain firmy in the hands of the national governments).

  • 27.
  • At 04:27 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Mike Dixon wrote:

It is high time H.M. Government got over its love affair with Washington. It has long been destined to unrequited. Stop chashing mirages across the Atlantic. The U.S.A. is a great country in every sense of the word with whom only the Europe as a whole can deal on equal terms. The Americans have made it quite clear that they would welcome the devopments proposed under the Constitution. These are clearly not aimed at setting up a superstate.
Appart from that, I agree completely with Chris Wills (18 - above). It makes me very cross that while I can cross open borders into France, Portugal, Italy, Holland, Germany, etc. with no more than a Identity Card but to return to my country of birth and Nationality I have to go through full old fashioned boarder controls. When I get to Dover suddenly the Euros in my pocket are of no use; I have to drive on the other side of the road remembering all the signs are in miles which I have to convert in kilometres as my German car only shows kms. Oh Yes & I'll have to remember the car clock is an hour wrong and if my mobile has run down I can't use an ordinary socket to recharge it. Get into Europe England!

  • 28.
  • At 05:26 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Damon Tringham wrote:

I do wish people would stop using the term 'unelected bureaucrats' in these discussions. How about 'unelected electricians' or 'unelected farmers'? Does any country elect bureaucrats? It's practically axiomatic that they are recruited.

The phrase is a total straw man and an embarrassment to those who employ it. I don't want a superstate either, but I really don't want to have an argument based on half-truths and misrepresentation, however heartfelt the sentiment behind it may be.

As we all should know, the laws that erode national sovereignty are agreed by the Council (entirely national members) and Parliament (entirely national members) and NOT by a) the bureaucrats (who just sort out the wording) or the Commission (who have the right of initiative but can't put laws into practice alone).

The process of integration has to stop soon to avoid a superstate from forming, but comparing it to the Soviet Union could be construed as an (unintended) insult to the Eastern and Central Europeans who know only too well the difference.

If the UK decides to leave the Union if enough becomes enough, we all know there will be no tanks and no killing as a response. It is a voluntary union.

Finally, the press in the UK is unremittingly hostile to the EU, in part due to editorial control on the behalf of large magnates. I recall a lot of fuss in the UK about, for instance, having to give toys to pigs in our farms, only to read elsewhere that this was only considered necessary to occupy them IF they had nothing else in their concrete pen - if they had sawdust, straw or hay or anything to move around, it was enough. But the story ran and ran in Britain. The EU is not a paradise and does need watching, but printing distortions to sell papers misinforms the public - not the role I expect our press to play.

I hope Blair gets a good deal out of this, and we can have a slimmer EU that works.

  • 29.
  • At 05:40 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Mark M. Newdick wrote:

I don't look at them not being able to come to an agreement as a "bad thing" at all ... nor would I find it regretable, disappointing or otherwise a negative.

It would, in fact, be great news. And what would then make it absolutely fabulous would be if either the UK left the EU altogether or, better still, were kicked out!

[Expat - "British NOT European"]

  • 30.
  • At 05:41 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Derek Tunnicliffe wrote:

I can't understand why so many in the UK feel so uptight about the Charter of Human Rights. So, it includes a right to strike - but it doesn't prevent a state (ie UK) from laying down its own rules about a pre-strike ballot, for example.

And as for the idea that the UK resents being "ruled by bureaucrats from Brussels", I'm sure the assembled Presidents and Prime Ministers won't be happy with that description of them: nor even the EU parliamentary Members (elected by those Brits who did turn out for the EU elections).

We in France can compromise so far. If you don't like it - Brits out!

  • 31.
  • At 06:39 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

If any country should be thrown out of the EU, it's France.

France has always been the #1 obstructionist. It blocked British accession until CAP funding was fully arranged (the CAP is set up to heavily favor France). The French always want everything their way (or they are not interested at all. They refuse to give up on Strasbourg, refuse to give up on the CAP and continue to demand 'concessions' from Britain (such as an end to the rebate) without any quid pro quo.

During the 1970s and 80s a largely Europhile press constantly denounced Britain as obstructionist but facts are that it was France. However the Europhiles refuse to give up on their project (to bring Europe under undemocratic federal rule).

  • 32.
  • At 06:51 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Geoffrey Dron wrote:

The solution is simple:

TB should tell the other heads of government that if they won't concede all the UK's red lines, he'll let the German proposals go to a referendum without any recommendation from the UK Government.

Then we can tell the EU elite just what we think about their corrupt institutions

Geoffrey Dron

  • 33.
  • At 06:52 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • James Marriott wrote:

Well Blair can't do much worse then last time when he gave away our rebate and got ZERO in return. Great orator, useless negotiator.

  • 34.
  • At 07:33 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

Peter Walker (5), a 'royal' as 'EU president' would unite Europe?

Don't make me laugh. I despise any form of royalty.

Hereditary titles are worthless and should carry no privileges.

If the EU truly believes in equality, it should ensure that everyone has an equal chance to become his/her country's head of state. That privilege should not be awarded solely to members of 1 particular family. I want to have this equal chance but I don't get it because I was born in the 'wrong' family? Ridiculous!

We should all remember how royalty caused WW I and Germany monarchists helped Hitler to power.

As for accusations of being an EUsceptic. I take that as a compliment. I have an outlook on the world which is positive. The EUphiles think of the world as a big bad bogeyman and claim that it is OK to abolish democracy and submit to anti-democratic federal rule in order for Europe to be 'strong'. I prefer negotiation, they prefer standardization (gleichschaltung).

This treaty would also make clear that EU treaties "can be revised to increase or reduce the competencies conferred upon the Union".

What is this other than a massive back door through which virtually anything can be driven ...

  • 36.
  • At 08:03 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Rob Whittle wrote:

Euro needs togetherness on Energy, Transport, Terrorist, Non EU Migration, Housing, Drugs, Science, Climate Change, Resources and Waste. CAP reform on setaside, Biofuel crops and environmental managagement.

What is on the table at the EU today is largely irrelevant to Europe and member state economic needs. UK show past on a Charter for Human Rights, rights are well protected at the moment. Even jailbirds have huge human rights.

  • 37.
  • At 08:22 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • joe bloggs wrote:

All Britons should be allowed a referendum to opt out of the EU NOW!

  • 38.
  • At 09:00 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • David Scott wrote:

Power is transferring to the EU week by week with or without an 'amending treaty'. But I am starting to think the people are waking up at last to what has been going on and they are going to get very angry. Could we be approaching the sort of situation with the EU that was arising in the USSR as the end was approaching? I do hope so.

  • 39.
  • At 09:04 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Mike Griffiths wrote:

Our friends in Europe who are fed up with English obstruction do not understand why it exists. I have lived in France, have a French wife, and love Europe very much. But in England we have a pragmatic approach to what works rather than a fantasy approach to European togetherness. When the Euro (money) was debated in France, they all thought it would be nice to be able to use the same money and voted for it, but in England we discussed how one central exchange rate could not work for different styles of economies, some fast some slow. Are we the only people to actually think about the ramifications of EU agendas? Also, our political system has been stable for so many centuries we don't see a need for a different system. We are not spoilsports, we are just logical pragmatic thinkers who are willing to change when it makes sense. But when for example France keeps the CAP for its own interests, how are we supposed to have a desire to be more interested in the EU?

  • 40.
  • At 09:42 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • leofig wrote:

ultimately Charles and Thomas make resounding comments for further discussion despite my tainted opinion of their lack of full objectiveness. Giuseppe. Well you've obviously just been attending too may english language courses although you must of skipped the word "debate" after discovering "dictate". Ultimately we could all do with knowing a lot more detail about the back office workings of what is really at stake here. I find it difficult to believe that Blairmay apear to be so "antagoistic" for something that is hardly going to leave a said "legacy". He may just be doing what he feels is the right thing to do. Just maybe.

  • 41.
  • At 10:02 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • leofig wrote:

Just as side note, being an Englishman living "on the flip side" ( down under for the pop-cultureless ) and for reading ALL the above valid comments and opinions it is so refresing to see a debate going on that is so stimulating. This must be the first blog ( if thats what you call it ) that has really given me pause for thought on most postings. There is no single posting that I have fully agreed with or disagreed with either, which is the sure fire sign tha we can still enjoy some kind of democracy and ongoing debate. Maybe TB is human after all.

  • 42.
  • At 10:17 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Thomas Clark wrote:

Blair has 'friends' in places other than the UK that he is beholden to. Seems like the rest of the EU should adopt a two-tier position, i.e., one for Members that get along, one for Members that have other Agendas.
Re-structure the EU. Have Basic Membership so that individuals can drag their Countries with them as they seek acceptance elsewhere. Trade with them at reasonable rates but exclude them from more pressing, serious participation.
The other group can get on with the busines of running the EU.
Most of all, active, constructive, willing participation should be required.
For the other group, setup a Cafeteria-style participation just like some Healthcare Systems, i.e., if you want something above the very basic you pay upfront and very heavily indeed.
Blair obviously doesn't like dealing with others in the EU. Why force him? Send him back to London with 'Good Luck' on his luggage.

  • 43.
  • At 10:25 PM on 21 Jun 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

I can live with the traditionally staunch critics of the UK towards powers for the EU. (I am a Belgian.) I believe, though practice appears to be different, that power and decision making should grow bottom up. Too often, politicians like more their own ideas than what people request. Whether it be in local, national or European politics. I think politicians have the right of initiative to come up with ideas, but for going ahead with it, they need to seek the support of those they are representing. If the idea is great and you articulate it well, you will find support, if you don't find support, you can't go ahead with it. I think that the attitude of the UK to be reluctant of giving power to the EU is healthy. The EU does not need direct powers, it needs to provide direct services to the member states and if the member states agree among them, the EU can defend the position of the member states en bloc to give it more weight. A point of critic I would like to give to the UK though is that when they express their dismayal, they can also express ideas on how to do better. All too often, I have the impression that the UK is just blocking things and it would be so much more constructive if they were more involved. On the other hand, I am more concerned with the attitude of Poland. Their concerns appear not to be as much to respect the sovereignity of their country as it appears to be to have as much influence as possible at the cost of others.

  • 44.
  • At 12:23 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

A referendum would be a good idea so long as one state saying no doesn't mean the states saying yes couldn't go on with the treaty. Complications do arise, such as the fact that if a referendum occurs and Scotland, Wales, and England are all treatied as different countries, Scotland and Wales could go against England. However, this shouldn't be a problem for the Eurosceptics, if a European government is too big for them then perhaps the government of the United Kingdom is too big as well. Let England alone try to act like it is a major power, kind of like how the French acted in the Cold War. Let the Europeans go forward without England. Just a word of warning to you Englishmen, getting into an economic cooperative with the EU is not an assured outcome. France didn't want Britain to begin with, and if they opt out of a European Federation then the French will have stronger arguements to keep Europe from having free trade to England. I'm SURE that England alone can compete with the US, China, India, and Europe and prove itself a mighty power. But when that doesn't happen and you're left in Europe dust, at least you'll have your benighted sovereignty.

  • 45.
  • At 01:33 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Hasan Qazi wrote:

Europeans are mature enough to decide for themselves, as are we here in the United Kingdom. Patronising politicians like Mr Blair serve to drive nations apart and can never be trusted to negotiate treaties that will have long-lasting repurcussions

  • 46.
  • At 02:49 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Douglas Kay wrote:

The European union is a reality, it will not go away so we should embrace it and show a positive attitude. Trading blocks are the only counter to the emerging giant in the far east.

  • 47.
  • At 02:57 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • josh wrote:

I find it ironic that the Brits in this forum are commenting on the lack of democracy on part of the EU.
I would like to know what kind of democracy you think you are defending?
A first past the post-electoral system that is fundamentally distorting.
The Direct descendants of God as your permanent head of state in the form of a fixed Monarchic system.
An Unelected senate.
Perhaps you’ll need to be reminded that the Eu parliament is directly elected.
The head of state meetings, which rubber-stamp all decisions, are your directly elected heads.
Because the UK does not always get its ways does not mean the EU is undemocratic.
I agree that a referendum on eu withdrawal is needed but when your fed info by an extremely biased media, distorting the actualities of what the eu is about, the move is perhaps a stupid one until the British public matures.
All in all the eu needs to work better.

  • 48.
  • At 03:12 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Jason Deeney wrote:

Europe has no law and order! Come on lets get real. The UK is bad but the rest of Europe is a completely corrupt legal system with little regard for the law and, in most places (France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece etc) if you know the mayor then you are ok.

Can anyone actually give me ONE benefit of staying in Europe?? Who really wants to be run by corrupt grey champagne socialists?? Not many people I know!!

  • 49.
  • At 03:38 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Tony Robinson wrote:

There is no point in having a greater say on the world stage if we have no say in our own country. Anyway it is not the people of Britain who would have the say but the clique who control the "EU".

We are only in the "EU" because our "democracy" has failed us. You can only have a functioning representative democracy if they do what they said they would, but they don't. Switzerland is not in the "EU" becuase they have a better system with more referenda.

We need to reform our pseudodemocracy in the UK.

The best reform of the "EU" is to abolish it.

  • 50.
  • At 04:32 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • jennifer wood wrote:

All of Europe knows that Britain is sabotaging the EU. Blair is an embarassment for his country and belongs to Crawford, Texas.

  • 51.
  • At 07:12 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Thierry wrote:

Let have our Gracious Queen Elizabeth II become the new President of the Commonwealth of Europe.
That way Britain will be leading Europe and UK Eurosceptics will shut up for once !
God save the Queen ! (...and Europe !)

  • 52.
  • At 08:01 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Chris Blanchard wrote:

Two points.

First, when I voted 'Yes' in the 1975 referendum on Europe I certainly knew what I was doing. I voted, in fact, for membership of a developing European Community, which I clearly understood as requiring a federal system of law, and not just for a common market. The referendum question was quite clear, and for reference it was: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?". I do wish anti Union activists would stop trying to re-write history by claiming this was some kind of fraud. It wasn't.

Second, I also wish they, and the BBC, would stop calling these people 'eurosceptics'. Such people do exist. There are plenty of them and I have a great deal of respect for their views but most of the people who comment publicly, including here, are in fact europhobes, or even xenophobes, and shoud be represented as such.

Chris Blanchard, Leeds

  • 53.
  • At 08:10 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Charles W. Brauer wrote:

"Either you believe in Europe or else you schould stay out."

I believe in 'Europe' but not in the EU. You may not believe it, but they are not the same thing (I wish that people would stop abusing the word Europe. Are not Norway, Switzerland and Iceland in Europe?)

OK, I may be a pedant - but I guess that's why I want to have a say - by referendum - on whether or not the UK cedes more sovereignty to the EU.

  • 54.
  • At 08:51 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • P. Råman wrote:

James Gleadow and I must live on different planets:

" centralised power in Europe. We resisted such power at Waterloo, Quiberon Bay, Blenheim, Dunkirk, Ypres and that was crucial for the freedom of Europe".

It is scary when people refer to long-dead people as "we" and suggest that ancient wars have a relevance which they don't. The British were happy to centralise half the globe under their own flag and keep the profits. The EU is pretty harmless compared to that vast criminal conspiracy, the British empire.

A long-forgotten battle at Quiberon Bay (wherever that is), 1759, being crucial for my freedom...I do hope this is a case of British satire that a poor Continental like me just cannot comprehend...

  • 55.
  • At 09:12 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • britthru&thru wrote:

I am a Brit and work in Germany. I can catergorically state that the average German citizen does NOT want a EU Superstate. So how many other countries citizens feel the same as our UK Eurosceptics - LOTS. Any one advocating handing over power to brussels should be considered a traitor.

  • 56.
  • At 10:28 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Fernando wrote:

The distance between politicians and citizens won't be reduced until 'butter-and-bread' issues are not addressed. On a separate context, each country has different needs, so it's difficult to meet common policies. In Spain, we have a serious problem with immigration and corruption (I think you British have also the first problem in a different way). North-african muslim immigrants don't seem to substantially integrate in any country. Spain was part of the arab world for centuries after being conquered in 711. I think our muslim neighbours are always quite arrogant about 'getting back' what they consider theirs. Now let's see if this comment goes through the BBC 'political correctness' filter.

  • 57.
  • At 10:38 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Frank wrote:

I think the problem for Britain is that since 1973 all british governments are in a week strategic position.

They always have to prevent other countries from doing something or they have to negotiate a special british treetment while they still want to stay within the organisation.

That´s not a easy thing to archive and beeing the british prime minister on a EU summit is normaly a job that really nobody deservs.

it´s like telling your football team every weekend that you want to be part of the team while you prefer rugby as a sport and you can not take part at the league matches because your wife at home hates the team.

  • 58.
  • At 11:07 AM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • mark wrote:

The point is, is there a real EU? I don't think so, there is no unity for a Constitution, secondly a EU Constitution should be approved by national referendums and not by parliament, thirdly i believe that the EU is simply a big market where people are subdued to economic interests.
A real EU would have a the charter of fundamental rights included, EU citizens would have the right to vote in any EU country, no need for permits for periods exceeding 3 months stay and many more.
There's still a long way before we can see people's EU

  • 59.
  • At 12:51 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • David Price wrote:

Whats the point we all know Blair will in the end roll over and sell us out. Well it keeps the door open if he ever decided he wants to be EU President a post in which he wont have the inconvenience of the British electorate.

  • 60.
  • At 01:42 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • steve bowles wrote:

Two quick points :-
First I agree with others here. This blog is good. Informative and also written with an always sense of humour. Thanks for this blog, keep it up.
Second, one newspaper in Finland asked the question : " Will the EU become Tony Blair's poodle?".

That comment created many discussions most of which were less than kind to Mr Blair.

  • 61.
  • At 03:46 PM on 22 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

One issue which eurosceptics seem united on is that European federal rule is "anti-democracy." Yet, at the same time, many argue that the UK should stay out of the EU to preserve democracy for the British people. Yet, what is the UK but a federal system? England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all have different cultures, their own governments (with different degrees of home rule albeit), and different dialects (formerly different languages). If a federal system is inherently undemocractic then the UK is inherently undemocratic. Therefore, the only difference between having an undemocratic EU and an undemocratic UK, is that one would be a superpower and one would be a second rate power at best. However, if the UK actually IS democratic, then perhaps with some simple reforms (such as representation based directly on population and a directly elected president) then the EU could be equally democratic. It is ironic that some of the most vociferous opponents of a federal structure for Europe, come from a nation which has proven the worth of a decently designed federal structure. The EU is not unreformable and many changes which would make the EU democratic have been opposed by EU opponents. If Eurosceptics don't like the federal structure then the UK ought to be dissolved and one could even go so far as each region (like Cornwall or Mercia) ought to rule itself. Then maybe eurosceptics would be satisfied that they were avoiding a federal structure.

negotiating with China or India on its own

>>>Currently Peter Mandelson (a
communist twice sacked by Blair) does that for you Britons. Result: the EU remains what it has always been, i.e. a protectionist customs union.

  • 63.
  • At 05:26 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Roy wrote:

I am pleased to read that European trains will cooperate.

But what about trans-Atlantic travel? When are the trans-Atlantic passenger ships coming back?

All the arguments if favor of trains, i.e. less hassle and pollution, equally apply to ships. I would much rather spend a few more days relaxing aboard a passenger vessel and be able to take more than two suit cases than put up with the long waits, security inspections, crowded seats and bad food flying.

  • 64.
  • At 07:53 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

Chris (61) says that the UK is a federal state and therefore the EU can be one too. It is not strictly true to describe the UK as anything other than a unitary state with some limited devolved goverment in some regions. But leaving that aside, the real difference is that there is a majority in each constituant part of the UK that would vote to remain in the British Union, where as there is no country in Europe where a majority would vote to be part of Federal European state.

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