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Happy British diplomats

Mark Mardell | 11:39 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

To read newspaper stories of EU bullying and Britain's red lines collapsing you would think that the British delegation to Luxembourg would be in a ferment.

Not a bit of it. Britain has hardly entered the debate on the treaty except to endorse it.

Portugal's Europe Minister, Manuel Lobo Antunes, told me in a news conference: "The UK is happy with this text. They made an important intervention in favour of the treaty, so I don't see any major problems."

There has been one minor change. The Foreign Office has managed to remove the word "shall" from a passage about national parliaments' obligations to support the European Union.

But most of the debate has been about how the Bulgarians should be allowed to translate the word "euro" and the number of Italian MEPs.

My feeling is that this is very much a done deal as far as Britain is concerned, but we will have to wait and see if Gordon Brown feels the need to thump the table in Lisbon for purely domestic reasons.

But the Foreign Office people here are adamant the deal they have is good for Britain.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 01:18 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

It always was a 'done deal'. Hence Brown and Nu Labour's objections to giving the British people any say in the matter.

  • 2.
  • At 01:27 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Patrik Råman wrote:

Poor Mark, it must be tiring that in trying to communicate anything (to do with the EU) to the British reader, one has to go through the ritual of responding to the paranoid anti-Europeanism that the British tabloid press has developed into an art form.

If a British journalist had to report the mugging of a drunken British football hooligan in Brussels, he/she would probably have to spend the first lines wondering (or pretending to wonder, depending on the person and/or media) if this was a federalist plot aiming at emptying his wallet of its precious sterling notes and replacing them with filthy euro.

This of course can be done in a stylish and even satirical manner (see Mark's opening paragraph), but is it not a waste of perfectly good column space? Or should one see it just as a kind of opening prayer without which it is unwise to comment on matters of belief and dogma?

  • 3.
  • At 01:52 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Brian wrote:

If it's that good why can we not vote on it?

  • 4.
  • At 02:49 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

We won't be allowed to vote on it. The Commissariat has spoken..

  • 5.
  • At 02:55 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Paul Mossman wrote:

Please address the issue of EU legal personality - when you next grill one of our "Leaders"

How will they deal with the issue of dual sovereignty and the EU becoming a member of UN ICAO IMO etc and what of the Security Council as these are only blocked by lack of Legal Personality.

If we yield Legal Personality to the EU it is all over for the nation states -


  • 6.
  • At 03:37 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • David wrote:


because we have no tradition or constitutional basis for voting on international treaties.

Referendums are only ever held by governments that are trying to pass the buck. We will be able to vote for a new government at the next election.

The Conservatives can use this opportunity to score political points now, but if and when they next form a government they will have to wrestle with the same realities, that the UK's best interests are served through participation in the EU.

  • 7.
  • At 03:59 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Should there not be some coverage of Gisela Stewart's views on a referendum - after all, she was involved with the drafting of this treaty ?

  • 8.
  • At 04:08 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Patrick Raman (2)

We (including me, from Netherlands) are not anti Europe, we are anti-EU. Because we recognize the EU as a malign form of government with its tentacles deeply penetrated into national government and parliament structures.

A small lesson for you: Europe is a geographical entity. EU is a (malign) wannabe supergovernment of Europe. Two fundamentally different things. And one of the two is not good for the other.

Why won't you people give us the choice of opting out of this malign form of government? We don't want foreign politicians making our laws particularly not the fragrant one (Wallström).

  • 9.
  • At 04:12 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Dear Mark, would it help if we entered a phrase in the treaty that clearly states the superiority of the English over everybody else?

Not that there is any evidence for it, rather to the contrary, but the EU seems to be an immense psychological problem for many Brits.

I am aware that much of the modern world poses psychological problems for a good number of British people, but helping them on EU level is at least a start.

More seriously: The UK should get out of the EU and try to grow up outside. It's a bit rich to call for more democracy and then set red lines. It seems that democracy in the EU means for many Britons that they have to agree. Majorities formed by non-Brits (roughly 90% of the EU population) are by definition undemocratic. I would call this racism.

  • 10.
  • At 04:22 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

It is not the job of diplomats to say if they are “happy” with the rules under which the supreme law of this land are determined. Government ministers cannot legitimate these rules either because they are a player in the game and will always favour changes that strengthen the executive relative to other branches of government. In a democracy only a people may legitimate the rules under which our law is made. These rules have already been rejected in France & the Netherlands and there can be little doubt the British people would strike them down too. No future law introduced under the terms of this treaty can ever be considered legitimate when political elites have systematically conspired to force them on us.

  • 11.
  • At 04:48 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Emigrant wrote:

As usual the Nu Labour spin is at it - WHY tell us we can have a referendum then deny us the chance to vote - because the Treaty would be thrown out that is why.

DEMOCRACY - more chance of finding it in so called third world countries than in the once great UK- how this corrupt sleaze ridden lot have ruined us in only 10 years - must be a record even for Nu Labour and Clown.

  • 12.
  • At 05:44 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Marcus wrote:

What about Barroso? Is he still going to launch pseudo-attacks on Brown in the next few days, like how the UK is 'undermining' the EU fight against terrorism?

  • 13.
  • At 05:46 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • john somer wrote:

I wonder how many of these people who clamour for a referendum on the EU demand one on the NHS which is much more detrimental to the health of "Her Majesty's subjects"

  • 14.
  • At 06:11 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

The problem with living in this country is that we can't ever have a proper debate on the EU... whilst the EU is completely 100% out of touch with ordinary everyday citizens living in the EU (who care more about being able to work in another Member State rather than about learning the words to Ode to Joy), it seems that sensible debate about the Reform Treaty will be absolutely impossible. You're either forced in this country to swallow yet another step towards unnecessary harmonisation in a number of areas or oppose it and come across as one of these uninformed annoying "back off Brussels" type Eurosceptics.

Its amazing how completely pointless things such as the Charter of Fundamental rights are included (which will by the way, no matter what opt-out the UK has, have a serious impact on EU law) as part of the new treaty, yet there's no improvement on how ordinary individuals may access the ECJ, or indeed on the relationship between national courts and the ECJ in general.

Enlargement was a fantastic thing, and the EU if reformed the right way could be a great organisation. However I am just absolutely confused by the actual reforms that they want to carry out. Completely misplaced priorities. I'm just happy that Poland will provide the further debate on the treaty that Mr. Brown is too afraid to seek.

  • 15.
  • At 07:33 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Dear Patrik Råman (#2), Please don't confuse anti-EU with anti-Europe. (Or, for that matter, the EU with Europe). These are two separate things.

As for the "paranoid anti-European... British tabloid press", I doubt that many of the British EUrosceptics who post here ever read the tabloids. (And how do explain other nationals who are EUrosceptic? Do they read the Sun in Amsterdam or Stockholm?).

It is perfectly possible to like and admire (love even) most things 'european' without supporting the EU or its 'Project'.

So, stop the smear tactics and argue the facts instead.

Fact: The new EU Treaty is substantially the same as the rejected Constitutional Treaty.

Fact: The British government promised the British people a referendum on any new treaty that handed further powers to Brussels.

Fact: The 'red lines' (opt outs) are not inviolable and will likely be subject to interpretation by the ECJ as well as EU political pressure.

Any comments?

  • 16.
  • At 07:43 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Will wrote:

Despite the Foreign office believing this deal is good for Briton this government promised us a referendum. Its going to generate alot contempt if they don't deliver.

I would like to point out to the writer of #2 that this country has a long history of defending democracy in Europe, sometimes alone, against our own interests and at the cost of many lives, and the press were no less Eurosceptic then

  • 17.
  • At 07:59 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Alan G Melville wrote:

Why are those of us who dislike having our affairs (and 80% of our domestic legislation) decided for us by an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels always described as 'anti-European'? I like Europe, I have never been to a country in Europe that I didn't enjoy visiting, and have met very few Europeans in the UK who were less than pleasant and friendly. However, I have yet to meet a Pole who wants to abolish Poland, or a Frenchman who wants to abolish France. Every ordinary citizen, regardless of nationality, hates the officious arrogant unelected paperpushers who try to tell us what to do. The EU appears to be exclusively designed to enable even more of them to jump aboard the gravy train at our expense. Why is objecting to it 'paranoid'?

  • 18.
  • At 08:09 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Kevin Burns wrote:

The way English people talk about the EU, you would be forgiven for thinking they didn't know that the EU is the main reason for their post-war prosperity, from 1945 onwards.

Britain likes to bite the hand that feeds it.

  • 19.
  • At 08:46 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"The Foreign Office has managed to remove the word "shall" from a passage about national parliaments' obligations to support the European Union."

And replace it by "will"?

Have I got it right?

And are we talking hear about Coloured [Rosy] Future? :-)

  • 20.
  • At 09:56 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Lukas wrote:

Because the British anti EU section will race to vote while the ones who dont care wont vote necessarily and thereby skewing the result

In response to Patrik Råman: Thank you! I wondered if I was the only one who thought that the average British "man on the street" seemed ...well, deeply obsessed with the EU and how it's going to take all the laws and rules and control away from everyone and not let anyone else play with them.

I won't bother arguing why I think the EU is a good thing. It's either obvious to you or not.

  • 22.
  • At 06:43 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • michael brimacombe wrote:

If this slippery PM signs up to this new treaty sobeit. He will loose the next election by a landslide as no one will ever believe anything he says again.
It will be up to the next government to say we want to re-negotiate.Of course this will not be allowed.So the next move will be to have a referendum on should we stay in the EU orleave.I think there would be a vote to leave, no matter what the scaremongers would say.
So do what you like Brown.Your days and that of the EU telling Britain
what to do are numbered.

  • 23.
  • At 09:02 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

Given the Foreign Office's consistent record of failure in matters small and large, their holding a belief that the EU constitution (or 95% thereof) is "good for Britain" is a pronouncement that will give any sane individual a sense of imminent doom.

However, the real story is the one that Mark Mardell ignores - that Brown is unwilling, or (more probably) unable to debate the constitution, and refuses to allow the British people to even express an opinion about his accepting the constitution against the manifesto he was elected to implement.

Brown may argue that he has the right to remain in power without an election on the basis that we elected the Labour Party. However, if he takes this line, then Brown must implement the manifesto that the Labour Party was elected on.

Referendum now!

  • 24.
  • At 11:37 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Kevin Burns (9):

funny how according to you Britain prospered since 1945 because of the EU when Britain only joined in 1973 and the EU only came in existance in 1992.

I dare you to prove the direct correlation between the existance of the EU and prosperity. I dare predict: that correlation does not exist.

  • 25.
  • At 12:18 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

We elected a government to lead. Referenda are not the be all and end all of democracy. The free movement of good and free movement of people outweigh the negatives such as the CAP. The country is far too ignorant about the actual workings of the EU to decide EU membership.

Eg: The power of the bureaucrats in making laws is actually limited but you would never guess this from the tabloid press. Harmonisation is needed to have a fully functioning single market and the EU only seeks to harmonise where mutual recognition of standards is impossible.

However, the Government was weak to offer the referendum in the first place. The new treaty is the same as the old and now they will look silly.

  • 26.
  • At 12:54 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Jos wrote:

Kevin Burns ought to learn some history and economics. The EU or Common Market did not even exist in 1945. And UK prosperity owes more to Thatcher's reforms than anything - and certainly nothing to do with "Europe". I worked in dockyards and factories in the 60s - well, worked is a euphemism. Like most others, we were prevented from doing a reasonable day's work by petty union officials who were the real power at the time. Hardly surprising our incomes declined relative to "Europe". Incidentally, it was Thatcher who gave the biggest single economic boost to "Europe" by her support for the Single Market Act - though personally I now have misgivings about the unforeseen social consequences.

  • 27.
  • At 01:49 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

I find that the public knee jerk reaction to any decisions made within the European Parliament is usually based upon the irrepressible hype of the tabloid press. The press attention toward the EU usually relates to some insignificant changes to EU democracy such as bananas that are too curved, the wine lake or the butter mountain. Yes I agree that these anomalies have to be stated, however obscure they might be, but have they ever mentioned anything that is good for Britain? I can’t recollect any, can you?

Having worked in mainland Europe for a number of years I have found that compared to our mainland neighbours, the British; myself included, are extremely ignorant of what the EP and the ECJ etc actually do. I agree that nothing is ever perfect and there are many areas of policy change in Europe that I disagree with, but then when has anyone been completely satisfied with any government either national or European?

Perhaps a little re-education within our little offshore island may be in order as the stretch of water between ‘Us and them’ seems to reflect the communication between us…. Rough and choppy!

ohh yes let's get ourselves even more entrenched in the Franco-German Empire.

I want my say!! i was promised a referendum, this is just one of the reasons i will never vote for Labour EVER.

Let's just get out of it, stories about economic meltdown are pure fantasy, two of the strongest economies in europe are not in the Union.

  • 29.
  • At 02:56 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Simon B. wrote:

I hear a lot of "we don't want Brussels to tell us what to do", but I have yet to hear an instance of something specific that we, the people, would have liked to see done but didn't because Brussels forbade it, or an instance of something we, the people, hate but was done unto us to please Brussels. Solely in the vague generality of dogma, scepticism sounds windy to me.

  • 30.
  • At 03:28 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • steve wrote:

The red lines are negated by the Constitution treatys ratchet clause meaning the EU can make their own treaties now. THE EU is a dictatorship because it will be in power forever once it has stripped the countrys of their constitutions it will be all powerful. The EU is designed to replace governments and is why power is being given to it. The EU will be in control and will be in power forever. The EU has a mandate to propmote itself and those within its organisation to the detriment of the public who dont make the best decisions far better then for them to. Its completely gobsmackingly amazing they got this far with this deception and levelf criminal behaviour. Why criminal? Isnt the removal of ones country freedoms political system and constitution Illegal?

  • 31.
  • At 04:45 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • jean shaw wrote:

I am not sure how old Kevin Burns but West Europe became prosperous because of the USA and the Marshall plan. The UK became prosperous again because we got off the left wing bandwagon of the state trying to do everything and reintroduced capitalism.
I like the Europeans but there is no way I want this left wing social welfare approach which the EU proposes to be forced on the UK. In another 15 years thanks to this approach the whole of Europe will be a back water consisting of a declining elderly population with a decloning standard of living compared to everywhere else in the world.
We must get control of our own country back

  • 32.
  • At 05:03 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • B Selman wrote:

To Kevin Burns (9):
A little economic history: for 40 years post war, Britain certainly did not enjoy much "prosperity", as a result of: 1) the cost of freeing the rest of Europe from the Nazis, and 2) the limitations imposed on our economy by the Trade Unions.

Economic prosperity came only as a result of the economic reforms undertaken by Thatcher, reforms that Germany and France have yet to undertake, and that the EU is doing its best to reverse.

Of course, the "Club Med" countries have also enjoyed some prosperity in the last 20 years, largely as a result of being net recipients of EU funds, a substantial proportion of it emanating from the UK.

  • 33.
  • At 11:32 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Dave Phillipps wrote:

Why are those of us who dislike having our affairs (and 80% of our domestic legislation) decided for us by an unelected bureaucracy in Washington always described as 'anti-American'? I like America, I have never been to a part of America that I didn't enjoy visiting, and have met very few Americans in Texas who were less than pleasant and friendly. However, I have yet to meet a Virginian who wants to abolish Virginia, or a New Englander who wants to abolish New England. Every ordinary citizen, regardless of nationality, hates the officious arrogant unelected paperpushers who try to tell us what to do. The USA appears to be exclusively designed to enable even more of them to jump aboard the gravy train at our expense. Why is objecting to it 'paranoid'?

  • 34.
  • At 11:40 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Bruce Shaxson wrote:

It is about time we all became realists; this requires that the European Union changes its name to the Brussels Union, and the word 'democracy' be removed from all European dictionaries.

The same old same old.

In this case it is the fact that on the ground the way Europe does business has changed very little since 1918. Though there has been rather a lot of border fiddling. And of course loads of pieces of paper.

I am always amused by Anti-Europeans in the UK.

"Save the pound!" Well, actually you lost the pound in 1970. It was replaced by a brand new currency, we just kept the name.

"We don't want our country run by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels!" You mean we are happy with the faceless bureaucrats in Whitehall? We don't get to vote for those either.

The fors and againsts love making a monster out of the issue, forgetting to tell anyone that whatever you do will make almost no difference at all! You can either pour the money into Europe or into a thousand unstable trade deals - your choice.

  • 36.
  • At 03:41 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Happy British diplomats in Luxembourg? Of course they are happy. Why wouldn't they be happy? Any overseas assignment is a chance to get a decent meal in a good restaurant. Pity the poor chaps who have to work out of the Home Office. :-) (BTW, you still do call them chaps don't you? Don't tell me that word has been Americanized out of existance too.)

  • 37.
  • At 06:49 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Paul Mitchell wrote:

I would be happier about'Foreign office people declare deal they have is good for Britain'if they hadn't thought the ente cordialle was good for Britain. Presumably involving us in european war with millions dead was also a 'good thing'

  • 38.
  • At 09:17 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Dawkins wrote:

Dear Lukas....

The same could apply to a general election, where people who don't care don't the 2005 election only 60% voted.

In which case, surely our politicans have no mandate whatso ever...

  • 39.
  • At 11:13 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

No Surprise that our Diplomats are happy.

A quick look at the FCO website pages about the EU and British membership are as biased and EUrophilic as can be: Lots of glowing accounts of how wonderful the EU is for Britain and lots of links to Pro-EU organisations (most of whom receive some government or EU funding). No links to any organisation which is in any way critical or sceptical about the EU, it's vaunted Project, or the notion of 'ever closer union'.

Goebbels would be proud.

  • 40.
  • At 11:20 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

To B Selman (28): engaging in historical revisionism to prop up your anti-EU stance simply does not wash. Germany, like the UK, suffered from the years of war, but received $1.7bn Marshall Aid as opposed to the UK's $2.7bn - the largest share of any European nation. Whilst Germany spent the cash on economic regeneration, the post-war Labour govt wasted it on dreams on world power. By the 1970s we were lagging so far behind the rest of the EU that we joined the EEC. Coincidentally, that was when our economic problems started to abate, and the 1980s saw a boom with the completion of the Internal Market.

EU subsidies are mainly agriculture-based, as we have a small farming sector, we get a small share. It's up to the politicians to change this.

  • 41.
  • At 11:34 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • toby stewart wrote:

Yes, it seems Lukas dislikes the idea of democracy rewading those who care enough to vote. Presuably the 'fair' way to do things is to force everyone to have an opinion, and then count the votes.

Nevermind, it won't happen.

The EU is not, and never has been, interested in the opinons of most europeans. Try and find out which families were the first to staff the commission. Go on.

  • 42.
  • At 12:47 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • George wrote:

There is a lot to be said about the British approach to the EU, or rather the approach (and the incentives) of those who form its public opinion.
Allow me though to make a comment about referendums, since this is lately a very popular argument. We all live (or at least most of us) in representative and not direct democracies. We chose this system because it is practical and taking into account the wishes of the majority, it provides stable governments, continuation, responsibility in exerting power (to an extend), etc. However it does not allow the development of a "referendum culture". Holding therefore, now and then, one referendum is quite undemocratic, because the question answered is never the question asked. The responsibility for an educated choice should, in a representative democracy, lie with the MPs. That's what they are there for. If their choice is proven wrong, they can be sent home. The next ones will be more careful.

Extraordinary how the EUphiles on this site stay true to form: only with those people will you get such a concentration of ad hominems.

@Kevin Burns.
Don't be ridiculous. Our prosperity since 1945 is due to the EU? That's odd, since the EEC was only formed in 1957 and we only joined in 1972.

I do suggest that all of you look at the facts. Here are some, for starters.

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and the third largest trading economy.

80% of our trade is internal, i.e. within the UK.

Only 10% of our trade and services are exported to the EU (that is about £100 billion a year).

This is, coincidentally, roughly what the EU costs us in regulation, direct contributions and lost opportunity costs, as estimated by both Civitas and the economist, Patrick Minford.

Were we to leave the EU, we could have a trading partnership (which is what we were told we were joining in 1972) with none of the associated costs, e.g. Switzerland and Norway.

In addition we would, for instance, be able to take up other trade offers, e.g. the free trade agreement that the US offered us, as a thank you for our support on the WoT, in 2003. We were not able to take up that offer, because the EU controls our foreign trade policy.

There is no economic case for remaining in the EU, especially when the Commission's own figures show that the benefits of the Single Market are 200 billion Euro and the cost of regulation to business is 600 billion Euro.

Political case? Well, you might argue that. However, I think that Britain would have a far higher status as a free-trade country that is part of the wider world, and not a frustrated subsidiary of a waning EU powerblock.

Of course, if any of you EUphiles have any figures to hand, rather than simple insults and smears, I would be happy to look at them. And then tear them apart.

But I have never yet met a EUphiles who understands economics, let alone be able to argue a case for the EU built on it.


  • 44.
  • At 04:27 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • R.Rowan wrote:

in reply to post 18,I do not remember much prosperity from 45-51 austerity more like,paying back massive debts incured so that the French would not have to speak German,I remember more freedoms, a united country not a land of regions, but the the people were deceived by consecutive governments over the nature of the European project,until now we have less democracy than we ever had.Laws thrust upon us that we did not need.We should stand alone as Norway and Switzerland do,not in thrall to unelected eurocrats,accountable to no one.Sold down the river by a man with no mandate,no courage and no vision.

  • 45.
  • At 04:50 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • A Dilbert wrote:

At 02:56 PM on 16 Oct 2007, Simon B. wrote:
I hear a lot of "we don't want Brussels to tell us what to do", but I have yet to hear an instance of something specific that we, the people, would have liked to see done but didn't because Brussels forbade it, or an instance of something we, the people, hate but was done unto us to please Brussels. Solely in the vague generality of dogma, scepticism sounds windy to me.
Off the top of my head, how about the operation of CFP whose effect is to prevent UK fishermen from fishing UK coastal waters but allows the Spanish in?
I could list two dozen more but what would be the point? You can now no longer claim 'never to of heard an instance of something specific..'.
Why is it Eurosceptics are happy to argue facts & numbers but Europhiles talk platitudes & generalities?

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