Richard North, 07/06/2005  

Trying at the moment to unravel the labyrinthine twists and turns of the EU constitution drama is rather like trying to predict the winner in a game of three-dimensional chess, where you cannot see all the boards, most of the pieces are concealed and you don't know who is playing.

One thing that seems clear, though (note the "seems") is that a central player is missing, none other than Tony Blair Esq, who seems to be taking a very laid-back view of the gathering storm clouds.

As Finanical Times columnist, Philip Stephens, remarks today, "Europe burns; and Tony Blair heads for Washington," telling the paper that: "I think my responsibility is to carry on governing and let everyone speculate as much as they want... I have just decided to let it all wash over me and carry on governing really."

That is very much in line with the sentiments attributed to him by The Sunday Telegraph, suggesting that he had "given up on Europe", and was leaving everyone to get on with it. On current form, he can't even be bothered to have a row with the "colleagues".

But, if the no-care-Blair has decided to become the suicide bomber of Europe, showing a similar lack for appetite for the fight is Conservative shadow foreign minister Liam Fox.

With his insistence yesterday that: "this constitution is a case for the morgue if ever I saw one", and his determination to declare it "a dead constitution" (6 Jun 2005: Col 993), the abiding impression is of a man who cannot wait to ditch a rather embarrassing subject and move on to more "interesting" topics like his "Europe-free" Party leadership contest.

The problem is, as pointed out by both The Scotsman and The Telegraph, the foreign secretary – with or without the constitution – has every intention of continuing to introduce new measures. Furthermore, as we have already pointed out, key provisions which would have otherwise been brought in by the constitution are being steadily introduced under the aegis of intergovernmental agreements.

Thus, if Blair finally walks away from a referendum, with – it seems – the acquiescence of the Conservative opposition, it will make not one whit of difference. The zombie has shaken off what to normal beings would be the fatal blows of the French and Dutch referendums. The march of integration is continuing and will continue. Like Blair, in his own limited domain, the EU plans to "carry on governing", and will continue to do so until some brave souls put a stake though its heart.

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