Richard North, 04/01/2005  

Not content with giving free airtime to Javier Solana yesterday, BBC Radio 4's Today Programme was back on the beat today with an entirely gratuitous plug for things EU, offering a guest slot to former commission president Romano Prodi.

Why he has given the slot, heaven knows, as there was no obvious topical hook, but this did not worry the BBC, which treated him with the usual sycophantic deference which it accords EU politicians.

The first part of the interview dealt with the Asian tsunami crisis, with Prodi being asked if there was "any truth" in the claims that the EU had been caught flat-footed by events and had been shown up by the Americans.

The tenor of the questioning was such that it virtually invited Prodi to deny the charge but at least the man had the honesty to reply with a simple "Yes". The EU had been caught out. "But that doesn't mean Europe will be second to the United States in the long run," says our man.

Obviously, this was not the answer the BBC wanted. The interview moved on without in any way trying to explore why it was that the EU had been so inadequate, bringing from Prodi another admission – this one that the commission had been unable to implement its economic strategy, "because the member states did not want it".

With another failure unexplored, Prodi was then asked about the constitution, eliciting the comment that, if a country voted "No" in a referendum, then that was "a message against Europe". "Some strong political decision must be taken in this case," he added. If a country did not approve the constitution, "there must be a second decision… what will be your general relation with Europe."

If a country voted against the constitution, therefore, "they must be asked to make a decision about that."

Although not new, this firms up the scenario that the "colleagues" are considering in the (likely) event that the UK votes against the constitution. We will be invited to "consider our position". Possibly, we will be asked to consider whether we want to leave, and there remains the option that there should be a second referendum, on whether we should withdraw.

Either way, it is very clear, if it was not already, that the status quo is not an option.

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