In the first of what will be a series of posts on this White Paper on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, we look at Blair's statement, set out in the foreword to the document.
What immediately strikes one in reading this two-page section is how nothing has changed – it as if we are living in a permanent time warp, where a message once given remains good for all time. No changes, no doubts, no uncertainties can be allowed. Thus, what Blair has to say now is, in principle, exactly what he had to say five months ago, when he announced his decision to go for a referendum.
Thus, according to the prime minister, the treaty "represents a good deal for Britain and for Europe", we "can be proud of the strong part we played in shaping the treaty", and "it is an example of how a Britain strongly engaged in the European Union has much greater political influence than a Britain disengaged from Europe".
Oh dear, oh dear. Once again it is necessary to remind dear Tony of his speech given in the Polish Stock Exchange in Warsaw on 6 October 2000, a section of which we reproduced in this Blog on 17 June.
Speaking of the "important debate about a Constitution for Europe", he said:
In practice I suspect that, given the sheer diversity and complexity of the EU, its constitution, like the British constitution, will continue to be found in a number of different treaties, laws and precedents. It is perhaps easier for the British than for others to recognise that a constitutional debate must not necessarily end with a single, legally binding document called a Constitution for an entity as dynamic as the EU.
Since 1997, of course, our Tony had been determined to be "at the heart of Europe", and there he was, at the heart of Europe saying he did not want a constitution. The result – we have a constitution. So what does dear Tony do? He re-writes history saying that it is "it is an example of how a Britain strongly engaged in the European Union has much greater political influence than a Britain disengaged from Europe".
What I think is both desirable and realistic is to draw up a statement of the principles according to which we should decide what is best done at the European level and what should be done at the national level, a kind of charter of competences. This would allow countries too, to define clearly what is then done at a regional level. This Statement of Principles would be a political, not a legal document. It could therefore be much simpler and more accessible to Europe’s citizens.
Not content with one myth, he then moves to another, and this is straight from the FCO bible – the treaty is necessary to deal with enlargement. This is "a sensible moment to update these treaties, and to modernise the way we do business in the EU". Excuse me Tony, the treaty is not necessary for enlargement. That was what the Nice treaty was. Please read our myth of the week.
Nevertheless, for a constitution that our Tony did not want, he is so full of praise for it now that one wonders why he ever opposed it. It "will bring real improvements to make Europe more effective, more accountable and easier to understand."
Er... excuse me, this is the document of which the Economist on said in 19 June 2003: "…a lamentable piece of work which, in many ways, makes the Union's constitutional architecture harder to understand". "That is", added the Economist, "an incredible feat". Never mind… keep repeating the lie Tony – someone may believe you.
Note, incidentally, he claims the treaty will make "Europe" more effective… not "the European Union" but "Europe". In this way, the dribble of propaganda filters out. This corruption of language pervades Tony's statement – and the document as a whole. For instance, we know that Britain is lose its commissioner entirely for periods, but we do not hear this. Instead, Tony tells us the treaty will "streamline" the European Commission.
Predictably, he has a go at the Eurosceptic "myths" – the European Union (not Europe now) is not and will not be a federal superstate. That, as my colleague remarks, is as maybe, but it is on its way to becoming a state. But you can see the technique: first set up a straw dog, and then knock it down. And the old favourite is there… "Around three million British jobs depend on our trade with other member states". That’s why we need a constitution?
With that, Mr Blair has no hesitation in commending the treaty to the country "as a success and a major step forward on creating the kind of Europe that the British people want: a flexible Europe…". Read it yourself on the link. I really cannot bear to reproduce it.