Richard North, 04/05/2005  

Surely not. But we are nothing if not broadminded on this blog and are ready to acknowledge that even Our Tone might occasionally be right.

It seems that he has made it clear that he dislikes EU summits or European Councils as they are officially known. My colleague rather crossly reminds me every time that these meetings are not summits but the “cabinet of the European government”. Well, I don’t know. Cabinets should meet a little more often and make more detailed decisions. Besides, experience tells one that when a political structure acquires a different name, that tends to stick. However, I would never argue with my colleague on this, or any other matter.

To get back to Blair: he has been known to mutter “acerbically” to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that a particular meeting was “A joy as ever.”

So, the theme of the British Presidency will be, apart from the perennial one of cutting down red tape and regulations (yawn, not again), fewer summits or Councils. In fact, Mr Blair wants to go back to having just one, at the end of the presidency.

That is how it used to happen, but round about 1998, emergency Councils were introduced to decide … well, it is hard to recall what the particular emergency was at the time.

Some of us did predict that what started as an emergency would probably become the norm and that came to pass. It is now considered to be the way things are that each Presidency should have two Councils. Mr Blair will have only one, unless something important does crop up.

This is where we hit a snag. What is important? Would a French no and/or a Dutch no considered be important enough to call an extra meeting to discuss the future? Would an unresolved budget?

We shall see. As it happens, nothing much is decided during those Council meetings, anyway. At least not in the open and only a kremlinological close reading of the various Presidential Conclusions can throw up minutely detailed differences between them. The real decisions and agreements during other meetings, quietly and unobtrusively.

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