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EU politics: that speech

Richard North, 19/01/2013  


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Charles Moore in The Telegraph is proposing that David Cameron keeps us waiting just a little longer for his speech on "Europe". He should deliver it on 29 January. Then, says the Great Sage, it will be 50 years to the day since de Gaulle vetoed British entry into the European Economic Community. It would thus be "a fitting moment to mark a new course".

The only trouble is that de Gaulle actually delivered his rejection in a speech on 14 January 1963, the famous put-down: Britain was "insular, maritime …", etc, adding that Britain was "profoundly different from the continental states".

For sure, the actual veto was not formally cast until later, in a meeting of the Six which began in Brussels on 28 January 1963. We have it in The Great Deception that the actual veto was cast on that day, and Heath, Britain's chief negotiator, was apprised of de Gaulle's action at the time.

However, the meeting continued with last-ditch attempts led by Germany to change de Gaulle's mind, with the talks finally and irrevocably breaking down the following morning, 29 January. It was then that the public announcement was made and the collapse of the talks was reported, with the main report coming on the 30 January.

This may be a small detail, but it all points to a lack of depth in a subject where detail is everything. But as regards the detail, 14 January would have been a better date for the speech, and that has been and gone.

Nevertheless, one cannot disagree with the generality of Moore's conclusion that: "The European Union is becoming an economic, political, cultural and demographic backwater – a tourist destination, not a great power". Sadly though – in talking about tourist destinations - he is confusing Europe and the European Union, the latter being a system of government and not a physical place.

What Moore doesn't spell out, and probably doesn't know, is how far power has moved away from the EU, to become centred on international bodies on a global level, but that is detail, and the likes of Moore don't do detail.

And on a matter of detail, the Financial Times is reporting that Mr Cameron intends to give his long-awaited Europe speech on Monday, after months of delay and a last-minute cancellation, although – says the paper - it may yet be derailed again by the Algerian hostage situation.

The prime minister, we are told, knows that the long build-up and pre-briefing are at risk of turning the event itself into an anticlimax. But the final decision on when to deliver it is unlikely to be taken until Sunday.

That, we can take with a pinch of salt but, even if it is Monday, that will give him time to read the Booker column tomorrow (or even tonight). He should study it carefully, and re-write his speech.

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