Richard North, 29/01/2015  

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There was a time once when senior political figures said things and I listened, purely on the assumption that they must be better informed, more experienced, and with better contacts and understanding.

Like the plan that falls apart with first contact with the enemy, my deference to "senior political figures" survived for as long as it took for me to meet some of them, when the residual question became one of how these people manage to function on the incredibly low level of knowledge and understanding that they actually possessed.

Very much falling into that category is former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, currently lauded by the Guardian for his supposed insight into the fate of Mr Cameron's treaty change in the wake of the Syriza victory in the Greek election.

According to the Guardian-appointed sage, this victory deals a "severe blow" to Cameron's hopes, the man "warning" us that the appetite for treaty change in the EU has diminished since the election. "Treaty change will be very difficult", he thus tells us.

No one in the business, though, was ever under the impression that there was any appetite for treaty change. In fact, two years ago almost to the day, we were writing of the lack of enthusiasm for a new treaty, and in this respect nothing much has changed in the intervening period.

What has changed, of course, is Cameron's tactical approach, in that he is most likely preparing to avail himself of the "simplified procedure" afforded by Article 48, but such subtlety is a closed book to the Guardian And Mr Bildt. But then, is an ex prime minister, and these sort of people know very little indeed.

However, Bildt has clearly has failed to update himself on the Lisbon Treaty changes (even though he signed up to them), and he is thus working under the impression that, if the treaty process is opened up, the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will be able to use this as a chance to press for changes to the rules governing the single currency.

Under the Art. 48 procedure, of course, only Part III (TFEU) issues can be amended, and that does not include single currency. The euro is safe from any interference by Mr Tsipras and his pals.

What enables Bildt to spread his ignorance, though, is prestige. Endowed with this commodity, he can deliver any amount of tosh to the Guardian, not because it is right, or because the man has any insights worth having, but simply because his prestige carries the day.

Earlier, the man was talking a similar level of tosh at an event organised by the Europhile British Influence at the Royal United Services Institute. There, he was also in a cautionary mood, telling us that the EU and Britain would be diminished if the UK left the EU.

"The weight of the EU on the global stage will diminish but the weight of the UK would diminish even more because the UK is important as a significant actor inside the EU", he said. "Ask Washington. They would go to Brussels, Berlin, Paris. Americans would still change aircraft at Heathrow but that would be about it. I am exaggerating slightly. But there would be a risk of that".

Frankly, US officials are these days more likely to be en route to Geneva or Basel, than Brussels, because that increasingly is where the action is. But the "little European" in Bildt wouldn't be aware of that. His horizon stops at Brussels.

At least, though, he recognises that negotiating a divorce would be "cumbersome but doable", but then we get the usual tedious drivel from a man who fails to step outside the intellectual boundaries set for him.

Those who believe the UK could negotiate a relationship with the EU along the lines of Norway and Switzerland, he says, "would turn the UK into a satellite of the EU". Norway has tariff-free access to the EU's single market as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). But it has to abide by EU regulations related to the single market "over which Norway has no voting rights".

So he drivels on, pouring out the same derivative tosh that we've heard so many times before. "If you want to be part of the single market [but not in the EU] you would have to enter what is de facto a satellite relationship with Brussels without any influence on the decision making".

Not in the least understanding how the world has changed, and how the Norwegians have it sussed, he then bleats about whether this would this be acceptable to the UK parliament, surmising that we would then have to leave the single market.

"The single market is dependent on the common decision making of the rules of the single market. It is defined by the single rules. Those are decided by the Brussels procedures", he says. "If you want to be part of the market and outside of Brussels then you end up with a huge democratic deficit".

These people are so out of date now that it is a pleasure to see them try it on yet again, as if they had any chance of winning the argument. But we do perceive a slight change, in that he is admitting that we can leave the EU and stay in the single market, so there is some process.

As to who makes the rules, as we know, it isn't Brussels. We need to be "outside of Brussels" to resume our place at the top table, and the likes of Mr Bildt haven't even realised it yet.

Why should we defer to these people? They are the epitome of ignorance.

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