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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Lessons From The Battle

For a long time, Europe’s politicians have driven forward a process of European Integration, based more on a lack of public rejection than on any overriding enthusiasm on the part of the electorate. Whilst the majority of the member countries have lacked the rancorous debate that has raged in the UK, it is doubtful whether any member nation has had a level of enthusiasm among the general populace that matched that of the elite. Content with the fact that there was nothing stopping them, European politicians pushed forward with projects and ideas that were radical in the extreme. Supporting these with appeals to the electorate’s emotions with talk of peace and prosperity, they failed in their duties to the people upon whose sovereignty their power is based. The idea that a nation can abolish its own currency without a national debate on the subject is surely an extremist idea. Yet Germany, a nation with one of the world’s most trusted currencies did just that. That such a major project could store up trouble for the future was obviously discounted, or ignored as someone else’s problem. Nobody thought that the overcharging on Dutch citizens to pay for the project was a problem, except of course for the Dutch citizens themselves. Whether a right wing follower of Geert Wilders, or a left wing disciple of Laurent Fabius, those responsible for this week’s political turmoil all had one thing in common. They no longer trust their political elites. Faced with a sceptical public that believes you to be a liar, a politician is hard placed to sell free beer to homeless drunks. Faced with a vociferous opposition and an indecipherable treaty to sell, the only surprise is that anyone but professional politicians bothered to vote yes. Try as they might, the Euro Elite are not going to be able to escape from this week’s problems. When they claim that much of the opposition was actually to existing realities, they are ignoring the fact that they failed to sell those existing realities at any point in the past. Most people were unaware that European Law takes precedence over national law. When they became aware they reacted in the only way possible. The reason that the current crop of leaders will be unable to solve their little problem is that the very thing that lead to failure this week, is the strategy that was so successful in the past. Don’t allow discussion based on details, focus instead on the broad brush strokes and the fancy ideals. For along time the European Public bought it, but now that these ideals have been questioned in such a public way, the emperor has been discovered to have no clothes. Without a total rejection of the old methods, the public is not about to get back on board. The turnout in the Dutch referendum is the most significant issue of the week. Following the French result, it was widely expected that the Dutch would stay at home. Their determination instead to drive a stake through the heart of the Undead Treaty, shows how rather than losing interest they wanted their voice to be heard. The margin suggests that waverers gained courage from the French result. The Euro Elite are now faced with an unenviable situation. Previous referendums were effectively ignored. Now unless these two nations can be persuaded to change their minds a precedent has been set that effectively destroys any further integration. All it takes is one country to have a referendum and any new idea will fail. If they don’t push France to reconsider, even a small country can have the moral authority to stand up to future bullying. Changing the French and Dutch voter’s minds is even more fraught with difficulty. It means keeping the process on track. Now that the No side has two major victories under it belt that means risking a huge backlash even in countries which might have normally said yes. It also creates credibility for leading figures in France and Holland’s No Movements to have a major impact elsewhere in Europe. This when the Yes side’s only real argument has been destroyed. No country can now fear isolation if the result is wrong. The only thing worse for them than today’s situation is what it could be in 18 months time. A string of rejections from those countries that held referenda, whilst those that didn’t will be asking why their governments had refused to ask their views. It’s a scary or exhilarating prospect depending on which side of the fence you stand.

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