The terminal cynicism of the EU élites

Two contrasting messages: in those EU countries where there is pressure for a referendum on the Renamed Constitution, politicians are saying “This treaty is quite different from the Constitution, and therefore there is no need for a referendum”.  We hear this from Gordon Brown in Britain.  Yesterday the Dutch cabinet also decided against a referendum, using exactly the same argument (though their decision may yet be challenged in the Dutch parliament).  Yet in countries where they are confident that there will be no public poll, EU leaders are saying the opposite.  They are queuing up to outbid each other, claiming that the new text is 92%, or 95%, or even 98% the same as the old.  In an astonishing blast of cynicism and deceit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed “presentational changes and terminological differences with the same legal effect” (my emphasis).

The aristocratic former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who chaired the Convention that drafted the failed Constitution, has said that “the changes are merely cosmetic”.  And even in those terms, they are nugatory.  As a gesture, they have omitted references to the EU national anthem, and to the EU flag.  But the anthem is still played, and the flag still flies.
 
We need to be clear about the old text and the new.  In a narrow technical sense, the so-called “Reform Treaty” is simply an amending treaty, comparable in type to many of the preceding treaties: Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice.  The Constitution was a different beast, in the sense that rather than building on the previous treaty structure, it swept away the old texts and created a single constitutional document for the EU.  But this is a distinction without a difference, because the practical effect of the “Reform Treaty” plus the preceding treaty structure is exactly the same as the Constitution would have been.  It is the same destination reached by a marginally different route.  That is why I call it the Renamed Constitution.  It is clear therefore that the Labour Party’s manifesto commitment to a referendum must stand, since the political outcome is unchanged, and the difference is merely a technicality.
 
While the Dutch cabinet was deciding to avoid a referendum, an altogether different test of public opinion took place in the tiny Dorset village of East Stoke.  Using a quirk of the 1972 Local Government Act, the good folk of East Stoke organised an official village referendum, not on the Treaty itself, but on the question whether the British people should have a referendum.  The motion was carried with 90% voting Yes, 10% No.  Well done the Stokers.  This is even more decisive than recent opinion polls showing between 75 and 80% support for a referendum.
 
The position, quite simply, is that EU leaders are opposed to referendums because they know they will lose.  Yet they are determined to drive the European project forward in defiance of the clear will of the people.  Government “of the people, by the people, for the people” is being replaced by government of the people, by the political classes, for the political classes.  Democracy is being replaced by the bureaucratic/technocratic complex, because our leaders know better than we do what is best for us — or what they claim to believe is best for us.
 
Corpulent German Christian Democrat MEP Elmar Brok (a real person, not some caricature from Peter Simple’s fecund imagination) has said “We shall have our Treaty.  And the English will not have a referendum”.  The survival of our freedom and our democracy depends on our proving him wrong.

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2 Responses to The terminal cynicism of the EU élites

  1. Peter Gardner says:

    Roger,

    Source, please, for Elmar Brok’s comment.

    I can’t find it on the net.

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