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The man from Paris: He say ‘Non’!

With fifty-five percent of the French voters giving the EU consitution the thumbs down, many of today’s papers are using words like ‘crisis’, ‘confusion’ and ‘fear’ today. There’s even talk of ‘huge’ margins, which seems a bit over the top. Even The Indy, which declared on Saturday ‘The significance of this poll lies in the campaign, not the result’, gets its knickers in a bit of a twist. Though it does seem to accept the result of this referendum, unlike Tony Blair’s victory in the General Election. Nobody seems to even mention the 70 percent turnout, and ask what it is we could learn from this. If we Brits have a referendum, I’d be surprised if fifty percent of voters bother to vote.

The Guardian has Europe stunned by the result, and its wesbite has Tony Blair calling for a time of reflection. This combination makes it sound rather like somebody’s died. They even seem to be progressing through the various stages of grief: We’ve had denial all this week, while they’ve been clinging on to the hope that a ‘Yes’ vote might just happen, and today we appear to have moved on to anger:

France’s no is highly damaging to the credibility and popularity of the EU, already in very poor shape as shown by the record low turnout in the European elections last summer.

You evil French people… You’ve let the EU down, you’ve let Chirac down, but most of all you’ve let yourselves down.

The Telegraph is obviously pleased that the vote has gone their way, and they’ve done the predictable thing of printing a picture of a smiling Chirac casting his ballot.

The Mail’s position can be summed up by saying that it’s the fifth headline on their website, just below “Rod’s daughter steps out with stepmum’s ex” and two Big Brother headlines. Despite the fact that today’s print edition says Big Brother has ‘reached new levels of debauchery’.

So what does all this mean for the future of the Constitution? Well, pretty much what we’ve all known for weeks. It’s not going to get very far without some redrafting. Which is incredibly predictable: You won’t get hundreds of millions of people of different countries and cultures to agree to a 400-page document easily. And, to be perfectly honest, I’d be surprised to see it happen at all.

It’s clear to anybody that the EU isn’t working, and is in need of reform. But the reason it isn’t working is because it’s tried to become something it never intended to be in the first place – so the foundations are not appropriate. And to wait until there are twenty-five members and then try and negotiate a new set of firmer foundations seems rather silly. Yet this is the situation in which we find ourselves, and there’s not an awful lot that can be done to change the past. So, where do we go from here? I don’t know. It would be impossible for the EU to break up completely, because some of the bonds are too strong. Piecemeal reform of existing agreements wouldn’t solve the overall problem. So it looks like we’re stuck with what we’ve got for now, with all of its quirks and inconsistencies. The existing treaties may not be a practical way to manage the newly enlarged EU, but, at the end of the day, when has European politics ever been straightforward and practical?

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Carolus Magnus

    22.31, 04/06/2005

Should the EU have a constitution? Yes, most definitely: any groups of states trying to work together, or any group of people trying to work together, even it if is just in the local stamp club need a set of rules to govern their activities.

And this is where the media, particularly in the UK of GB & NI are going wrong in their analysis, and just being plain lazy.

It is not a question of whether or not the EU should have a constitution, but whether the constitution which has been proposed is a good one or even appropriate.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    01.46, 05/06/2005

I quite agree that a Constitution is appropriate – it’s merely a case of defining what is meant by a Constitution, and exactly what form it should take. And at the moment, I (and apparently the French and Dutch) think that they haven’t got it right.

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