Europe is an interesting topic. Politicians in the UK battle with one another to appear more or less “Euro-skeptic” than one another. This week, Tony Blair’s final as PM, sees him heading over to a summit to discuss the possibility of a new/ammended treaty/constitution. The facts are a bit blurry.*
You see, British people are by nature Euroskeptic, except the ones who consider themselves to be more enlightened, who are recovering Euroskeptics. Either position seems to be one of honour to the particular holder.
Facts don’t come much into the debates. Statistics do, in the same way a pub discussion always includes numbers to back itself up: “I heard 58% of Americans don’t know where Europe is!” Opinion matters, a lot.
Tony Blair has had a difficult time with Europe. It’s his last week before handing over to the Brown Government (insert pun here) and he has to tread very carefully. He plans to negotiate a new treaty from the charred remains of the European Constitution. First, facts cannot be mentioned too much, because the Euroskeptics will be more convinced than ever that it’s the end of Britain as we know it. The Europe-enlightened, however, need to know that we are engaging in dialogue with Europe – dialogue is a favorite word amongst enlightened-type people (I did a dissertation in it!). If nothing happens, it’s a reminder that Britain is backward and introspective and that we will be left behind when Europe takes off.
So far, vey few articles either in newspapers or on Radio 4’s hourly updates are particularly elucidating. Last night, the continuity announcer stated that Tony Blair was not prepared to give in unless there were changes “to key areas” of the treaty. What we do know is that Blair is being hard/soft on Europe and that he is happy/cautious about his new playmates in Germany and France, but we have no clear picture about what this treaty could mean either way. Blair is ‘prepared to walk away’ from treaty talks if he cannot guarantee that the treaty will not be binding in British courts. However, he also doesn’t want to leave Gordon with anything to be unhappy with (Mr Brown, meet Frau Merkel).
So, walk away or stick around? Anyone have a clue?
*Wayback version of article: https://web.archive.org/web/20080725112729/http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1964059.ece