Tuesday, August 24, 2004

It's Over. EFTA is not repeat not coming back.

Here at the Ranter, one of my regular targets is the delusion held by many Conservatives that somehow, if they could just get into the Foreign Office, they could create a mighty alliance with such great powers as - er - Denmark and Estonia to rewrite the European Union treaties in such a way as to make it "Atlanticist" or "liberal" or "sceptical" - all of which are code for "not having any enforcement mechanism so we can discriminate against the New Europeans". There are numerous flaws with this - the first being the assumption that the Central Europeans are all really shire Tories struggling to get out, the second that there is sufficient common ground between them as well as between them and the UK for a coherent alliance, and the third being that such an alliance would have the power to achieve this substantial geo-political revolution - which lead me to conclude that it is a Napoleonic neo-imperial delusion that really ought to be dumped. Tories have been going on about this sort of thing since the late 1950s without ever producing anything of substance, but they seem to find it impossible to revise their beliefs on the subject whatever happens. The Atlantic-whoops-Mediterranean-whoops-Eastern-whoops-Central-whoops-New Europeans will all agree with us and won't join! They did. They will agree with us and form a loose trading block! They didn't. They will refuse the Euro! They didn't. They will refuse the draft Constitution! One of them nearly did but in the end - they didn't! Each and every Conservative leader has brought this stuff up and been crushingly disabused, or have simply declined to try. But, despite the utter failure of this "policy" at every opportunity, it still keeps turning up like a bad cent. (Recall IDS's trip to Prague - thought not.)

In a rare variant of this phenomenon, the Plastic Gangster notes an article in the grindingly rightwing US National Review which shows an American who believes in it. This very rarely happens in real life, so we ought to Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest whilst the opportunity presents itself. PG wisely points out that the central tenet of the current Tory view - a supposed UK/Italian/Polish alliance - is not worth banking on, as it relies on a tenuous personal link between Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, perhaps Europe's least popular politician and a man sitting atop one of the most pro-European electorates around. PG goes on to criticise the stereotype assumption that Poland is "pro American" and will stay that way, especially when the EU subsidies begin to flow. This, I think, is quite right, but more importantly there is little community of interest between Poland and the UK in some crusade to kill the EU. Poland - agricultural, Catholic, security importer, EU net beneficiary. UK - industrial/services, Protestant but frankly heathen, security exporter, EU net contributor. Poland has every direct financial reason to maintain and uphold a mercantilist view of Europe. What about Italy? Well - mixed industrial/agricultural (although very subsidy intensive in the south), net beneficiary, Catholic, passionately pro-EU - can anyone else see where this is going?

Basically, we can't split off nice cosy little clubs within the EU of people who stroke Tory egos. We will just have to do business with them all. Is that so hard to grasp?

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