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The European SuperState Has Crept A Millimetre Forward

Jeremy Hetherington-Gore,, London

13 December 2000

It is a peculiar thing that the British seem unable to understand that they have joined the United States of Europe, and that all this euro-sceptical jerking and tossing is about as effective in stopping the juggernaut as a butterfly attacking a steamroller.

New states of the Union on the other side of the Atlantic have gone to their national deaths with enthusiasm; at least those of them that weren't just bought for cash. But whether they jumped or were pushed, once in there was no turning back. Not so with the UK, which for all kinds of historical and cultural reasons can't bring itself to make a bonfire of nationhood on the altar of European union.

The Treaty of Nice, if it ever makes the statute book, is just one more marker in a long series of steps towards 'ever closer and deeper union'; but the most remarkable thing about it is not how much was achieved in Nice (very little in fact) but the chorus of groans that went up from the Europhile tendency when they saw that only a few, very halting steps forward had been taken on this occasion.

First off the block was Romano Prodi, president of the European commission, who was comprehensively mauled in Nice by assorted national leaders, but bounced back by launching a fierce attack on Tony Blair's refusal to drop Britain's veto on tax and social security at the Nice summit, blaming the prime minister for a self-serving 'lack of openness and understanding'. 'I am deeply disappointed,' he said. 'In the sensitive issues . . . progress has been insignificant or non-existent.'

Within hours of the end of the Nice meeting, the European parliament was threatening to block the new EU treaty because it hadn't done enough to further the cause of European integration. Speaking to the Parliament on Tuesday, Romano Prodi continued his attack on Tony Blair and other 'separatists' by saying that anyone who used Europe to get the best for themselves was making 'an error of historical analysis' and 'cheating future generations.' Perhaps he wants the Parliament to reject the Treaty?

The French, who have been widely criticised for their handling of the summit, made their view of the future of the Union very plain. 'It will be necessary one day to vote with qualified majority on fiscal and social issues,' said Pierre Moscovici, French Minister for Europe, to a BBC interviewer. 'I know the difficulties Mr Blair has with British opinion, but British opinion needs to move.'

The tragedy of this long-running comedy of errors is that British blindness to the inevitable lulls them into thinking that they will be able to stop the Superstate. The result is that the construction of the superstate continues under their noses and without their influence, according to the wrong principles. If only they would understand what is happening, they would be able to participate in the construction of a really worthwhile 'United States of Europe' on the federalist model, rather than the Colbertian model which has been pursued this 30 years past.

Anyway, it's too late now. As Francis Maude (British shadow foreign secretary) said: 'The Prodi-Moscovici remarks show that these people are saying what Tony Blair does not want Britain to hear - that the EU superstate agenda is alive and well. The ink is not dry on this treaty and already EU politicians are talking about the next stage of integration.'

It should be obligatory for British politicians to spend a year in Brussels before taking high office; a lot of costly errors would be avoided.


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