Saturday, June 23, 2007

The European Summit has reached a conclusion. We will have a Treaty, but not a Constitution. The European Union has become a “legal person”, even if it is still constrained by the governments of its member states. It will have a president who remains in post for two and a half years, instead of rotating every six months. And ten years from now it will have a sensible voting system for the Council of Ministers.
Yet there are many measures that have fallen by the wayside. Some are purely symbolic, such as the official recognition of the EU flag and anthem. Others are more serious, such as the watering down of the French proposal to strengthen the social dimension of the EU.
This was, as no-one can fail to notice, Tony Blair’s final European Summit. He came to power promising to place Britain at the heart of Europe. Has he succeeded? You can judge from my open letter to him:

Dear Mr Blair,
Now that you are moving on to the American lecture circuit, where your talents will doubtless be better appreciated, I want to thank you for the way you have taken forward our relationship with our European neighbours. Thank you for:

  • Your opt out from the Schengen agreement, so that I can have all that extra time to think great thoughts as I queue to get through passport controls. Oh, and also because this has ensured continuing employment for those British immigration officers working at the Eurostar terminals in Brussels and Paris – you know, the ones who check your passport five metres after they have already been checked by the French and Belgian officials.
  • Your opt out from the single currency, so that I can continue to contribute large sums of money to the terribly hard up banks each time I change money.
  • Your opt out from European Union provisions on criminal justice, even though you agreed an extradition treaty with the USA that allows British citizens to be extradited without the US authorities even presenting a prima facie case against them (of course the reverse does not apply – it would be inconceivable for the USA to extradite one of their citizens here, and certainly not those who have unlawfully killed British soldiers in Iraq with so-called “friendly fire”)
  • Your refusal to sign up to the Fundamental Charter of Rights, lest we should get ideas above our station and ask for basic rights such as freedom of speech (you never know, we may want to protest about something in Parliament Square without fear of arrest under your terrorism legislation).
  • Your continued opposition to anything that would strengthen the European Union in the area of foreign affairs, lest it should ever challenge our British status as an arm of American foreign policy.
I hate to think where we would now be if you had decided that you really didn’t want to be part of Europe!

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