Alex Massie

Backroom Deals in Brussels Are No Big Deal

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It's always heads they win, tails you lose with the euro-sceptics isn't it? For instance, they were adamant that they didn't want a high-profile figure such as Tony Blair to become President of the EU Council. No Big Beasts please, we're British! Now it turns-out that they're equally disappointed that an unknown Belgian and a scarcely-known Briton have become President and EU High Representative respectively. There's no pleasing some people...

All this reflects the euro-sceptics belief that nothing that happens in Brussels can't be spun to their advantage. Sure, as Iain Martin says, perhaps the elevation of this pair of nonentities is "a decision so bizarre that satire is temporarily rendered redundant" and, sure, many Spectator readers are unhappy that neither has been elected to their new positions or, in the case of Baroness Ashton, ever been elected to anything. But, since the posts exist, what's the alternative? Direct elections? That would, obviously, make the holders of each post vastly more powerful figures. Addressing this particular aspect of the EU's "democratic deficit" is one way to make Brussels more, not less powerful. Is that what euro-sceptics want?

Actually it probably is. If the EU continues to muddle along in its imperfect, woolly way then agitating for British withdrawal becomes more, not less difficult. The best, and certainly quickest, way of wrenching Britain from the Union is to move as rapidly as possible towards a fully-fledged, genuine, honest-to-goodness super-state.

The only problem with this, as Brother Korski explains, is that most of europe doesn't really want a super-state. If you doubt that, consider some of the reaction of those who really would like such a thing. As Charles Bremner reminds us, the euro-federalists are unhappy today. Charles Crawford also sees this as a victory for nation states, not Brussels. (Prospect's Tom Nuttall also has a good post on this.)

That being the case, however, and since the EU Trade Commissioner is arguably the most important of all the Commissioners one might also hope that the elevation of Baroness Ashton to the post of High Representative will also ensure that future trade liberalisation will be a key component of EU foreign policy. That also seems a Good Thing.

Sure, there remain plenty of things about the EU that are objectionable (and Mr Rompuy's hostility to Turkey is a regrettable addition to this list) but those who complain about its lack of transparency and its democratic deficit, while certainly having a point, might also recall that the more of that there is the more power will be gathered at the centre, not left with the nation states. That might be a price worth paying, though I suspect many of those most hostile to the EU might disagree.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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