Daniel Korski

Goodbye world, see you in a few weeks (for a proper EU dust-up)

Goodbye world, see you in a few weeks (for a proper EU dust-up)
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With plenty of domestic issues to debate, the election campaign promises to see little intrusion from the outside world - barring Russia invading a small neighbouring country, a terrorist attack or another financial meltdown.

Nor will Britain say much to the world in the next couple of weeks; ministers will be be represented at international meetings, for example in NATO, by senior officials, and Britain's diplomats have been told to keep quiet.

As soon as the election is over, however, there will be plenty of action. The Cabinet Office is busy planning a quick update of the National Security Strategy, and then will come a slightly longer Security and Defence Review. Early meetings include EU summits, a Foreign Minister's meeting in Sarajevo, the NPT Review Conference, a NATO Summit, a follow-up to the COP 15 in Mexico and even an OSCE get-together in Kazakhstan. A future Prime Minister is likely to want to travel to at least Washington, Paris, Brussels, Kabul and perhaps somewhere like New Delhi or to the Franco-African Summit - just to differ from the previous government.

A key question will be how to relate to Europe - especially if the Tories win outright or are forced to govern with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats. The Economist has an excellent leader and three-page article on Tory Europe policy - and Europe's Tory policy. (Let's forget for a moment what a Con-Lib Europe policy might look like - the mind boggles at the very idea)

Though The Economist's line is unlikely to find favour among many Coffee House commentators, it confirms what I have said before: that Europe is changing and has become more pro-market, less dirigiste, less pro-French and more Atlanticist than it used to be. Enlargement has seen to that.

It still needs reform - lots of it. But the article is a useful corrective to the nonsense spouted by so many British papers -  for example about the percentage of laws produced by the EU (less than 50 percent) and how complicit European member-states are in some of the EU’s worst laws and regulations.

There are two areas I think The Economist gets badly wrong. The first is the potential willingness of a Tory government to veto Croatian EU accession as a way to get some of the opt-outs the Conservatives want.

The magazine suggests that the Tories will not go all the way. Wrong. Prime Minister Cameron will park his pro-enlargement sympathies and veto Croatia's EU future as long as it takes to get his concessions. Croatia is not Finland or Sweden and David Cameron is not John Major.

But The Economist also suggests that vetoing might work. Wrong again. For many countries a moratorium on EU enlargement is ideal; they will happily hide behind a UK veto and give a Tory government little in return. So the Tories will act - but may find it gets them nowhere.

The second mistake is on European defence. The magazine intimates that the Tories are at least persuadable on the matter of European defence co-operation - even if it takes the form of Franco-British cooperation. But as I understand it, the Tories want Franco-British cooperation instead of EU co-operation - something the Elysee Palace is said to be contemplating, but the Quai D'Orsay and the French Defence Ministry find objectionable.  

Ho hum, all that is tomorrow's headache and future blogposts. For now, back to the election.