Anthony Browne says the French model has failed. Britain must now show the way forward — and save the European Union by her example
You might feel safe reading your Spectator, confident that you will die in a bed, but I can reveal that yet another world war is about to break out across Europe, that genocide is stalking the land, and Islamist terrorists are about to blow up innocents by the trainload.
I know this is going to happen, because Dutch MEPs warned of it in a TV commercial. Archive footage of Jews being herded on to trains, of mass graves from the Srebrenica massacre, and bodies lying on tracks after the 11 March train bombing in Madrid were used to warn the Dutch what would happen again if Europe didn’t get its constitution.
But before you head for the bomb shelter, remember that Euro-enthusiasts are not infallible. They said the countries that joined the euro would boom, but the only thing that has exploded is unemployment. They warned us that the British economy would collapse if we didn’t join the euro. We didn’t, and the British economy is in the best shape ever. So now that the constitution is being killed off, we can probably be sure of peace in our time.
In the real world, the only connection between Hitler and the constitution is the way that referendums are abused to give a veneer of legitimacy to power-grabs. Until now, there has been little pretence that they are genuine consultations; only one answer has been allowed, the one supporting a policy that has already been decided.
The first reaction this time was straight from the old school, with Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s current President, insisting that Non really meant Oui, and that countries which voted wrongly would just have to vote again to get the ‘right answer’. But the shock as the European project crashes into the will of the people is so large this time round that few believe it can just sail on as though nothing had happened.
The EU after the French referendum will be very different from the discredited EU before, opening up the opportunity for Britain to save Europe from itself.
Tony Blair laid down the challenge, saying Europe must decide on its future direction in the quick-moving globalised world. Jacques Chirac retorted in his television address on Tuesday that he had not lost faith in the ‘European ideal’, and promised more of the French model, rejecting the ‘Anglo Saxon’ view, and appointing a Napoleon-worshipping mystical French nationalist as prime minister. The EU is dead; long live the EU.
But it’s not like that. The EU has finally foundered on its central problem — the one it has with the will of the people. Too often, European leaders seem determined to prove the Eurosceptics right in their claim that the EU is a conspiracy of elites against their citizens. National governments like transferring power to Brussels because it means they can bypass their truculent national parliaments. The German federal ministers like transferring power to Brussels because it means they get to negotiate policies, rather than letting the regional l