|In politics context is everything. The greatest vices and the greatest virtues are totally interchangeable depending on the context—the particular object to be achieved. The EU was, and is, considered a most virtuous institution by all pro-Europeans. Now it is the favourite weapon of the anti-Europeans to defeat the Fiscal Compact. Cameron justified his action on 8th December last year on the basis that he was defending the EU against the 26 other members who were ignoring it in proposing the Fiscal Compact among themselves. If he had the guts to follow this through, he could legally bar all work and people concerned with the Compact from every EU building. Bill Cash and Bruce Arnold are now also great defenders of the EU. Anthony Coughlan has not yet taken up this argument. Anthony is probably too honest to play this game but that only means he is just a pedant when it comes to politics.
However, there is a need to explain to the electorate how this situation has come about. After 40 years' membership of the EEC/EU we are back to square one, legally speaking. To utilise a favourite analogy of the past in relation to Europe: the train we were on has run into a siding and a new one has started moving from the station and we must decide which one to join. Trying to be on both is a rather absurd position to be in. But why are there now two trains?
The explanation for this dilemma begins and ends with Britain. After less than a decade of membership, Britain changed tack politically and began a campaign to subvert the EEC/EU development. It has succeeded up to now. The only surprise is that they blocked a measure so openly and clearly last December. These things are rarely done so frankly. Clarity not being a virtue in these situations. Even those hitherto blind, deaf and dumb to Britain's ways, such as John Bruton, realise what has happened.
This Fiscal Compact Treaty presents a straightforward political choice between those who essentially created the present problem (Anglo Finance Capital with the policy of money deregulation which it foisted upon the world) on the one hand, and those who can be more reliable allies in Europe. If the Fiscal Compact is agreed, all the rest concerning tax arrangements, bail-outs, etc., will fall into place. The only realisable European political arrangement will then be able to develop.
Britain sees this clearly and hence its opposition. The 'Open Europe' press summary of 5th April (which is produced by a well-funded British Euro-sceptic pressure group) gave an indication of the shape of a non-British Europe already taking place:
"In an interview with the FT [Financial Times], French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé claimed that France would adopt a more assertive stance with the EU if Nicolas Sarkozy were re-elected at the upcoming Presidential elections. 'It's not a bad method from time to time to bang the table' he said in reference to Sarkozy's threat to suspend French participation in the free movement Schengen area, adding 'it is a very good vision of what Europe should become—a Europe with borders'. He also reiterated Sarkozy's call for a Buy European Act, stating that 'we have a divergence with our British friends who see Europe as a big free trade area. That is not our vision. We must introduce into free trade the notion of reciprocity'."
Similarly, in a TV interview on 11th April, Sarkozy is reported as saying:
"They don't agree with me, which I find very funny, you know, because I don't agree with them… The FT, as they say in informed circles, has always defended the Anglo-Saxon model, considering the French irredeemable and that we would do better to align ourselves to the Anglo-Saxon model… The FT has for many years said that the solution for the world is that there should be no law… I think exactly the opposite…. The FT explains to us that it is necessary to do exactly what Great Britain does, which is in a far worse economic situation than France. So as for me, I accept any who volunteer to give us lessons, but not them, and not like that!"
How this new situation has come about is what needs to be explained to the electorate because, apart from providing the facts of the case, it might actually help win the referendum. Clarity might become a political virtue!
However the omens for this are not good. For example, The Irish Times, which feels entitled to lecture the Government and the people at regular intervals, has editorialised on:
"Explaining The Treaty
"…This time out, clear explanations and robust political campaigns are required from the outset. A lack of information must not be allowed to figure again as the public's reason for rejection" (7 April).
The paper goes to trot out the very same type of threat/promise that got Lisbon Treaty, Mark II passed:
"If voters stand aloof, they will automatically forego the capacity to access emergency funding by way of a new Eurozone 'firewall'. Such funding may not be required. But its availability could make a substantial difference to the cost of Government borrowing on international markets. That, in turn, will influence the range of public services it can afford to provide" (7 April).
So it's all about the lolly we might need and might be denied. In other words, the lowest common denominator among nations and people is the summit of its case for this Treaty. This is in keeping with the economic determinism that now dominates intellectual life. Far from giving "clear explanations" there is no attempt to point out the unique nature of this Treaty, that it isn't another EU Treaty, that it's an inter-Governmental arrangement, what that means, why it has arisen—and why has the European Union failed to deliver in its hour of crisis.
The Union is at a dead end, and inter-Governmental arrangements which leave Britain isolated have had to be made.
This referendum presents an opportunity to re-establish an older alliance than the EU, an opportunity to put real flesh on the alliance proclaimed in 1916 with 'our gallant allies in Europe'. If this Referendum succeeds, that would be clearly evident for the centenary of 1916 and that event could then take on a whole new meaning.