The no campaign is ahead in the polls in France, which votes on 29 May.
The European constitution means more irresistible and pernicious regulation, with more majority voting envisaged on questions of technology, education, social affairs … The French are being scarified by unscrupulous politicians with tales of a Tebbit-like constitution, full of free-market on-your-bikery
On the reason to vote no:
the last thing the French (or anyone) need is more detailed prescriptions from Brussels about the labour market or anything else
The French must give Giscard a rocket
Let’s face it, when you hear the kind of Frenchmen who are lining up to oppose the new European constitution, you can’t help wondering whether it might be a good thing after all. The communists are against it. The trade unions are against it. Huge numbers of old Lefties are going to vote Non at the end of next week, and for the most peculiar reasons.
It is altogether choquant, they say, when they have finished reading it. It is nothing but neo-liberalisme and turbo-Thatcherisme. Voyez! they say, pointing with horror at article 1-3 paragraph 2. It is the law of the jungle, the free market red in tooth and claw. See where it is written that there shall be “an internal market where competition is free and undistorted”. An internal market! Free competition! No distortions! Quel horreur, sacre bleu and bien je jamais, they say. The French electorate sway beneath the anti-capitalist rhetoric, and once again the Non campaign is in the ascendant. What is going on, mes amis?
Here we are in Britain, with well over half of us preparing to vote No, as soon as we are given a chance, because we think the European constitution means yet more interference and regulation from Brussels. There they are in France, in a state of gibbering paranoia, because they think the constitution is an “Anglo-Saxon plot” to export croissants from Tesco and populate the Trois Vallées with ski instructors from Surbiton.
The French seem to be against it for precisely the reasons – free trade and competition – that moderate Euro-sceptics should be broadly for it; and British Euro-sceptics are against it for precisely the reasons – more regulation and interference – that your average French Lefty should be in favour of it. We can’t both be right. One of us must be mad, and the answer (I suppose I would say this, but it is true) is that the French Non campaign has seized the wrong end of the stick with awesome tenacity.
There is much that is new in this text, and much that is wrong, but whatever you think about the free-market stuff, it is certainly not the first time it has been enshrined in the basic treaties of the EU. In fact, the current hoo-ha in France is a testament to the ruthless way in which the French élite has traditionally withheld the details of EU agreements from the population. Their eyes bulge, these poor French trade unionists, as though it was the first time that anyone in Brussels had ever mentioned the concept of the single market. Well, here is article 3 c of the 1957 founding Treaty of Rome, which calls for “an internal market characterised by the abolition, as between member states, of obstacles to the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital”.
The 1957 treaty goes on to insist that there is a “system ensuring that competition in the internal market is not distorted”. Yes, the new EU constitution has plenty of pious words about ensuring that there should be no unfair state aids and other subsidies. But so did the Treaty of Rome, and the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice.
There is nothing new about any of this, and the amazement in France at this free-market language is like that of the fellow in Molière who finds that all his life he has been talking prose. The French debate is absurd, with everything about it topsy-turvy except the conclusion.
They certainly should vote Non, but not for the reasons they think; and so should we.
Since there is nothing new in the free-market stuff, we in Britain have nothing to gain from the constitution, and could manage perfectly well with the existing texts. What is new, and dangerous, and anti-democratic, is the extension of majority voting into yet more areas of government and human life; and for those unfamiliar with the ways of the EU, majority voting is the system by which the wishes of the British Government – and therefore of the British people – can be crushed round the table in Brussels. If you seek an example of this political self-castration, look at the 48-hour week, which the present Government is trying pathetically to oppose, when it can now be forced upon Britain by a majority vote, and all because Blair removed the protection of John Major’s social chapter opt-out.
No, the European constitution does not mean more free-market stuff from Brussels; it means more irresistible and pernicious regulation, with more majority voting envisaged on questions of technology, education, social affairs and Giscard’s pet plan to have a decent European space rocket. And THAT, of course, is why the French should vote against it, if they had any sense. They are being scarified by unscrupulous politicians with tales of a Tebbit-like constitution, full of free-market on-your-bikery, and they have been somehow brainwashed into believing that the problems of France are caused by rampant Anglo-Saxon capitalism. The exact opposite is the case.
The reason the French have massive and chronic unemployment is that they are governed by an élite still gripped by a demented belief in the Colbertian lump-of-labour fallacy. They have excessive taxation, regulation and bureaucracy, and the last thing the French (or anyone) need is more detailed prescriptions from Brussels about the labour market or anything else.
Insofar as the European constitution mentions the free market, it is simply banal and unoriginal. Insofar as it extends majority voting, it is damaging and undemocratic.
Insofar as it tries to create a common foreign and security policy that all members are bound to support “in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity”, it is just wacky, when you consider what happened in Iraq.
Insofar as it wants to put a Frenchman on the Moon, that might be a noble aim if his name were Giscard, but it is otherwise completely unnecessary to the building of a bigger, better, brighter, free-trading European Union, and my strong advice to those about to vote is, français, françaises, votez non! Votez souvent!