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Saturday, December 13, 2003

EU CONFERENCE FAILS - GOOD NEWS? This was announced just a couple of hours ago, so you may not have heard yet, that the EU's conference has been called off and negotiations postponed because in the current situation a settlement, primarily about the constitution couldn't be reached. That is certainly positive news, because the constitution's draft as it is, was an unmitigated disaster. (To read up on the constitution, here is short analysis by Patrick Basham and Marian Tupy at the Cato Institute and if you have the time you can read this longer and more in-depth analysis by Norman Blackwell of the Centre for Policy Studies.) Obviously having more time to plan for another try would allow for a number of corrections, both to the draft itself and to British policy, which is too far away from the leadership of the anti-centrist periphery states where our policy should properly be.
However, there is always a certain tension in this position, and that is the risk of a two-speed EU. Now, on intial inspection the idea of a highly integrated core of the EU around France and Germany which would leave the sceptics the freedom to cherry pick those bits of the EU they want sounds quite nice. Unfortunately this will not solve the problem for Britain. We aren't in the EU for nice trade deals but for influence. An integrated core without us would lessen our influence in Europe, the US and the wider world, because there would be a stronger single voice in the European concert of opinions. The disadvantage of membership in the core at the moment would be that it would integrate far too rapidly and wrongly. So what the UK needs is a continuation of the status quo: a single EU with low integration. The Blair Government should remember that this is currently our biggest foreign policy priority and put some more effort into utilising this breathing space it has got to manouvre itself into a bargaining position where it can prevent the onset of a Franco-German dominated core-EU. Here's hoping.

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