“I am more confident than ever that I will be the next European Commission President,” tweeted former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker on 4 June. Quite how he knew with such certainty so far in advance of the EU’s elected national leaders is something of a mystery. Until, that is, you consider the continuing dominance of the Franco-German axis in the European Union, and the historical absurdity of believing that a British prime minister could ‘take a lead in Europe’ or ‘grasp the agenda of reform’ – with or without a handbag. Continue reading →
David Lidington’s letter to Conservative Party members on ‘reform in Europe’ tells us not very much about almost nothing at all. It is measured, upbeat and polite, but that is the essential optimism and generous disposition of the man himself. The only interesting glimpse it offered into current thinking was confirmation of his ignorance of the Maastricht Treaty. Perhaps, like Kenneth Clarke, he hasn’t bothered to read it.
The Europe Minister wrote: ‘I’m sure [members] will be pleased to know that in their Subsidiarity Review, the Dutch Government proposed a new principle: ‘at European level only when necessary, at national level whenever possible’.’
It isn’t clear if this ‘new principle’ is untrodden ground to the Dutch Government or to David Lidington: I hope the former, if only because I expect the Europe Minister to be rather more informed and better advised. Whichever it is, that such chicanery can be sent out to loyal, intelligent and discerning Conservatives in the hope of fobbing them (indeed, us) off with frivolous sloganeering only serves to perpetuate the epistemic distance between the parliamentary and voluntary wings of the party. Continue reading →
Kenneth Clarke has held almost every senior Office of State. He has been Health Secretary, Education Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is presently Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
You’d think, with all this experience, that his political antennae would be finely attuned to the will of the demos. But decades of cigars and scotch in smoky jazz clubs seem to have dulled his judgment. Either that, or he never had any – at least where ‘Europe’ is concerned.
According to a ConservativeHome/Channel 4 poll, 83 per cent of Conservative Party members want in In/Out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. This doesn’t, of course, tell us anything about the likely replicability in the wider country: the validity and reliability of the ConHome/C4 data is questionable, not least because participants are not randomly selected and respondents tend to be those who favour change from the status quo. Continue reading →
It was exactly 20 years ago in 1992 that Europe’s élite were tortuously negotiating the Maastricht Treaty, which paved the way for Europe’s single currency. Germany’s Chancellor Kohl was telling us about the importance of building the House of Europe, explaining that if there was no monetary union there would be no political union (and vice versa). President François Mitterrand of France was more than happy to sacrifice le franc for his plus grand projet. Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene assured us that monetary union was the motor of European integration. And President of the European Commission Jacques Delors was busy turning the ERM into EMU and founding the ECB to impose binding budgetary rules upon all Member States. When the currency was named the ‘euro’, it was Spain’s finance minister Pedro Solbes who proclaimed: “Thou art Euro, and on this Euro I will build Europe,” as though the gates of Anglo-Saxon Hades could not prevail against it. Continue reading →