Only in totalitarian dictatorships does the ballot come with a pre-ordained correct answer. Yet President Juncker distilled the great flaw at the heart of the EU constitution into one straightforward sentence that cut through all the thickets of Giscard’s unreadable verbiage. The American constitution begins with the words “We the people”. The starting point for the EU constitution is: “We know better than the people.”
After that, the rest doesn’t matter: you can’t do trickle-down nation-building. The British, who’ve written more constitutions for more real nations than anybody in history and therefore can’t plead the same ignorance as President Juncker, should be especially ashamed of going along with this farrago of a travesty of a charade.
But so what? Britain’s naysayers don’t have to reject the constitution for the same reason as France’s commies, fascists, racists, eco-nutters, anachronistic unionists, featherbedded farmers, middle-aged “students”, Trot professors and welfare queens, bless ‘em all. If they want to go down the Eurinal of history clinging to their unaffordable welfare state, their 30-hour work weeks, 10-month work years and seven-year work decades, that’s up to them. If Britain doesn’t, that should be up to Britain.
That’s exactly what I’ve thought. France likes her nanny state welfare system. Why shouldn’t she keep it, then? If she doesn’t want Polish bakers screwing with her Parisian ones, well that’s up to her, isn’t it.
For decades, some of us have argued that “Europe” is too diverse to form a single polity, that the British and French are in fact foreign to each other. Sir Edward Heath and his ilk scoff at such crude language: why, today’s young cosmopolitan Britons are perfectly comfortable drinking Beaujolais and eating croissants and flaunting their wedding tackle on the Côte d’Azur. True, and irrelevant. What Sunday’s vote underlined is profound differences in political culture. Britain’s anti-Europeans and France’s lunatic fringe are united only in their reluctance to be bossed around by a regulatory regime that insists a one-size-fits-all rulebook can be applied from Ballymena to the Baltics. It can’t. The alleged incompatibility of our dissatisfactions makes the point: all politics is local; despite the assiduous promotion of the term, electorally speaking there is no such thing as a “European”.
Well, unless you include, as Benedict XVI wants to, religion. But that’s not allowed. Not allowed with boos and hisses.