Wednesday, April 6

Tony Blair calls for May 5 general election in Britain. Brussels seizes an opportunity

Despite their past disagreements with the Iron Chancellor about his insistence that sound government fiscal policy is, well, sound, two days ago Brussels gave Gordon Brown a glowing endorsement. One might argue that they couldn't help but doing so, given that Mr Brown's policies on the British economy have been famously vindicated; however, Brussels watchers know that the compliments verged on the fawning. Coming as they did just 24 hours before Tony Blair's unsurprising call for a general election, what can we read into Brussels' fit of generosity?

Looming on the horizon is Britain's referendum on the ratification of the EU constitution. The drop-dead deadline for ratifying the constitution is November 2006, but it's likely the event will occur in the early part of 2006. What's particularly interesting about the referendum is that it was never supposed to happen. Blair, determined that Britain should fully integrate with the EU, initially dismissed the need for a referendum. In doing so, he neglected the gathering opposition in Britain to EU integration. But through the miracle of polling, which revealed his steep decline in popularity and the opposition, he reversed course and called for a referendum.

As to where Tony Blair stands now on the issue of integration with the EU, seemingly where he's always stood. His view is that first you join them, then you battle to regain what you gave up by joining. Mr Blair is quite a scrapper--a trait that endeared him to Americans who support the invasion of Iraq--so his logic might work, for him. But he has all but promised the Labor party that if returned to power after election he won't serve his full term, thus clearing the way for Gordon Brown to become PM. Pundita is not sure how much Blair's promise is worth but at this juncture we have to take him at his word.

As to where the Tories stand on integration--they stand for whatever the polls indicate might give them a shot at unseating Labor. Right now polls show that British voters are roughly split on the question of integration.

In coming months we'll have more to say about all this because Britain's decision on integration will have profound implications for the US war on terror and the trade war.

So now seems a good time to bone up on just exactly what Euroscepticism is. The topic represents a formalized school of thought, so the explanation is a little dry--although Pundita strongly recommends that her readers make the time to read every point.

To ease into the subject, and to dispel the notion that Pundita is mean to Brussels, I suggest you first read a genuine, card-carrying Eurosceptic's opinion of the European Union. Next to Robert Locke, Pundita is the soul of sweetness on the topic. Those who are coming to Locke's 2002 piece for Front Page Magazine for the first time should be warned to remove small children and even sensitive pet goldfish from the reading area before clicking on this link .


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