The Financial Times quotes former EU Commission President Romano Prodi on the consequences of a French rejection of the constitutional treaty.
?There would be no more Europe. We will pass through a long period of crisis.
?The problem will not only be a catastrophe for France, but the fall of Europe.?
This is arrant nonsense.
Nor is it likely to help the Yes campaign. The French are a funny people (sometimes even intentionally) but they are not likely to be stampeded into voting yes by this sort of gloom and doom.
The Union will face a crisis if France does not approve the constitutional treaty by the final deadline of 1 November 2006. It’s not at all clear to me, though, that a rejection next month is a final rejection. (If anyone has learned anything about EU politics, it is surely that nothing is ever final.)
The bid to have France lead the way forward looks to be failing. But are the French willing to be the only people to reject the treaty?
Five member states have ratified the treaty already; Spain, the sixth, has said Yes in a referendum, so parliamentary ratification is likely to be a formality. Four to six more could act before the French referendum. All of the countries in question are addressing the constitution through their parliaments, and all are expected to vote Yes. So as much as half the Union may have said Yes by the time France throws a spanner in the works.
And a spanner it would be. While an EU without France is barely conceivable (though it might simplify language issues), the converse is also true. Plus the French have said No to a treaty before, and then changed their collective mind.
This still seems the likeliest course to me. France will say No next month. Over the course of the next year, almost everyone else will say Yes. France’s voters will face the prospect of Europe going on without them, and they will see the situation differently.
(Bonus Machiavellian questions: Is the FT deliberately trying to weaken Prodi by splashing such silliness on their front page? Do they really prefer Berlusconi? Or are they simply unable to resist such juicily foolish quotes from a major figure?)