Britain’s Referendum Postponed ‘Indefinitely’

Well, now it’s official:

Britain, which takes over the presidency of the European Union next month, has postponed indefinitely a troubled referendum on the bloc’s constitution following its rejection in France and the Netherlands, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office said Monday. Blair’s official spokesman said the failure of the French and Dutch referendums on the charter had to be discussed at the European Council summit later this month. The referendum faced likely defeat in Britain.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

6 thoughts on “Britain’s Referendum Postponed ‘Indefinitely’

  1. I think the lack of comments on this one speaks to the lack of surprise. Can Juncker and Barroso, let alone Jacques and Gerhard, really have expected anything different?

  2. As I mentioned somewhere else on the site, postponement gives Tony B a free hand, helps to force other peoples’ hands, and costs precisely nothing. A year is a very long time in this discussion, and with a postponement, the antis won’t be making the case in Britain the whole way through. Looks like no downside for Blair at all.

  3. On the other hand, Europe is in limbo while decisions are negotiated on decision-making procedures for the enlarged community. It will be difficult in that context to make much of a credible case on behalf of the EU and for the Euro in Britain where the electorate is already widely accepted to be the most Eurosceptic in the EU.

    A hardcopy of Patrick Minford’s new book: Should Britain Leave the EU? (Edward Elgar / IEA) dropped through my letterbox this morning:
    http://www.iea.org.uk/record.jsp?type=publication&ID=274

    In France, the purging has already started:

    “The deputy leader of France’s Socialist Party, Laurent Fabius, has been sacked after he broke ranks with the party and campaigned against the EU constitution. At the instigation of Socialist leader Francois Hollande, the party voted for a new list of leaders that excluded Mr Fabius and several allies.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world…ope/ 4609989.stm

    Precedents from earlier times of what tends to happen when the French fall out among themselves are rather ominous so we should be suitably sympathetic:

    ” . . In what became known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 24 August – 17 September 1572 Catholics killed many Huguenots in Paris; similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following, with an estimated total death toll of 70,000. . . Persecution of Protestants ended in 1764 . . ”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huguenots

  4. “The deputy leader of France’s Socialist Party, Laurent Fabius, has been sacked after he broke ranks with the party and campaigned against the EU constitution. At the instigation of Socialist leader Francois Hollande, the party voted for a new list of leaders that excluded Mr Fabius and several allies.”

    Sarkozy must be in heaven right now. Is hard to see who will stop him in 2007.

  5. “Sarkozy must be in heaven right now. Is hard to see who will stop him in 2007.”

    de Villepan maybe :). What I mean is that DdV has 100 days, after that he too could be out. Sarkozy really doesn’t need that job if he wants it easy in 2007.

    “the EU and for the Euro in Britain”

    I think we need to separate the two things Bob. The euro is shelved in the UK, as it probably is in Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic. What would be needed to put it back on again would be some real evidence that the ‘one size fits all’ can work. Absent that there is no debate for the UK.

    Now the EU is different: the EU really isn’t in question for the UK, despite the fact that some people publish books advocating leaving. If the main opposition party continues along that road, it simply becomes unelectable. Period.

    So what Blair has done, is a kind of ‘lesser evil’ thing. He has taken the responsibility for bringing this round of the great constitution show to an end. In public he will be criticised by some EU leaders, but in private they will thank him for getting them off the hook. All in all his political capital can only rise. This can begin to become the issue that can help heal the Iraq wounds. Am I sounding too much like Mandelson?

    He has also avoided a year of heated and pretty pointless debate in the UK.

    What happens next. British pragmatism. You can’t enter through the front door, so you send the workman round to the side entrance. The ‘great constitution project’ will be quietly shelved for the time being – the last thing Sarkozy or Merkel want is another referendum process any time soon, not with big reforms to the welfare systems coming – and there will be a whole series of ‘piecemeal’ reforms to the administrative system, all of them just small enough not to need a popular consultation.

  6. Edward: “Now the EU is different: the EU really isn’t in question for the UK, despite the fact that some people publish books advocating leaving. If the main opposition party continues along that road, it simply becomes unelectable. Period”

    I really do think that could come to depend on how developments unfold in the future, especially if pressures mount for obsessive harmonisation of taxes and regulations in the EU.

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