If The Netherlands Vote No………

If the Netherlands vote ‘no’ tomorrow (and the opinion polls don’t seem to leave much room for doubt), then according to the FT Jack Straw will tell the House of Commons next Monday that the UK government is immediately suspending parliamentary passage of the European treaty bill. This means the ratification process will be dead, not just in theory (which I think it is now) but in practice. This announcement leaves me with a strange feeling. These days I don’t feel especially British, I am not a great admirer of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, but somehow they seem to have drawn the obvious conclusions, conclusions which clearly are not obvious to many other EU politicians. I can’t help thinking that if we could get to the bottom of why this is, we would understand a bit better why there is such a communication problem between the UK and other parts of the EU.

Britain is to suspend plans to put the European Union constitution to the vote if the Netherlands follows France and rejects the treaty in a referendum on Wednesday.

As the shockwaves of the French vote were resounding on Monday, it emerged that Tony Blair and Jack Straw, foreign secretary, have decided immediately to freeze plans for a UK referendum if, as expected, the Dutch vote No.

The government hopes other EU states would at once declare that rejection in France and the Netherlands meant ratification in all countries must be suspended. Even without consensus the prime minister and foreign secretary believe it would be politically impossible for the UK to carry on with its own ratification.

Incidentally, Jaques Chirac is to make a formal statement about the future French government and his interpretation of the vote on French TV tonight.

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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".

18 thoughts on “If The Netherlands Vote No………

  1. Your must look at Luxembourg as well, it s start to be fun :

    Luxembourg will have a referendum in one month and NO is at 52% 😉 lol

    where the people are able to give their opinion it s turn to europe bashing !!!.

  2. Very interesting, this is really what I feared. Obviously we can see the kind of ‘herd behaviour’ phenomenon which is so typical of financial markets. Barroso called it ‘contagion’- in the technical and not disparaging sense I assume. Responsible EU politicians should act to stop the rot: NOW.

    If they don’t, who knows where this will lead.

    The list of countries who in theory will have a referendum: Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, UK.

    Order of voting: Luxembourg 11 July, Denmark 27 September, Portugal 9 October, Poland 9 October, Ireland expected for October. The UK was scheduled for next year, but will likely now not be held. The Czech republic still to decide whether to have one.

    On top of this, could there not be a ‘rebellion’ in Sweden demanding a vote.

    It would be a brave person who would forecast a ‘yes’ in any of these votes.

  3. {{{ – I am not a great admirer of Tony Blair and Jack Straw, but somehow they seem to have drawn the obvious conclusions, conclusions which clearly are not obvious to many other EU politicians. I can?t help thinking that if we could get to the bottom of why this is, we would understand a bit better why there is such a communication problem between the UK and other parts of the EU. -}}}
    ____________________________

    Perhaps “continental” politicians are at present too shocked and embarrassed to be prepared to openly admit to, or face, the plain and unvarnished truth; either that or they are living in some form of Wonderland.

    It is Blair and Straw, shortly to take over the EU Presidency, who are going to have to clear up this mess. They are probably going to formally propose shelving the Constitutional Treaty forthwith to avoid the damage that further rejections of the Constitution will inevitably do to the EU. To allow the ratification process to continue is to to risk a series of No votes and with it the possibility of fatal blows not only to the EU but also to the single currency. I think many politicians in EUrope are reluctant to admit this – they will leave it to the British to do the deed and no doubt at some future date they will revert to slandering and blaming the British for the whole sorry affair.

    Of course one could, on the other hand, be unkind and say that “continental” politicians are too narrow minded, due to their EU focus, to see the bigger picture.

    On the broader matter of politicians and politics in the EU – in a speech attributed to Diodotus Thuycidides wrote that “It has come to this, that the best advice when offered in plain terms is as much distrusted as the worst; and not only he who wishes to lead the multitude into the most dangerous course must deceive them, but he who speaks in the cause of right must make himself believed by lying.” – I’m sure that this is the situation in much of Europe today – quite simply the political elite have lost the trust of the people because dishonest rhetoric is used by all.

    Interestingly, apart from Spain, none of the other states that have ratified the treaty have put the matter to a referendum. I suspect that had it been put to the vote in Italy it would have been rejected, and also quite possibly in Germany.

  4. “quite simply the political elite have lost the trust of the people because dishonest rhetoric is used by all.”

    Surely this is the case in The Netherlands and in France. In The Netherlands the race is on to give Balkenende a black eye.

    Even though I understand it, I am a bit saddened by the UK’s decision to suspend their part of the ratification process. The one positive thing that came out of the French referendum was the emergence of a debate on Europe. I am afraid that this debate has now been made irrelevant in the other countries that haven’t cast their vote yet.

    Europe is not just France, Germany and the UK. What, for instance, must the Spanish think now?

  5. A concerted push seems to be coming from several top-level UK sources early this Tuesday morning to declare the EU Constitution not only fatally stricken after the unequivocal “no” vote in France on Sunday but entirely beyond hope of resurrection if Netherlanders also vote “no” on Wednesday.

    “EU leaders were warned today by former commissioner Lord Kinnock to accept the French ‘no’ vote meant that its constitution was now dead. The former Labour leader said that any attempt to push the treaty through would cause a serious public backlash against the whole European project.”
    http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4626332

    “Senior British government figures have drawn two conclusions from France’s outright rejection of the European constitution. First, they believe that if the Netherlands follows France and votes No to the treaty on Wednesday, then the constitution is, in effect, dead – and there is no point continuing with the ratification process across the European Union. In the event of a Dutch No, the British government will want to forge as wide a consensus as possible among EU partners that this is indeed the treaty’s unhappy fate. . . ”
    http://news.ft.com/cms/s/4ef429ee-d170-11d9-9c1d-00000e2511c8.html

  6. “What, for instance, must the Spanish think now?”

    I think they feel confused, and a little worried. They are aware that all this is not good news.

    Actually the new PP leader Mariano Rjoy is understandably trying to get all the political capital he can from the situation: you will realise that while the PP went along with a yes, Aznar was in the background saying ‘nee’ all along. Now Aznar seems to have had a boost in the PP, with Rajoy speaking about the “eje perdedor” (loosing axis: he means France and Germany). Clearly the PP is likely to revert to the former pro US orientation.

    In fact Rajoy did warn Zapatero that this might happen: he said he hoped he wouldn’t live to regret letting Spain go first. More than pro constitution I think those who voted yes did so out of gratitude: they are aware that Spain has been a huge beneficiary of the EU process, and they wouldn’t want to do anything to rock the boat.

    In addition, of course, at the time of voting the Zapatero government was at the height of its popularity, This is a setback for Z, and if the peace process doesn’t move forward in the Basque country his situation could now deteriorate.

    On whether cancelling the ratification process means the end of the debate, I don’t think so. As I said in my first vote: let the debate begin. Now we may really get an informed debate. In this sense Henry Farrel may have been more right than I recognised at the time.

    The point is we urgently need some decisive moves to restore confidence, then the debate can proceed more or less calmly. I tend to agree with Peter, the UK presidency may be just what we need.

  7. Thank you Guy 🙂

    To add to my earlier comment on the matter of shelving the consititution. The FT has an editorial today that advises Britain against this course of action. They put the matter this way:

    “Britain cannot afford to be the first country unilaterally to say the new treaty is dead without weakening its influence among European governments that often see it as semi-detached. Recent British governments have striven to push the EU towards the flexible and lean organisation necessary in an era of globalisation. If the new treaty is shelved in an acrimonious atmosphere of protectionism, that influence could wane – damaging Britain’s interests, as well as Europe’s.” From Blair?s moment of destiny on Europe

    There is certainly some truth in this as I alluded earlier. Yet it looks as if the above advice may be ignored. Elsewhere the FT reports that – “The European Union is poised to shelve its proposed constitution for several years after French voters rejected the treaty in a referendum on Sunday.” See EU to put new treaty on ice after French No

    If the Dutch vote NO then I think shelving has to be the only option – Jean-Claude Juncker certainly won’t do the deed so it looks as if will be left to the “euoskeptic” Brits to do it and take the recriminations – a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    PS. What about Straw as a replacement for Blair instead of Brown ….!

  8. Thank you for the reply, Edward. Interesting stuff.

    I am sure the European debate will continue somewhere, but I am not so sure the people will be as involved as they were in France. Now, of course, would be a good time for politicians all over Europe to keep the heat going and to start informing people better… on a continuous basis. I know, I am naive.

  9. Britain cannot afford to be the first country unilaterally to say the new treaty is dead without weakening its influence among European governments

    Pft. What’s the alternative?

    The FT proposes

    Britain must continue its preparations for a referendum campaign – even though the likelihood that there will be a vote has greatly diminished.

    Which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Okay, let’s act like we’re going to vote, even though we’re not, in order to avoid the stigma of delivering the death blow?

    Come on. The chance of a British referendum voting “yes” at any time in the next year was never high. It is now very close to zero.

    If two major countries vote “No” back-to-back, then delaying the referendum is an entirely reasonable response. Arguably, it’s pro-European rather than otherwise… the alternative would be to hold a referendum that would almost certainly result in another, even louder and firmer “No”.

    Doug M.

  10. Tony Blair didn’t get to be Tony Blair without forcing peoples’ hands. That’s one aspect of what he’s just said. Another is the word ‘suspension’, which I am sure was very carefully chosen. Any British referendum is about a year away, an eternity in politics. By ‘suspending’ consideration now, Blair gains time, takes the initiative just before the UK presidency of the EU, and loses precisely nothing.

    Also, if he does declare the constitution dead (forcing peoples’ hands again), he’s the only European leader I can think of offhand who could credibly propose an alternative. Rasmussen, maybe, but as head of a small country, lacks a bit of heft. So the Blair remarks are very interesting indeed.

  11. Blair and Straw could find it difficult to “suspend” the ratification process without a unanimous agreement from all 25 EU member states. There is Clause 30 of the Treaty signed by all member states last year to contend with. Maybe Chirac will refuse to have it suspended …. he’s contrary and despicable enough to take such an attitude.

    “Clause 30: If, two years after the signature of the treaty amending this Treaty, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter shall be referred to the European Council.”

    Originally they had intended to put in wording that would have started the process of expulsion of the “offending” member states.

    Looks as if it might be time to get the lawyers in!

    PS. On another matter is your “Trackback” facility switched off? It always me gives an error message.

  12. “On another matter is your “Trackback” facility switched off? It always me gives an error message.”

    Sorry, yes it is, we had spam problems.

  13. So, because the french wanted to punish Chirac we’re all going to beat our breasts, smear the ashes of the constitution on our faces and say ‘Europe is dead’?
    Does nobody think that the fight for a politically united Europe is worth waging any more?
    Shame on us.

  14. So, because the french wanted to punish Chirac we’re all going to beat our breasts, smear the ashes of the constitution on our faces and say ‘Europe is dead’?
    Does nobody think that the fight for a politically united Europe is worth waging any more?
    Shame on us.

  15. “So, because the french wanted to punish Chirac we’re all going to beat our breasts, smear the ashes of the constitution on our faces and say ‘Europe is dead’?”

    I don’t think anyone is saying this. Having a rethink, doesn’t mean giving up. I think many people reject your premise: that this was simply a vote against Chirac. This has been coming in France since the 1992 Maastricht vote. The evolution is clear.

  16. “Does nobody think that the fight for a politically united Europe is worth waging any more?”

    Over my dead body surrounded by federast corpses!

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