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June 7, 2005
Old Europe Finds Way To Blame Britain

In the debacle caused by the collapse of the EU constitution, the EU elite have already begun to look for a scapegoat on which to shift blame, and avoid it themselves. They appear to have found it in Britain, as the architects of the EU now blame the UK's rebate for the political crisis instead of the flawed constitution or the heavy-handed elite that attempted to stuff it down Europe's throat:

European leaders lined up behind a plot to ambush Tony Blair yesterday, threatening to blame him for the spiralling European Union crisis unless Britain "saves Europe" by surrendering its multi-billion pound annual rebate.

One after the other, European premiers fell in line with a Franco-German plan to portray the rebate as the sticking point that is blocking a "miracle" last-minute agreement on the size and scope of the bloc's plans for the next five years.

As ministers and officials huddled for crisis meetings in Luxembourg and Strasbourg, they converged around a single line of attack: if Britain would only give ground on the rebate the EU would be able to defy expectations and pull off an early deal on its budget for the years 2007-2013.

That, it was argued, would convince people that the European project is in robust health, and not derailed by the votes against the constitution in France and Holland.

The French rebelled against the pact in part because the proposed constitution would have forced some market-based reform on their beloved Socialist (and failing) state. The Dutch dumped it by an almost 2-1 margin because the imposition of the euro caused real economic damage in the short term and the Dutch have had second thoughts about Muslim migration and assimilation in the EU. Now the authors of the electoral disasters in France and the Netherlands need a distraction from their own failures, and Britain's rebate makes for a handy way to deflect criticism from their own missteps.

This strawman will get more attention now that the G8 conference is coming up, and Blair starts to put the EU on the backburner in favor of Africa. The vacuum could allow the gripes of Chirac and Schroeder to register as revisionist truth, diverting the political fallout from their own folly and placing it on Blair, whom they've already seen used as a bogeyman by the Non faction.

Britain won't give up the rebate, not in any substantial amount anyway, and the failure of the budget process will mean that Chirac and Shroeder can feel free to blame Britain and its inflexibility instead of their own heavy-handedness. But in the end, it won't matter much. The EU looks dead at the moment, and arguing about who killed it may distract people from the corpse for a while, but eventually the stench guarantees that someone has to take some action to clean up.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 7, 2005 11:05 PM

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