Now that it appears inevitable that the French people will soundly reject the new EU constitution and reduce French influence in Europe dramatically, Jacques Chirac has readied his new political strategy for the debacle. Chirac will rely on centuries of French tradition — and blame the British for their woes:
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac will be pitched into a furious six-month dispute over the future direction of the European Union if the French people vote No to the EU constitution tomorrow.
Government sources are braced for the French president to round on the Prime Minister and blame him for making the constitution too “Anglo-Saxon” on economic issues and for plunging Europe into crisis as a result. …
British diplomats believe that Mr Chirac will call for France, Germany and other nations to form a “core Europe” in which they can push ahead with integration without being held back by laggards such as Britain.
However, Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, want to use Britain’s six-month EU presidency, which begins on July 1, to argue that eurozone economies need flexible British and American-style economies rather than heavy regulation and tax harmonisation.
Actually, if Blair really wanted to destroy France, he should encourage Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder to form that “core Europe” — so that both of their economies can go in their current direction, only much faster. Part of the disaster that the EU has become directly relates to its “core” countries failing to abide by their own economic and budgetary regulations.
The French don’t recognize that, of course, which is why they have so strenuously opposed this draft. The French (and the Germans) believe that socialism and nationalized industry will revive the economy of Europe despite decades of evidence to the contrary. They do not want to face a competitive market which will force them to reform their labor laws and reduce their protectionism, changes Britain made more than two decades ago. After their embrace of private enterprise, the British won’t go backwards to their 1970s stagnation, regardless of whether Chirac approves or not.
The truth is that France and Germany both need Britain in the EU more than Britain needs to enter it. If the French reject this, it gives Chirac the opening he needs to blame the terms of the new constitution on Tony Blair, hoping to take French minds off of the fact that Chirac negotiated these terms and up to now has endorsed it. It’s a bit late for Chirac to point his Gallic finger across the channel and expect anyone but the French to buy his outrage now.
Of course, Chirac is only playing this for domestic consumption. However, earlier reports had Chirac considering another strategy of ignoring this plebescite and having the Assembly ratify the constitution separately, a plan which seems to have gone by the wayside. Chirac surely can’t be seen imposing a British conspiracy to Anglicize France in defiance of French voters. Even Jacques Chirac isn’t that self-destructive.