Monday, 28 January 2013

Britain's 'in-out' EU bluster and France's point-scoring riposte

Ah, you can always count on the French and Brits to cut their noses off to spite their faces when it comes to national differences, and that is exactly what is happening at the moment in the imbroglio which has followed David Cameron's recent announcement of an 'in or out' referendum for EU membership by 2017.

If David Cameron's proposed referendum were to be held today the verdict would be an unequivocal 'DEHORS!' As for the French, a BVA poll for Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France suggests that 52% of French voters would like to see Britain out of Europe, although another poll gives a slight advantage to those who would like les Rosbifs to remain.

French politicians have added to the negative view of Cameron's demands for changes in EU rules which he says are too constraining, with François 'Normal Flamby' Hollande insisting that the EU must be accepted as it is and Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius saying that Europe was not a self-service canteen where people pick and chose what, and how much, they want to eat, and that if Britain wanted to leave he'd roll out the red carpet.

Now all this kerfuffle might suit Cameron, whose arm-twisting of Europe may succeed in holding off the rabid dogs of his anti-EU right wing backbenchers, and it is certainly right up Hollande's rue to see his government Bashing the Brits at a time when he desperately needs to improve his popularity ratings with French voters, but at the end of the day it's all bluster and posture.

After all, who but the most cynical of British Europhobes seriously believes that Britain would have anything to gain by leaving Europe? Access to the Single Market would be severely curtailed and Britain's efforts to create an EU economic powerhouse capable of offering at least limited resistance to the threat posed by up and coming economies around the world would come to naught. And if there is anyone out there who is naive enough to believe that Britain's 'Special Relationship' with the USA could help it overcome the major trade difficulties which would inevitably follow a 'Brexit' they need to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act as terminally deluded individuals who are hell-bent on self-harm. America's strategic prioritising eyes began swivelling eastwards of Europe and towards the Far East years ago, as it is there that future planetary battles for economic and military superiority are destined to be fought.

The French would not fare any better in the event of a British exit, again for mainly economic reasons. The City, for all of France's efforts to depict it as the Devil incarnate of Evil Capitalism, is absolutely essential to France's economic survival as a major world nation. The City is the world's leading financial centre, and it's role in facilitating French and European exports to the rest of the world is pivotal, as is its role in attracting foreign investment to Europe from every single sizeable country or alliance of countries around the world. All the major French industries are present there for this reason, and Britain's isolation from Europe would seriously jeopardise France's trading position with America, Asia and others and further isolate it from the world's investment tissue. There is no EU equivalent of The City, mainly because all past efforts to create one have been stymied by......France itself, for reasons of national rivalry, notably with Germany. Then there's defence, and any EU without Britain would be a paper tiger in terms of its capacity to react militarily to threats from outside Europe. That is currently being cruelly and ironically demonstrated in France's ongoing Mali campaign by the fact that without British, American and Spanish military transport and refueling planes, France's limited number of old and ageing aircraft would not have been able to take the 3,700 and counting French troops to the theatre of operations.

This pseudo-spat is typical of how Europe is run. All serious issues within the EU which demand the presence of realism and clear-headed thinking are obfuscated by narrow national interests, be they electoral or other. Britain has a list of perceived griefs that it would like the EU to address, and common sense demands that a compromise be thrashed out around the table. It's as simple as that.

So Mesdames et Messieurs our political leaders, it's high time you stopped playing to the gallery with your empty threats of a referendum and invitations to the British to leave and started doing what we, your taxpayers, expect of you, which is to find solutions to problems.

Is that really too much to ask?


  1. This is a good post explaining the problems. I tried to read about it in several US newspapers but when I looked at “World News" I got “Iran says it sent a monkey to the moon” , “Protest Grows in Egypt” and about France, the only item was “Thousands in Paris rally for same-sex marriages.” But I saw “The Taste for Shark Fin fades slightly in China” and “Sharon brain scans shows response to stimuli.” So, the fight between England and France on the EU is not a major topic of conversation. If the subject gets livelier we may hear about it, but usually we’ll hear that England is absolutely right – France never fares well in the US media, whether they are right or wrong, does not matter. I did see one comment “BARK BARK. the british bulldog doesnt need the french poodle.” That’s about the level of it.

    1. Hi Vagabonde, and ah, the poodle joke. This seems to be a variation of the 'Blair is Bush's poodle' take during the Gulf War, which, I believe, started in Britain. But the French were quick to pounce on it and quote it, 'love-hate-relationship' with the Brits oblige.

      You are right to quote those headlines to illustrate the curiously poor coverage of Franco-British affairs in the international press. After all, although neither country is a major world power in itself, they both have a major impact upon what happens in Europe, and despite its inefficiency and spats, major changes in the EU do have an impact on the international scene.

      On the other hand, it has to be said that some of the squabbles here are rather pointless and boringly predictable and, at the end of the day, they rarely result in any major decisions being made. That comes afterwards, when everyone has calmed down and downed a stiff whisky and smoked a joint at Merkel's place, or Downing Street, or the Elysée...and cut a deal. :)