Q&A on Blair’s EU Dream – How Soon Will He Know? Soon. Perhaps very soon.
Comment at end
5th November, 2009
France: ‘Autistic Tories have castrated UK in Europe’
In The Guardian today, the French Europe minister, Pierre Lellouche, says David Cameron’s pledge to reclaim EU powers is ‘pathetic’ and will leave Britain isolated. This outburst is not simply a result of Cameron’s new EU policy after Lisbon Treaty ratification, in which he promised steps to ‘strengthen British sovereignty’ and to ‘repatriate powers and legislation’.
Monsieur Lellouche also refers disparagingly to discussions the Tories have had recently with Sarkozy’s government.
A ‘bizarre sense of autism’ must have been a stinging phrase to fall on Tory ears after Cameron’s policy speech yesterday.
Lellouche, one of the most Anglophile members of Sarkozy’s government, made his remarkable intervention after David Cameron outlined a fresh Tory approach to the EU in the wake of the full ratification of the Lisbon treaty.
Mr Cameron’s odd attempt to sound tough when the first tough sounds proved useless, may have an even more disastrous effect than he could ever have feared.
As Britain approaches a general election “Anything but the Conservatives” may be at the back of many EU minds. The top EU posts are to be selected soon, perhaps very soon. Will the rest of the EU really want to have to put up with a new (Tory) government which seems set to continue its war of attrition for years to come? And yet the EU needs Britain.
There may be only one way to stop this Tory anti-EU rot. Support Tony Blair for EU President, and through him STOP the TORIES.
Now, I wonder …
Pierre Lellouche: ”It’s very sad to see Britain just cutting itself out from the rest. It is the result of a long period in opposition.’
The Conservatives have been accused by the French government of “castrating” Britain’s position within the EU by adopting an “autistic” approach that would take Britain off the radar.
Speaking to the Guardian, Pierre Lellouche, France’s Europe minister, described as “pathetic” the Tories’ EU plans announced today, warning they would not succeed “for a minute”.
Giving vent to frustration across the EU, which has so far only been expressed in private, Lellouche – who said he was reflecting Nicolas Sarkozy’s “sadness and regret” – accused William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, of a “bizarre autism” in their discussions.
He said: “They have one line and they just repeat one line. It is a very bizarre sense of autism.”
Lellouche, one of the most Anglophile members of Sarkozy’s government, made his remarkable intervention after David Cameron outlined a fresh Tory approach to the EU in the wake of the full ratification of the Lisbon treaty. A future Conservative government would seek to strengthen British sovereignty and repatriate a series of powers over social and employment legislation, the Tory leader said.
Cameron said he was not seeking an immediate “bust-up” with the EU, and would allow the repatriation of powers negotiations to last as long as five years.
But within hours of his speech, France’s centre-right government condemned the Tory leader’s plans, saying that they would marginalise Britain within the EU.
Abandoning all diplomatic niceties, Lellouche said: “It’s pathetic. It’s just very sad to see Britain, so important in Europe, just cutting itself out from the rest and disappearing from the radar map … This is a culture of opposition … It is the result of a long period of opposition. I know they will come back, but I hope the trip will be short.” He said Cameron’s approach was in line with the Tories’ decision to abandon the main centre-right EPP grouping in the European parliament, of which Sarkozy’s UMP party is a member.
“They are doing what they have done in the European parliament. They have essentially castrated your UK influence in the European parliament,” he said.
Lellouche said he has told Hague personally that his position is a “waste of time for all of us”.
“I have told William Hague: go away for two to three years, in your political economic situation you’re going to be all by your self and you’ll come back. Go ahead and do it. That is my message to them … You want to be marginalised? Well, you go for it. But it’s a waste of time for all of us,” the French minister said.
Lellouche made clear the Tories had no hope of securing any support for their plans.
“It’s not going to happen for a minute. Nobody is going to indulge in rewriting [treaties for] many, many years. Nobody is going to play with the institutions again. It’s going to be take it or leave it and they should be honest and say that,” he said.
“It is a time of tumultuous waters all around us. Wars, terrorism, proliferation, Afghanistan, energy with Russia, massive immigration, economic crisis. It is time when the destiny of Europe is being defined – whether or not we will exist as a third of the world’s GDP capable of fighting it out on climate, on trade, on every … issue on the surface of the Earth.
“We need to be united, otherwise we will be wiped out and marginalised. None of us can do it alone. Whether you’re big or small, the lesson is the same. And [Britain’s] risk is one of marginalisation. Irrelevance.”
He said the EU’s frustration with Cameron’s demand to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Europe stemmed from an EU-wide determination to move on from debates about the constitution of Europe.
He expalined: “Finally we have institutional package, but it took fifteen years of looking at our navel and getting everybody bored to death with sterile debate”.
In a sign of France’s determination to resist the Tory plans to opt out of key EU legislation, Lellouche warned the French would attempt to reduce Britain’s EU budget rebate which will be up for negotiation during the next parliament.
He pointed out that France is a net EU contributor to the tune of €5bn (£4.5bn) , unlike Britain which receives a rebate.
“If we get a government that is ferociously anti European that will vote down this kind of legislation then I think the relationship is going to be very difficult. As we enter the next phase one of the issues we have to discuss midterm is of course finances. France is a net contributor to the tune of minus 5bn euros a year, of which 1.5bn is the same as British rebate. That should tell you quite a bit huh?” he said.
Cameron will be angered by the attack, and what it implies for Conservatives’ relations with the rest of Europe although in the short term he will be more concerned to ensure his strategy of abandoning a referendum on the Lisbon treaty does not provoke cries of betrayal on his backbenches.
Mark Francois, the Tory spokesman on Europe, reacted to the French attack by saying: “I am slightly bemused to hear the reported comments of my potential French opposite number, Mr Lellouche, given that a fortnight ago I participated in a very positive meeting which David Cameron had in London with Mr Xavier Bertrand, the chairman of the UMP. The meeting went very well and there was no sing of any concern on behalf of the chairman of President Sarkozy’s party”.
1. Ian Dunt’s comprehensive report on parliamentery expenses, PMQs and on Lisbon Controversy including Cameron’s speech from 4:00pm. (Mr Dunt MEANT to refer to Sir ‘Christopher’ Kelly and the expenses report.)
2. Who Is David Cameron? Excerpt:’Today, he has backtracked from that referendum promise and is attempting to sugar the pill with some tough talk about how he won’t let those nasty Eurocrats tell us what to do.
In a cunning stroke, Cameron has managed to make himself look like a weasel and a windbag.
Handed the biggest open goal any politician could dream of – putting the hopeless, unelected Gordon Brown out of his misery – Cameron has today given an unpleasant snapshot of what life will be like under his Tories.
I’m sure I’m not alone in being unsure what Cameron stands for or what his policies are. Is he a Eurosceptic? What will he do about our national debt? Will he cut taxes? What will he do about crime? How will he extricate our forces from Afghanistan?’