Jack Straw has said that the rejection of the EU constitutional treaty by any member state would cause “a serious problem, not to say a crisis, inside the European Union”. I don’t for a moment believe there will be such a crisis. Straw’s words are rhetoric, not some logical argument, but if he’s right, then the United Kingdom is part of a club which will collapse into crisis unless it unanimously agrees to change its own rules. Would any proposal for change cause catastrophe if not adopted, or only the current proposal? If the latter, why was a less risky proposal not adopted, and if the former, why is the UK member of such an unstable grouping? Does this instability affect all treaty change in the EU, or only this particular round?
Of course originally the Government claimed that most of the new treaty was just a “tidying-up exercise”, not important enough to warrant a referendum, until not having a referendum started to become a political liability. So if you’re a UK voter, you are thus faced, in the words of Tom Koerner, with proposals “simultaneously so minor that they are unworthy of your attention and so important that failure to pass them will lead to unspeakable catastrophe.”
But what is interesting and concerning is the presentation of the evolution of EU treaties as a matter on whose details the electorate has no voice: “You can vote aye or no to this treaty, but if you vote no, you’ll be kicked out and won’t get a chance to vote aye to an amended proposal incorporating your concerns”. You can’t vote for any Europe other than the one on offer, and if you don’t, there’ll be a catastrophe.
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