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EU treaty: multi-speeds ahead!

2012-10-17 18:39:13

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François Hollande has been talking to Süddeutsche about his "vision" for the future of Europe (meaning, of course, the European Union) – and the future is "multi-speed", a Europe of many different circles.

The EU consists of 27 countries today and will continue to grow, says the French president, who then blandly informs us that: "this great union cannot prevent some of its member states strengthening their cooperation". This, he says, has been done in the eurogroup and will soon apply to the countries that adopt a financial transaction tax. When states stand aside, such as Britain, this has been accepted.

While Schäuble yesterday was looking at strengthening the EU monetary affairs commissioner, however, Hollande wants the eurogroup to be strengthened politically. The heads of state and government of the eurogroup should split off from the main European Council and meet monthly instead of quarterly. Then, in Hollande's book, it is the president of the eurogroup who gets the "clear mandate", rather than the monetary affairs commissioner.

Although Ambrose was getting worked up about Schäuble yesterday, Schäuble's input, and now Hollande's, is all part of the pre-treaty ritual that we have seen so many times before. That is one of the advantages of writing a history of the European Union. One recognises the pattern.

Emerging more strongly than ever before, though, is this idea of a "multi-speed Europe" with the eurozone at its core. Usually, the "colleagues" doff their cap to the idea of unity, but this time there is not even the slightest pretence of trying to hold the whole together. Britain is specifically named as an outsider, with no concerns expressed that this should be otherwise..

One is never quite sure how much of this percolates into the corporate mind of the Conservative Party, and then how much reaches Cameron, especially with the likes of Hannan running interference. But, from Hollande and from other statements, the mood music in "Europe" is very, very clear. The "colleagues" are working on their own core treaty, and the UK does not enter into their calculations.

This much we have reported time and again, but we now a continuous line of sentiment that points to a refusal to entertain any "blackmail" from the British, backing a demand for renegotiation". Mr Cameron may huff and puff to his domestic audience, but he will get short shrift if he tries it on in Brussels.

This side of the Channel, though, Cameron is telling his own captive audience what they want to hear, while the hard core "outers" are not listening to him or anyone else, and neither know nor care what the "colleagues" are saying.

In the UK, therefore, the message from Hollande is going to go largely unheeded, until it comes to a crunch, when Cameron will have to make his move. Then he will discover that another pretend veto will have precisely no effect, and any calls for British renegotiation will be met with disdain and even mockery.

Pretend politics, though, suit Cameron for the moment, and much of the commentariat. Thus, we will continue in this twilight world where the "colleagues" on their side of the Channel do their thing, while the political classes on this side of the water do theirs – and never the twain shall meet.

Reality, for the moment, doesn't matter. It's still playtime, and the children have to be kept happy.