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Nice And Beyond Nice And Beyond
The Parting of The Ways?
by Christopher Booker. £7.50
Pamphlet, 63pp
Germany and France are set to forge ahead (or behind?) to full political union. How will HMG react?
Reviewer Ian Milne

[eurofacts (Vol 6 No 2) – 3rd November 2000]

Christopher Booker is Britain's foremost and most trenchant critic of the European Union.

However, in this new paper from the CPS, he eschews criticism, and confines himself to reporting and interpreting, in neutral voice, what continental politicians are saying about the immediate future course of the EU.

What they are saying, of course, is this: full-speed-ahead to political union (i.e. a single state). France and Germany, in particular, are determined to forge ahead without laggards like the UK - the real intent behind the smoke-screen phrases like "enhanced co-operation", "multi-tier Europe", "variable geometry", "inner core", "two-speed Europe" and so on. Most reasonable British people would say (indeed, do say, according to recent polls): good luck and goodbye. Not, however, British politicians, who fear one thing above all else: being "left out".

As Booker says, this leaves Mr Blair's policy of being at the centre (or is it the heart?) of "Europe" up the proverbial gum-tree, because to join the inner Franco-German core you've got to join the single currency (and of course everything else); and to join the single currency you've (a) got to win the general election and (b) win a referendum, in the face of an overwhelmingly sceptical British electorate. And as Booker points out, the huge steps in the direction of full political union on the agenda for the Nice summit on 7th/8th December are not exactly going to make the British public any less sceptical about "Europe".

Judging by Mr Blair's Warsaw speech (eurofacts, page 1, 20th October 2000), the PM has already decided to cave in on all the substantive issues due for decision at Nice. But whether he does or doesn't will only put off the day of decision for the UK: are we in or are we out? Meanwhile, the speed at which things are moving on the continent risks leaving not just Mr Blair high and dry, but also Mr Hague, whose policy, as far as one can discern, is that leaving the EU is unthinkable.

Nice and Beyond, packed with quotes from continental and British politicians, is a highly serious and highly commendable work of historical research, even though it covers only two years: autumn 1998 to now. It is also an acute work of political and diplomatic analysis, from a writer whose knowledge of the EU is quite simply unrivalled.

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