Friday, 30 October 2009

President Blair's Titanic

Well Capt. Brown had ordered the stoking of the engines and it was full steam ahead for the 'good' ship Blair to sail to the European Council Presidency.

Whoops! Mere hours after the captain gave a strong backing in a press conference, just as news that Vaclav Klaus appears ready to sign up the Czech Republic sign up to the Lisbon Treaty, it has run aground on an iceberg.

Neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Angela Merkel are 'terribly enthusiastic' about the idea of President Blair. His main backer outside of his good captain is Silvio Berlusconi guess all those holidays in the Italian leader's villa haven't quite paid off as expected for the Blairs, as such an endorsement may as well come from Silvio Briatore or John and Edward in today's political circus.

Indeed Sarkozy, the French president, and Merkel, the German chancellor,discussed the position over dinner at the Elysée palace on Wednesday. They are understood to have agreed the post should be filled by a central right member of the EPP grouping in the EU, so there goes the hopes of any UK Tory as well.

The reason for the French lack of support was summed up by Jean-David Levitte, Sarkozy's most senior foreign affairs adviser who said:

"The UK is not in the eurozone, nor in the Schengen [free travel area in the EU] and it has a number of opt outs. These are not advantageous in this search for a candidate."

Very valid points, hard to lead Europe if you keep asking for exclusion. The list if the Tories take over would be even longer, opting out of the EU convention on Human Rights, pulling out of the cross border police agreements, even seeking to unravel the treaty that is about to be signed.

Bizarrely of course both Labour and the Tories say they want to lead Europe, but on their own terms. It is clear from the view of our EU members that is not the view that is tenable across the rest of the members. The decision of David Cameron's party to pull itself away from the mainstream centre right grouping is putting even more distance between us and the people who should be our closest allies.

Does this bode well for Labour's fall back of David Milliband for the the other new position, that of high representative for foreign policy? Personally I think Milliband is right to distance himself from seeking the role, as he is likely too to fail on similar grounds. Add in there though the view of the UK as a foreign aggressor by many in the world and this role surely is beyond the hope of any member of the ruling party in the UK just now.

So while the cabinet plays on it looks like the Brown/Blair Line's ship Titanic is sinking in the cool, cold waters of European politics.

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