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Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Darker Morning

The annual imposition of summer time - "Lloyd George's time" as my grandmother called it - means that the mornings are darker for a couple of weeks, until the lengthening days compensate for the change in the clocks. Thus, although the London sky is virtually cloudless, this day seems to have had a dull beginning; which has been exacerbated by the notably cold night that has just passed. This could be take as a metaphor for our political situation here in the UK: what some take as a new dawn, the implementation of 'Article 50', is seen by many others [including the thousands who marched yesterday in London and Edinburgh] as the beginning of a new kind of Ice Age. I mentioned yesterday my questions about the competence of the Prime Minister to cope with the situation that she has embraced, and I will not dwell again on that today.

Instead, I refer to the gathering in Rome of the other 27 heads of state and of government who are celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome; and trying to set aside the Pope's warning that the EU and its institutions can be seen as atrophied. For every self-congratulatory speech, there will be reservations about what is practicable for the future of the institutions that are known to be undemocratic [despite their formally democratic constitutions], irresponsible [as evidenced by the lack of any satisfactory audit of their finances] and fanciful [evidenced by the amount of lying that was accepted by other states in allowing the weaker brethren into the euro currency]. Most of the participants in the jamboree, not least those whose countries were under Communist domination when the Treaty was signed, will want to look on the bright side. But they will not be able to ignore the disparities within the organisation: and thus it is signaled that a major outcome of the gathering will be further to advance [though probably not yet finally to adopt] the idea of a multi-speed process of European integration. It is probable that the countries that are seen to be in the slow lane will continue to resist officially being classified as second-class members of the club: so another set of weasel-words will be found for the communiques.

Although Britain was not an original signatory of the Treaty, the UK did encourage the continentals to get on with the plans for an Economic Community: as did the USA, which also pressed the idea that this should metamorphose into a United States of Europe [which meant, of course, a union of the Americans' NATO allies on the continent].

Edward Heath fully accepted that concept, of a steady movement from a trading pact to a political entity. He welcomed it and wanted it to come about, citing his experiences as a soldier during the Second World War. But he knew that he would never get the British public or parliament to agree to that whole package: so he deliberately and consistently lied about the well-known and explicit intent of the continental members of the EEC to develop a Union, and thus conned the British into the EEC. The promise of a European Union was not a major factor in the referendum on EEC membership that was held under the Wilson government: it did loom large in 2016.

Remoaner extraordinary, the Lib-Dem leader, has suggested that one justification for a second referendum could be on the point that in voting against the European Union in 2016 the people had not knowingly and necessarily reversed the decision to remain in the economic community, which was the subject of the earlier referendum. That is a point I will revert to soon.

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