30 May 2005
Whatever you think of the outcome of yesterday’s referendum in France, you have to admire the process. Millions of men and women went to the polls to express their opinion on the future of their continent and the relationship between their own country and its nearest neighbours. It is hard to think of an occasion when so much turned on the actions of a single day. The decision about the direction taken by the country was taken the people and not by the political class. Even in a general election when a government is turfed out of office, there is another political party waiting in the wings.
On this occasion, it was different. Instead of the European constitution, there is nothing planned, nothing at all. No-one knows what will happen next.
Sunday 29 May in France saw our own version of people power. The opinions of the citizens outweighed the opinions and recommendations of the political elite, for good or ill. Democracy can be like that sometimes. Sometimes you get an answer that you didn’t want. P J O’Rourke had this to say in his book “Peace Kills”:
“Don’t you hope,” my friend said, “that all this has been thought through by someone who is smarter than we are?” It is, however, a universal tenet of democracy that no one is.
So, if the vote was a No, what happens now? It will be apparent from what I have just written that I don’t think that the ratification process can carry on in the other member states as if nothing had happened. Maybe it will, but it would seem more sensible to me to recognise that the French No vote changes the future course of European politics. If it doesn’t, why hold a referendum in the first place?
All the neat plans for ratification have been upset. The glidepath to the constitution clearly has to be rethought. The fact is that the pro-Europeans haven’t yet won the argument.There is no short-cut or way of avoiding the hard work that winning this debate will involve.
This blog entry first appeared on www.yes-campaign.net. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union or of the Yes campaign.