Then again, we have been going on about business as usual, so it’s only right that the fight with our European neighbours kicks off again, unimpeded by the actions of four nutters from the north.
The Commission, a tad miffed, said yesterday that Britain’s “rhetoric does not match the reality”, adding that “in one forum you put the spotlight on what we actually need to do, but when it comes to practice, then the vision is no longer there.”
Hmmm – Blair? Using grand words to get headlines and make it seem like he’s doing something genuinely good, then failing to deliver? Surely not!
Rather tediously, though, this latest spat is all about research funding in the next EU budget. Britain publicly maintains that it is R&D in which the EU should invest, rather than French farmers, as part of the spat with France over Britain’s rebate.
The European Commission, however, is claiming that Blair’s grand words about complete budget overhauls and increased R&D funding are just lip-service, and that the UK is actually proposing to CUT research spending by Â£429 million while trimming just Â£150 million from the contentious agricultural budget. Curiouser and curiouser.
Of course, for anyone who has had the misfortune of following Blair’s political career, none of this should be any surprise. He hit the headlines a few weeks back for vocally challenging the CAP – and people began to cheer, as he was saying what needed to be said. He’s more recently been spouting off about poverty in Africa and hanging around with pop singers.
Lots of good press. Brief popularity boost. But will he deliver on any of this? His record’s not good, let’s face it. African aid will probably be computerised and outsourced to Capita, the poor buggers will get overpaid and then have to sell their countries to pay us back. The EU budget will likely be given out as a PFI contract (doubtless to a Labour donor with a dodgy track record in an unrelated field like, say, pharmaceuticals, who will then be given a peerage), and the inevitable overspend will end up getting covered by the government in three years’ time.
But the real killer in this latest spat, from the Blair PR point of view, is the French response: “We support the British proposition, it takes into account our considerations”.
Christ – if the French are happy, you KNOW we’ve done a bad job…
Meanwhile, life on the other side of the Channel has got even more tricky while we’ve been distracted by maniacs and explosions: a bunch of our most likely allies in the debate over the future of the EU have, while we’ve been cleaning up terrorist messes, thrown in their lot with Germany instead.
Austria, Italy, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Latvia could all have been British allies in this budget dispute, had Blair actually bothered to concentrate on the EU crisis rather than juggling the EU, Africa, wars and terrorists all at once and making a bollocks of all of them. Instead they’ve issued a statement with Germany about the future of the EU – the only upside of which is that it’s so bland and vapid that none of them have committed to any particular vision beyond “erm… the EU’s, like, good and stuff, OK?”
Either way, Blair holds the EU presidency. It’s about bloody time he got off his arse and did something with it – Britain won’t get this opportunity again for years. Time to stop faffing about and get on with the job.