Non! Nee! Never? Is the European Constitution dead? The decisive ʻnonʼ in the France, and the even more emphatic ʻneeʼ from the Dutch effectively killed the current Treaty text.
The incredible ʻshow must go onʼ comments by the Council and Commission Presidents have finally given way to reality. This Treaty, which took almost two years to draft, will never be adopted. The Leaders of the 25 member states know that unanimity is required to enact a Constitution. Their decision to put the ratification process ʻon holdʼ was inevitable.
Tony Blair has been saved from his worst nightmare, of being the only EU Leader to lose a referendum on the Constitution.
So, what happens next? There was no plan B, according to the Commission.
No clear consensus on the way forward could be found at the Brussels summit.
The row over failure to agree on the EU budget post 2007 has, deliberately, been orchestrated to divert attention from the Constitution ʻcrisisʼ.
In 1999, the EU was plunged into ʻcrisisʼ by the resignation of the entire Commission. Ever since, there has been endless talk of the need to ʻreconnect with citizensʼ. This on the assumption that citizens had previously felt connected.
French and Dutch citizens have clearly demonstrated that action, rather than just talk, will be required. National identify and cultural diversity must not be sacrificed in pursuit of a united and ever expanding EU.
Too often, EU regulation is seen as an obstacle rather than a benefit. The Common Fisheries Policy is an unmitigated disaster, State Aid rules are overzealously used to hamper economic development, controversial legislation threatens the future of essential public services. The list could go on and on.
This latest ʻcrisisʼ should serve as a wake-up call to the Brussels idealists who drive the ʻEuropean Projectʼ. Tony Blair has suddenly discovered a need to fundamentally reform the European Union, apparently forgetting that the Constitution was the product of a Convention on the Future of Europe. He now wants to re-open discussion on funding the Common Agriculture Policy, although he agreed to the present package in 2002.
With the UK Presidency commencing on 1 July, Tony will need allies if any progress is to be made. His contribution to the June Summit is a bad start, with the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern calling Blair's arguments "simplistic" and the whole meeting "pathetic and embarrassing". A turbulent British presidency is guaranteed.