Party time for the No camp as Chirac is left in weakened position
The opinion polls were right and the French no longer approve of the Europe they helped create. Or maybe they just don't approve of their government and this was a good way to show it.
What a change since 1968! For nearly forty years the effects of the student uprising have influenced French politics. The polaristion of those times led successive adminstrations to maintain a fine balancing act to appease both left and right of the political spectrum. In my mind it all added to the uniqueness of French culture. Now, however, the people have voted in a very different way. This time the right and the left have found common ground and jointly overwhelmed those trying to maintain the centre ground. That such old enemies have found common purpose is actually the real reason their decision will almost certainly remain absolute.
Nonetheless, it's a shame! I have always been a keen European (even Internationalist in the days before imperial resurgence) and the need for a federation of nation-states to counter-balance the likes of Amerika is more acute than ever. France, like Britain, is a strong defender of its own cultural identity, but I can only see such regional differences as enhancing the diversity of the European Union itself. The only real problem with Europe is its beaurocracy, which, as here in Britain itself, seems designed to hinder and obstruct all processes of goverence beneath it.
The press here have been asking whether the outcome in France will affect the decision to go ahead with Britain's own referendum on the matter - the main suggestion being that there is no need now that the constitution cannot be changed in the light of the French decision. On the other hand, writing more than a week ago, John Snow of Channel 4 News, said he had it on good authority that Blair would plough ahead regardless - possibly just to steer the country through a process that (whatever the actual outcome) would be the mark of his departure and a place in history.
I also think, that like France, we need to go through this! Britain, more now than ever, has been behaving like an American colony, operating under the guise of self-determination. Although we have a historical reputation for being an independent "bridge" between Amerika and Europe (largely due to the legacy of both language and financial institutions) this is no longer the case. Europe does not want or need a direct conduit to Amerika's imperial pursuits, it needs an identity and set of collective values it can call its own, with a cohesive administration to counterbalance the nightmare festering across the Atlantic. It needs to be a "union" in every sense of the world.
For someone who claims to want Britain "in" Europe, Blair's policies suggest the opposite. The French have cited the "Anglo-Saxon" agenda as a major cause of the rejection of the proposed constitution and who can blame them? Until we Brits commit ourselves one way or the other, we are part of the problem.
At the end of the day, the French decision may do little than curtail the speed and method of change in Europe. Certainly the greater part of the constitutional aspirations can be modified and implemented through the existing legislative process in Brussels - it will just be even more beaurocratic and confusing than before. A consensus here and a consensus there, but no firm direction, clear policy or unified commitment.
Such impotence! Bush will be pleased at least!