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calendar   Thursday - September 17, 2009

Britain and France were never meant to be on the same side. From a former diplomat.

The Telegraph is running a series of double page articles over the next couple of weeks, that have to do with this damned European Union of which England is a member.  It has been quite an interesting and lengthy read so far, and educational.
This is merely one tiny portion of one part of one page.
Lyndon will LOVE this but I hope you’ll find some interest here as well.

rosbifs Nope. I haven’t a clue what those letters stand for.  But Mr. Collard does and I guess maybe that’s all that matters. (said with sarcasm)
But never mind.  This is interesting.  Except that I didn’t meet the charming people he refers to as I didn’t keep the same company he did and more likely still does.

EU: Britain and France were never meant to be on the same side
During my time in the Foreign Office it was my aim (achieved) to go through my whole career without setting foot in Brussels.

By Tim Collard
Published: 7:30AM BST 16 Sep 2009

I have always imagined Belgium’s capital as a homogeneous Europhiliac monoculture, where thoughtcrime can be sniffed at fifty paces and UKIP can’t get served in the bars. Europe was strictly for those of high career aspirations and even higher boredom thresholds, and I had neither.

My main experience of Euro-diplomacy was at our Embassy in China, where I sat on the EU Coordinating Committee, where we “coordinated” our position on issues of common concern. This opened my eyes to the realities of EU “partnership”; genuine transnational politics is still some way away.

If the Germans’ dog-like devotion to all things EU reflects a sincere commitment to the renunciation of war in Europe, the French seem to see the EU as a continuation of the Hundred Years War by other means. Among the strategic priorities of French foreign policy, getting one up on the rosbifs is certainly prominent.

It starts with the eternal battle over language. It is written in the sacred scriptures of the EU that English and French have equal status as working languages, and all French diplomats are under instructions to conduct business in French when it is their turn to chair anything. This of course triggers passive resistance; our diplomats are all supposed to speak French, though some don’t and others conceal it, and the French are doing well if they can get 10 minutes into the meeting without everyone lapsing into English. The arrival in 1995 of various Scandiwegians sealed victory for Britain, as most of them couldn’t manage so much as a parley-voo, and no doubt the struggle is now utterly hopeless.

Dealing with China presented endless opportunities for one-upmanship. In the early Nineties it was all about holding a unified line on trade sanctions against China after Tiananmen Square. As at that time the Chinese only bought anything if we lent them the money to do so at negligible interest, these sanctions didn’t hurt us much, and the French took the hardest line in enforcing them. This was, naturellement, because they had found a devious way round them, involving fudging dates on contracts, and wanted the rest of us bound all the tighter.

When China’s economic situation improved, our hosts became worth sucking up to. Since 1990 the EU had brought an annual resolution before the UN Human Rights Commission condemning human rights abuses in China. In 1997 this position was being reviewed; not because the human rights situation had improved, but because the rewards available for sucking up certainly had.

The declared aim was to arrive at a united EU position. This proved difficult to achieve, and negotiations stretched over the rest of the year. But with a united position all 15 of us would benefit equally; it became steadily clearer that the Quai d’Orsay wanted to contrive a competitive advantage.

Deadline day drew near with no decision reached; all the blocking moves came from Paris. By this time one or two partners, principally the Dutch and Danes, had committed themselves to tabling the human rights motion, and as one of them (I forget which) held the rotating presidency, the proposal was formally put.

Once more than half of us had agreed, the French announced that they would not sign up, as no proper agreement had been reached. The Germans and Club Med chancers rushed to join them. Thus the French advantage was obtained, and the Dutch and Danes got a good commercial kicking from the Chinese.

All attempts to remonstrate with the French for this behaviour were brushed aside with Gallic insouciance. I was reminded of this episode when Tony Blair was persuaded to concede on the UK contributions rebate in return for a promised review of the CAP, with Chirac smirking away and saying afterwards that he would make sure the review didn’t change anything.

I’m no francophobe; I love the country, the charming, cultured people, the relaxed attitude to working, and the browsing and sluicing. But we were never meant to be on the same side. As for real EU partnership, we’ll never see that this century.

SOURCE IS HERE

Next Up:

EU: is Britain still a sovereign state?
EU membership has led to deep constitutional changes in the UK. But it would be wrong to say that we have been robbed of our sovereignty, says Philip Johnston. Our government has been an accomplice all the way .


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 09/17/2009 at 08:52 AM   
Filed Under: • EditorialsEducationEUro-peonsGovernmentUK •  
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