The Vote of Confidence: EC partners mystified by Britain's behaviour: The View from Europe

THE ANTICS of the British government are a mystery to the UK's 11 other EC partners.

As Leon Brittan, Commissioner for external economic affairs, hailed yesterday's vote as 'good news for the UK and good news for the Community', others admitted confusion. 'I don't think I understand what is now going on. They vote for one thing and against another, the Government loses crucial votes but stays in power, the High Court is examining a constitutional point when Britain has no written constitution . . .', a senior EC diplomat complained yesterday.

Sir Leon spoke of John Major's 'ultimate courage' in 'staking his and his Government's career on getting Maastricht through' and predicting his actions 'will come to be seen in Europe not just as courageous but as truly statesmanlike'. But others suggested that the uncertainty reflected badly on Mr Major and the validity of his commitment to put Britain 'at the heart of Europe'.

A public refusal to comment for fear of upsetting political sensitivities contrasts with private confusion, bordering on frustration. 'Why did they take so long before getting the ratification procedure under way in the first place?' a Commission official said, although noting that Britain is not alone in having trouble selling the virtues of closer European union.

With the Maastricht treaty only narrowly approved in France after a referendum and in Denmark after two; stalled so long in Britain and subject to a ruling of the constitutional court in Germany, there is a growing sense of doom that the concept of 'ever-closer union' has been strangled at birth.

What began as the blueprint for European co-operation into the 21st century has become a political millstone. The timetable for implementing the second stage of monetary union in 1994 looks impossibly optimistic, and the credibility of the entire European venture increasingly shaky.

Writing in Le Figaro yesterday, the French observer Baudouin Bollaert commented: 'At the moment, any further delay in the timetable leads to a further 'unravelling' of the EC and favours the renationalisation of the Community's politics. Although some think this kind of crisis is the only way to get the Community going again, it will have devastating consequences on confidence that is so vital to renewed growth and new jobs.'

Indeed, in those countries that have traditionally dominated EC politics - France, Germany, Britain - the Maastricht treaty has hijacked the domestic political agenda.

The French government, in the slow build-up to presidential elections, is struggling to defend a strong franc in the teeth of record unemployment. Its stance in the current Gatt round of trade talks risks putting Paris at odds with all her EC partners, and that alone is enough to plunge the Community into renewed crisis.

Germany, as reflected in its press, becomes progressively more anti-Europe as the cost of unification bites harder. Italy, already in political turmoil, is fighting to combat the rise of separatist parties campaigning on an anti-Maastricht platform.

While Britain's behaviour confuses, Germany is seen by many as the more dangerous threat to the life of the Maastricht treaty. The Constitutional Court, asked by a one-time senior German EC official to consider the validity of the treaty, can make a variety of rulings, including outright rejection or a demand that the issue be put to a referendum.

Not even lukewarm approval could be interpreted as a ringing endorsement for the treaty's aspirations.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there