First, it would mean that the authority of community institutions would be badly undermined. A popular image persists in the UK that the European Commission is full of meddling bureaucrats forcing through unnecessary regulation. But the fact remains that if European companies and citizens want to see robust, comprehensive and harmonised rules on, say, environmental protection, then only the EC can deliver such an outcome. This is why French environmentalists and corporations alike are firmly behind the treaty.
Moreover, since a rejection of Maastricht would de-energise the organisation of commercial and economic union, it would boost those who believe that economic sectarianism - the defence of national inefficiencies - will take Europe forward. Their political ascendancy would be disastrous.
Second, across Europe there are many political forces questioning the value of social solidarity - the network of common funds, fiscal transfers and so on - which prevents the marginalisation of Europe's peripheral/rural/poorer regions. But social solidarity in the form, inter alia, of the EC's structural funds, has been a cornerstone of European integration and a component of its success.
A rejection of Maastricht would galvanise, and appear to legitimise, the exclusivist politics damagingly prominent in so many parts of Italy, Germany and France itself. If the concept of a common society is weakened, then the concept of a common market is, too. Delors down, Le Pen up - hardly a recipe for peace and prosperity for the rest of the decade.
The Henley Centre
London, EC4Reuse content