The 43 per cent of the European Union electorate who bothered to vote for the European parliament clearly did so on national issues. We still need to reflect on the EU itself.
The view of the European political and official establishment is that the effort of deepening the EU must continue and that priority should be given to ratifying the so-called Lisbon treaty before a British Conservative government can put a spanner in the works. We even have the curious spectacle of Labour and Social Democrat politicians pleading with the British Tories to stay aligned with continental Christian Democrats to maintain a more effective centre-right bloc. There is also the refusal to recognise that parties such as the UK Independence party serve a useful function in siphoning off a mixed bag of populist discontent, which might otherwise have given more seats to the British National party.
I certainly do not wish to denigrate the EUs positive achievements. Its early great success, when it was known as the common market, was in locking together the French and German economies, so that another war between them became almost inconceivable. It has since provided former communist countries with the badge of political responsibility they desired to be accepted as bona fide members of the west. The EU has also established an area of free trade, and to a lesser extent free capital movements, more deeply than any other organisation.
Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, the institutions of the EU have become dedicated to the centralisation of more and more power at the EU level. How this has happened has been analysed by Roland Vaubel, a neoliberal German economist, for the
Institute of Economic Affairs
. The EU has been over many years inching its way forward to what it calls ever closer union and Prof Vaubel calls ever greater centralisation. The latest example is the constitutional treaty, rejected by French and Dutch referenda but then revamped with modest amendments to counter specific national concerns and to enable the British government to renege on its referendum pledge.