I read Anthony Barnett's piece on Blair and his supposed candidacy for President of the European Council with astonishment. This whole debate is nonsense from start to finish. The president of the European Council will be appointed by the heads of government of the EU. S/he will have a European job, not a British one. S/he will be the chair of a body consisting of all the EU heads of government. S/he will have no power, and head no government. The job has nothing whatever in common with the prime ministership of the UK, or of any other EU state. The British debate on this is utterly irrelevant to the real issues at stake. The fact is that it would be ludicrous to give the job to someone whose country has deliberately stood aside from virtually all the crucial developments in the EU since the early nineties. Britain is not in the Euro, and has not taken part in Schengen. It has deliberately turned itself into a marginal, offshore island, irrelevant to the concerns and future of the European mainland. It would be an affront to the EU’s heartland countries to appoint a Brit to this post – or for that matter to any other prestigious EU post. Britain is no longer an asset to the EU, if it ever was. It’s a pain in Europe’s fundament. Monnet had the right attitude to Europe’s British problem. Continental Europe, he thought, should go ahead with its integration without Britain; the British would then have to stew in their own juice; and sooner or later they would realise that they can’t get along on their own, and apply to join. That, of course, is exactly what happened. If the mainland Europeans had the guts to treat us like that again, that is what would happen again. The truth is that the extraordinary media hoo-ha about Blair’s supposed candidacy is merely one more sign that our political and media classes are living in a time-warp. They still think Britain matters. It doesn’t.
Quite apart from that, why on earth should Merkel and Sarkozy (who will necessarily be the key actors) dream of appointing a politician of the centre-left to this post, when the centre-right they lead has just won a crushing victory in Germany, and is in unchallenged power in France and Italy as well? That too would be an affront – not to the whole of mainland Europe, this time, but to its dominant political force.