Lessons of the referendum campaign

What are we to conclude? In France, the Oui campaign asserts that the proposed European constitution reinforces the French social model of rigid labour markets and high unemployment. They think this is a good thing. The Non campaign asserts that the constitution institutionalises the dreaded "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism. They think this is a bad thing. In Britain, however, the story is completely different. Here it is the Yes campaign which claims that constitution will create an impetus towards freer trade and more competition while the No campaign agrees with the French Ouis.

It is a fascinating difference between Britain and France. The same case can be made in both countries in the sure knowledge that it will be case in favour of the proposition in one country and against it in the other.

The first thing we should conclude is that it is logically impossible for the Yes/Oui campaign to be correct in both countries. This is not, however, the case for the No/Non campaigns. It is perfectly possible for some sort of mushy middle to be, at the same time, more rigid than Britain currently is while also freer than France now is.

We should also not expect any particular degree of consistency from the two, separate, campaigns against the constitution. Any proposal will have people uniting against it for very different reasons. Some because they think it goes too far, others because they think it does not go far enough, and still others who think the whole direction is wrong. The pro-constitution campaign however, should have some sort of consistency, if it is being waged honestly. If the constitution says one thing in France it must say the same thing in Britain. Logically, the Yes campaign is misrepresenting what the constitution says in either Britain or France, and possibly in both.

But there is a further conclusion we should draw. It does not matter which of the arguments used by the pro-constitution forces is right, both countries should still vote no. If Britain and France are so different politically, culturally and economically that an argument in favour of the constitution in one country is an argument against it in the other, then there is no basis under which the two can be happily united under a single constitution.

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