The fact that both the Guardian and the Daily Mail chose “The Great EU stitch-up” as their splash this morning is not just one of those spasms of cognitive resonance to which Fleet Street is occasionally prone. It is also a rather nice illustration of the perverse nature of the European debate in this country.
The Mail, it is reasonable to say, is not particularly well disposed to the European project (its subhead this morning ran: “A Labour crony no one’s heard of is made EU foreign minister – so a fanatical Belgian federalist who wants Brussels to tax us can become President”). Yet given that the one thing that everyone seems to agree on today is that the EU – by appointing to its top jobs two relatively low-profile figures who are likely to focus on consensus-building rather than power grabs – has retreated from what was supposed to be a grand ambition to be a global player, one might have expected the Eurosceptics to be rather pleased with the way things have turned out. (The New York Times described it thus: “The selection of such low-profile figures seemed to highlight Europe’s problems instead of its readiness to take a more united and forceful place in world affairs.”
The Mail‘s headline, however, suggests that it would have been far happier had the process of selecting the Council president (not “EU president”) and High Rep been put to a pan-European vote. Presumably they would have liked to see the full paraphenelia of an election campaign, with delcared candidates, manifestos, political broadcasts and so on.
Yet this sounds like the sort of thing that you might find in a superstate – exactly what the Mail spends its time railing against. The admittedly rather unedifying spectacle we witnessed last night in Brussels is exactly what you would expect from a grouping of independent countries who have agreed to pool their sovereignty in certain areas for the common good – with leaders of large countries unprepared to appoint political big-hitters to collegiate jobs lest they become serious rivals. Coincidentally enough, this description…