Sunday, April 17, 2005

Through a glass, darkly.

Forgive my attempt to beef up my headlines after some lame ones recently, but the thought occurred to me that if the BBC consider a Eurosocialist EUtopia to be their idea of heaven, in only makes sense for them to report it as though partiality in their coverage was natural.

Paul Reynolds has an article about the EU Constitution which majors on the contrast between the French and British approaches to business highlighted by the demise of Rover. I thought Steyn summed up the British attitude perfectly when he said 'I would hazard that most Britons psychologically closed down Longbridge a generation back.', and followed it up well when he said 'Permanence is the illusion of every age'.

Indeed. And we Brits, while accepting the latter point and preparing for the consequences using the former strategy, have tended to tolerate any kind of Canute (eg. Phoenix) who promised to stop the tide of history and maintain prestige ventures like MGRover.

It's therefore impossible to go along with Reynolds' idealised notion that somehow our attitude is that 'For the UK it is a matter of regret that the last major British manufacturer has gone, but it is not a matter that will change government policy. The market has spoken and the market must decide.'

The fact that we are not oriented the way the French are doesn't mean that the market is somehow rampant in the UK (don't forget Mr Reynolds that we are part of the EU). To say so seems disingenuous.

As the EUserf points out covering similar territory, 'Companies need to be protected alright, but not from the competition. Rather they need protection from the ravages of rapacious tax collectors and regulation wielding Eurocrats.'

In his article Reynolds goes on to make a list of the things the French are doing better than we are, including the openness of their debate on the European Constitution. Amongst the nuggets, 'Few people in London know that their supplier, EDF, is actually Electricite de France.'. Speaking as a regular payer of Wanadoo internet charges, I know exactly what I pay the French on a regular basis, and though I don't pay EDF for my electricity I knew that Londoners do.

But what's missing from Reynolds' little fit of brand-envying prose is the fact that despite these wonderful headline names France can still boast unemployment of ten percent. This contrasts sharply to Britain's economy, denuded though it is of brand manufacturers- though, having said that I expect that Mr Brown has fed in enough fat tissue to the economy to see the British unemployment wasteline grown considerably in the coming years (it's already starting).

For Reynolds, the reason for the French opposition to the EU Constitution lies in the perception 'that free market doctrines are embedded in the new treaty in a way that makes the kind of social and industrial policy that is such a feature of French life much more difficult to pursue.'

For me, meanwhile, the reason for the French intransigence is their confidence that they are the arbiters of the future of Europe, and their conviction that (given the servility of British Pols to the Euro-agenda) they could soak the Brits a bit more and gain more accommodations for the various 'features' of French life that they hold dear.

But anyway, EURef gives a list of real rather than existential incursions into British economic freedoms, starting with one that directly impacted Rover's sustainability. While Britain grins and bears the ministrations of a statist system modelled on France's economic strategy, France seeks to make sure the project doesn't depart from the script.

Funnily enough Reynolds didn't put it quite that way. We'll just have to wait until we get to heaven. Update: the Rottweiler Puppy weighs in.

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