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Is Blair stepping down from his pro-Europe pedestal?

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I must say, the more Europe gets thrown into internal disorder and breakdown, the happier I get.

On Friday, June 17, EU budget talks broke down, ending with French President Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair practically at each other’s throats. Paris felt that Britain should give up its EU rebate and pay even more into the Europe’s coffers. Blair refused.

Blair argues that the proposed seven-year budget for the European Union is not right for Britain, and he is not backing down. In fact, Blair has won allies among other EU nations that are also worried that they pay too much to the Brussels oligarchy while getting very little back. Spain, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands all voiced similar concerns, refusing to back the budget at Friday’s talks. Blair, however, is getting all the blame.

Europe was shaken by the almost simultaneous rejections of the European Constitution, which seeks to establish a super-state out of all twenty-five member nations, by French and Dutch voters. Assumed dead, pro-Constitution leaders – most European leaders – have been frantically trying to skirt around the resounding “non” and “nee” votes and revive the treaty. It seems as if the quest to make Europe as undemocratic as possible knows no end. European leaders hear “No,” but they don’t listen.

The thorny issue over the budget has further caused rifts in the Union. Blair is only too well aware that British voters could reject the EU Constitution by the largest-yet margin should a French- or Dutch-style referendum be held here. The number of Brits who would either feel indifferent about pulling out of the European Union or who would approve of doing so make for a combined total of 74 percent, which, of course, leaves only 26 percent who definitely want to remain part of Europe. New Labour have called for “a period of reflection” in the wake of the French and Dutch defeats of the federal treaty, but Blair’s latest battle goes way beyond that.

This is practically Waterloo all over again.

With typical Chirac finesse, the French leader vowed to imperil Blair’s aid for Africa package at the upcoming G8 summit. LiveAid organizer Bob Geldof reacted furiously, saying of Chirac, “The blood of millions of Africans will be on his hands.” It turns out that this might indeed be just an empty threat on Chirac’s part, but it displayed his tempestuous nature for all the world to see. As goes his oil kickbacks from Saddam vis-a-vis the War in Iraq, so goes his dream of a United States of Europe and a bloated budget that Britain must pay for.

The biggest surprise here is the way Blair has reacted. Once vigorously pro-Europe (and pro-Constitution), Blair pledged to let Britons vote on the Constitution in a referendum, became miffed at the way Europe wanted to cap Britain’s workweek at 48 hours and challenged the edict, and has now vowed to defend Britain’s EU rebate and, as the leader of the nation, make the sole decision about what the U.K. pays or doesn’t pay into the EU war chest.

After all the pro-Europe pap he disseminated throughout his second term, it seems that Tony Blair’s priority is Britain and the British people after all.

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