Britain, France, Netherlands…

We are beginning to see the shape of the initial battes for ratification of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.

It is widely expected that Tony Blair will call a general election for May 5th. There is already semi-campaigns going on from both the Conservatives and Labour, with everyone just waiting for the formal announcement.

All opinion polls are showing Labour in the lead, although the Conservatives have been doing better lately. At the end of the day, it might be that it’s the ability to really get the supporters to go and vote that will make the difference.

If – against all the odds – the Conservatives were to win and form the next government, the future of the entire Constitutional Treaty will suddenly be up in the air. Although I guess they will go on with the planned referendum, it’s not entirely clear how that will happen, since present plans foresee that Parliament will approve the Treaty before the referendum, and with the Conservatives have geared themselves up on nationalist and anti-European rhetoric, it’s not easy to see how that will be done.

Assuming that Tony Blair remains Prime Minister after May 5, the next decision date is May 29 when France will hold its referendum.

On present trends that should be OK, although there is always the possibilities that a volatile French electorate will suddenly decide to use the referendum to register its disconent with something totally unrelated. That was the way the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was very nearly lost in 1992.

There will be reason to try to follow the French debate leading up to this decision.

And thereafter will come the Netherlands on June 1st. We’ll see how the debates shape up there as well.

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