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Saturday, June 04, 2005
No meant No

Why are europhiles starting to claim that many Frenchmen voted against the EU Constitution not out of euroscepticism but because of their feelings about Chirac and national politics, as if it's some knock-out blow? Apart from the fact that people are entitled to vote for something for any reason they like in a democracy, they surely can't believe it doesn't work both ways.

The UMP, the ruling party in the National Assembly and the party of President Chirac, was urging manically that its supporters vote 'Oui'. The Socialists equally were behind the constitution, so much so that the 'Non' faction broke off very publicly and campaigned separately, for the opposite answer. And this is to ignore all the pressure from unions (the fourth branch of government, as they are so often accurately described in France) and from the media. The whole of the French establishment was telling people to vote 'Oui' - as the BBC so often told us, only an extremist fringe was urging the opposite. If the French had said yes, it would have been because of these pressures of domestic politics. That they said no is a tribute to the strength of French euroscepticism and patriotism, and there's no getting away from it.

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