Tuesday, 26 April 2005

“No” is the new “yes”

Dan Drezner wonders aloud about the implications of French voters deciding to reject the proposed E.U. constitution; he certainly doesn’t buy the doomsday scenario advanced by former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi.

Since the referendum is likely to fail for reasons other than policy grounds* (French voters being as ignorant of policy as any other democratic public’s citizens), reworking parts of the treaty, as suggested in this Economist piece, seems to be an unlikely solution. Rather, I tend to think (as some of Dan’s commenters suggest) that France may say “no” today, but will say “yes” later; the French electorate will have its protest vote, then get back onboard in a few months, probably without any substantive concessions. Ditto for the Netherlands.

Of course, the longer-term issue is that the iterated game is much less likely to work in Britain, where the public has never really been sold on the E.U. since joining in 1973. But again it’s unlikely that any proposed constitution would pass muster with the British electorate—again, because voters’ ratification decisions on the constitution won’t be made on policy grounds.

* You can have limited policy voting on a single-issue referendum, but I don’t think there’s any meaningful policy voting likely in a referendum where a voter is presented with a grab bag and told, “take it or leave it.”