In its inimmitable way the EU Referendum blog gets to the heart of the "gallic game" pointing out, quite correctly that France does a good job of bargaining by going for an outrageous demand and then "caving in". In this case the apparent intent is that they compromise on the budget but manage to force everyone else to hold their referenda too. Of course as the blog finishes:
Whether Chirac gets what we wants is now in doubt. Having looked at the post-referendum opinion polls, the "colleagues" are beginning to wobble, and L'Escroc may not be able to hold the line. But, to date, he has played a blinding, if predictable game.
It occurs to me that in fact, contraray to the expectation that Britain and the rest of the EU will settle at France's initial position, the worms are turning. As everyone noticed (and I commented yesterday) l'Escroc brought up the British rebate as an attempt to divert attention from losing the previous round. Unfortunately Blair seems to have (finally) learned that the best defense is attack and has therefore countered with his own "outrageous" position with respect to the CAP. EU Rota has a link to an article from the Wapping Liar reporting that the CAP has shown up on the agenda for the summit tomorrow. Just in itself this has to be a major setback for l'Escroc. After all the previous CAP "reforms" in 2003 were mostly settled in a pre-summit meeting by l'Escroc and his dachshund and that agreement was supposed to last until 2013.
Just possibly l'Escroc is about to reap the whirlwind. No one knows what is going to occur next but the signs are that the EU's contributor countries are beginning to get upset. The Dutch referendum was a Nee vote in large part because the Dutch were upset at paying lots and getting little benefit and indications are that Sweden is also feeling somewhat peeved. This means that, while they may, to some extent, dislike the British rebate, it seems more likely that the other contributor countries really dislike the way that only four countries make up about 90% of the net contributions to the EU budget. From an earlier Wapping Liar graphic this disparity is clearly illustrated.
It is true that the other bigtime contributor - Germany - is currently headed by the dachsund, but the opposition under Angela Merkel is making noises that are rather more sympathetic to the British position. Since the dachshund has decided that he wants to fight an election in September and the German economy is not exactly in robust shape the cost of bankrolling Europe could well come up. If it does, l'Escroc might like to reflect on Schröder's habit of finding someone to blame in order to get re-elected. In the last elections he trashed the German relationship with the USA (and UK), something that had been part of the bedrock of post war German policy, to gain popularity so, if the going gets tough (and it looks that way to me), Schröder is likely to try to repeat his previous trick and find another foreign power to blame and the obvious foreign power would be France. When you look at the German election and how that seems likely to alter the balance of power the British have no interest what so ever in looking for an early settlement because in three months time their position in the negotiations is likely to be stronger.
It is in fact hard to see how this becomes anything other than a lose-lose proposition for l'Escroc. If he blinks now then he demonstrates to the world that France has no power in the EU anymore. If he doesn't then a) he gets blamed for the lack of agreement and b) he gets even more pressure later in the year. Chirac must be praying that Blair reverts to form and chickens out first.