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Uncorked: To CAP it all the French say no

Published:  18 January, 2007

So it's official. It's not just we isolationist, island-mentality British who doubt the wisdom of increasing the influence, power and sheer size of the European Union. There can't be many who haven't smiled a wry smile at the news that the French, of all Europeans, have rejected the proposed EU constitution. And now the Dutch have followed suit.

The seemingly inexorable increase in size of the EU appears to have ground to a halt, which may be no bad thing bearing in mind that it has only just admitted 10 countries. As we absorb nations as large as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic,

a period of assimilation and reflection seems sensible before we take on Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and then open negotiations with Turkey.

If the EU becomes like the Eurovision Song Contest - anyone can enter as long as they are within sniffing distance - then it may become equally derided.

From the point of view of wine production, the EU spells mixed fortunes. Up until 2000, French vignerons were meant to grub up vines; now they are being paid to switch to the popular international varieties. Despite global surpluses, Bulgaria has used EU money to plant yet more vines, which seems nonsensical. The Hungarians, far from seeing membership of the EU as an opportunity to sell more of their own wines, are worried that they will be swamped with those that France, Italy and Spain can't sell.

The Common Agricultural Policy has long been in desperate need of reform. Maybe Tony Blair can now use his EU presidency to tackle something useful, such as the CAP.