And so the quadrille begins. One country puts a deliberately provocative proposal on the table for the sole purpose of allowing another to veto it, and then swagger before its electorate. Each leader issues Lear-like threats for the benefit of his home audience. But, behind the scenes, the deal has already been done.
In less than two weeks’ time, the new text of the Euro-constitution will be finalised. Yet we already know what it will contain. The draft has finally been published, and we can see for ourselves what we always suspected: that the contents are identical to those rejected by 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters three years ago.
The interesting question is whether the media will fall for it again. Last time, every newspaper except The Daily Telegraph went along with the charade, reporting breathlessly that Tony Blair was “under pressure” to defend his “red lines” and predicting that the whole summit would “end in crisis”.
But for the events of this week, I suspect that the Broon would have got similarly credulous and gushing treatment. But things are not as they were. The PM has squandered that most priceless of political commodities, the benefit of the doubt.
I’m sure he’ll still do his best to synthesise rows, to strut and snarl, to look tough. But, as we now know, tough is the last thing he is. The Broon is a feartie, poltroon, a girlie-man. The narrative that he had scripted – patriotic leader stands up to dodgy foreigners – is no longer plausible. The Lisbon summit will confirm that, despite all of Brown’s assurances to the contrary, we are crawling back to the same treaty on which he promised a referendum. Defeat will mingle with deceit: never an attractive combination in politics.