Not for the first time, the politicians who run Europe have drawn the wrong message from a vote of the people.
Just as in the past, referendum reversals were interpreted as aberrations to be bulldozed aside, so the result in the first round of the French presidential election is being hailed as an endorsement of the EU project.
Since there is another round of voting to go, it astonishing that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels have taken it upon themselves to endorse Emmanuel Macron.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, wished him well in the next round in what is surely a breach of protocol. Mr Juncker evidently thinks he is risking nothing by backing the eventual winner, and the polls suggest he is right. Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader who will contest the presidency against Mr Macron, is well behind.
But Mr Juncker demonstrates precisely what is wrong with the EU. Even though close to 50 per cent of French voters supported anti-EU candidates – and 10 million did not vote at all – this is somehow taken as a triumph for the institution rather than the potential disaster it portends.
We saw something similar with Brexit – dismissed as the final parting of the ways with a country that had long been a troublemaker, rather than any serious analysis being undertaken about why so many voters were disenchanted with Europe.
The answer is always “more Europe”, which is why tomorrow the Commission will unveil plans for a new European social policy agenda with a big push on workers’ rights.
They will include tighter limits on working time, steps to bring the so-called gig economy within national social security systems and new rules on parental leave. The commission will also propose a charter of basic social rights to be incorporated into EU treaties.
As Britain is leaving this may seem irrelevant to us except that it is expected to insist that EU workers living in the UK after Brexit should enjoy the same rights as exist elsewhere in Europe. Many people may welcome enhanced social rights; but for the EU to seek to dictate the social policy of a non-member state is unacceptable.
The French election showed a country divided just as the EU referendum here split the UK down the middle. If the European project is supposed to be about bringing people together, it is making a pretty poor fist of it.