The point that so many commentators are missing about the EU, is that it’s lost its point. It began as a peace movement disguised as a mutually beneficial trading arrangement. Now it is failing at both projects; and worse yet, it is becoming dangerous.
Jean Monnet laboured over decades to achieve it through European union: never again should there be Continental war between France and Germany.
But by the time his post-WWII project was launched, that conflict wasn’t possible in any case. Like the rest of Western Europe, France was struggling to recover from the war effort, while Germany was divided and occupied by the Communists on one side, and British and American armed forces on the other.
Again today, even after German reunification, it’s not going to happen. The nations of the Common Market have bound themselves together with Lilliputian threads. As North and Booker show, the Common Agricultural Policy saved France from Left revolt by subsiding its small farmers during reforms to their sector, and since January’s Aachen Treaty the two nations are committed to regular biannual joint Parliaments to tackle joint problems.
As well as easing inter-member trading, the Community was also a bulwark against globalism, using its joint external tariffs to guard against cheap-production Far Eastern economies.
That is, until its mania for expansion took hold, and other countries were absorbed, whose poorly paid workforces undermined the living standards of their fellows. Some existing members sought temporary relief, campaigning for a moratorium on the right of the newcomers to seek work in competition with them; but not Britain, which was then surprised by the numbers entering the UK.
So on the one hand the EU didn’t need to become a superstate to prevent Franco-German war, and on the other hand its territorial acquisitions have imported some of the economic destabilization from which it could have protected Western Europe.
As though there wasn’t enough to do, combating globalism. Sir James Goldsmith warned of the social consequences of untrammelled “free trade” back in 1994; and what he said has come true. Our budgets are out of kilter, our workforces are “just about managing” and resentful. Debts grow; the system is creaking; industries are failing – goodbye now, British Steel.
Yet even Mrs Thatcher was supportive of the system at first; it was sort of all right so long as one was firm with one’s European partners. Yes, we bled billions every year in our trade imbalance with the Continent; yes, our miners, smelters, farmers, fishers, factories paid the price; but what with North Sea Oil, Mrs T’s supply side reforms, her Chancellor’s monetary expansion and the profits of the City’s financiers, the country could keep going.
In fact, if the Community had stayed as it was in 1983, we might never have had our second Referendum and if we had, Remainers might have won hands down. For up to that point most matters were handled on an intergovernmental basis, without mooting the need for an overarching Power dictating everything.
But in the Eighties, the Italian Communist Artiero Spinelli pushed for the resumption of the EU’s journey to single nationhood, and we see the fires of that enthusiasm in the eyes of Guy Verhofstadt and other True Believers. The normal objectives were forgotten in an Ahab-like obsessive quest for a White Whale: supranationalism.
Verhofstadt has now used the word “Empire”. The EU wants to become one. It wants to be like Russia, China, the US – all countries that M. Macron named (obscenely using Verdun and the centenary of the Armistice) as the EU’s potential future military opponents.
It wants to be big. It wants to be mighty. It wants an Army, an air force, an aircraft carrier; it wants nuclear weapons. It wants to help African countries in their internal conflicts; it wants to “restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity” while Russia holds the Eastern part and the US arms and trains Ukrainian forces.
It wants everything that Jean Monnet gave his life’s work to prevent.
It wants what could lead to war.