I first turned decisively against the EU when I learned that the EU had declared war on smokers in late 2009.
I realised then that the EU was going to start micro-managing people’s lives. I didn’t think the EU had any business doing that.
I also realised that the EU wasn’t bothered about making some 150 million of its smoking citizens into second class citizens. Why make enemies of your own people? It seemed to me to be a remarkably stupid thing to do. And it didn’t seem to me to be very likely that a new political organisation that did stupid things like that was going to survive very long.
I also learned that the EU parliament was pretty much a rubber-stamp outfit to approve legislation that had been entirely put together by the EU Commission, which isn’t elected.
The more I learned about the EU the more undemocratic and unaccountable it seemed. I’ve read that its structure was based on the old Soviet Union, and maybe that’s true.
Mikhail Gorbachev: “The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.”
When Britain entered the EU it was called the EEC or Common Market. It was sold to Britons purely as a trading organisation. But now it’s become much more than that. It’s become an empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Ukraine. David Cameron wants it to extend as far as the Ural mountains, deep inside Russia. But, so far as I know, Russia is not being invited to join.
The EU is currently beset by a variety of deep-seated problems, which include a) over-regulation, b) a one-size-fits-all currency, c) mass immigration, d) Islamic terrorism.
With the EU Referendum weeks away, and opinion polls showing that Leave and Remain are roughly tied level, I’m wondering: Why should anyone possibly want to remain inside it?
I suppose that if you’re a member of the political left, and love big government, and in particular loved the Soviet Union, you’ll probably want to stay inside it.
I suppose that if you travel a lot in the EU, and do business there, you’re probably glad of its open borders, single currency. and free movement of people.
I suppose that if you still think of it as the Common Market, you probably would want to remain within it. This was my own view until 2009.
It might also be that many people think that “history is marching in this direction”, and we are inevitably going to be part of the EU, and are powerless to resist “progress”.
But another reason is that the Common Market began life as a trading organisation that would tie Germany and France together, and thereby prevent any future war between these two countries (there had been three of them inside a single century). David Cameron has even invoked the possibility of war if Britain votes to leave the EU.
I see very little chance of a European war starting if the EU were to break up. When those past wars were fought, nearly all of the participants were either imperial powers, or wished to become imperial powers. There was a great deal at stake. But now that all the empires have been dissolved, there’s very little at stake. All the countries in the EU trade with each other, and all benefit from this trade. What’s there to fight about?
I would argue that the real threat of war doesn’t lie in the disintegration of the EU, but instead in its continued growth and expansion. For instead of being a collection of rival empires as it was 100 years ago, it is now becoming a single European empire – a sort of new Habsburg empire. And it’s this that poses a threat to peace, as the EU empire has expanded eastward, helping to trigger revolution in Ukraine, and bringing NATO troops to the borders of Russia.
The creation of this new empire also serves to recreate the conditions at the outset of the First World War. Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in July 1914 was a Bosnian Serb nationalist who wanted Bosnia out from under the thumb of the Austro-Hungarian empire. If Bosnia had been a self-governing sovereign state, there would have been no such assassination. It is instead the creation of empires that inevitably breeds nationalism, as the states absorbed into these empires seek to restore their former autonomy. And we are now seeing within Europe the emergence of precisely such nationalist movements. How long will it be before there are attempts made on the lives of senior EU politicians?
Far from being a bulwark against war, the EU empire is itself a growing danger to peace. It is itself now an expansive imperial project of the kind which generates multiple possibilities for conflict.
The optimal solution would be for the European political class to reverse their drive towards a centrally-governed European empire (“Ever closer union”), and revert to a loose trading block along the lines of the earlier (and fairly successful) Common Market.
And I think that internal and external tensions will eventually force something like this, with the nations of European recovering their autonomy, and their own currencies, and liberating themselves from hyper-regulation by Brussels. Then there would be no new Gavrilo Princip, and no possibility of war with Russia.