It’s going to be hard to avoid discussing Brexit and the EU for the next few days, until on 31 October Brexit doesn’t happen, and we remain in the EU until 31 January, after which time the can will be kicked even further down the road.
I used to be in favour of the EU when it was the EEC: the European Economic Community. It seemed perfectly reasonable to wish to join this local community organisation, much in the way that it would be perfectly sensible to join a local golf club. What was there to be lost?
As it turned out, there was everything to be lost. For no sooner had it acquired sufficient numbers of members, the EEC metamorphosed into the EU, the European Union, with its own parliament, its own supreme court, its own laws, and soon now its own army. It was as if a lot of people had joined a golf club, only to find that the golf club had become the principal power in the land, rather as if St Andrews golf club had taken over running the adjacent town of St Andrews, and in fact the whole of Scotland, and all its laws were being decided by golfers.
The EU gradually took on the scale of a superstate, and indeed an empire. And a great many Eurocrats are quite candid in calling it an “empire.” Would the British people have voted in 1975 to join a new Austro-Hungarian Empire, if that had been the question in the referendum? I very much doubt they would have. And in fact I very much doubt any other country would have voted to join either. And what we’re seeing now is the growing revolt of all the peoples of Europe against this new empire which they’ve found themselves locked inside.
And there’s nothing new about large European empires. The first, and the most long-lasting, was of course the Roman Empire, but since then there have been numerous attempts (by Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler) to construct a new European empire. And the European Union is just the latest attempt. And instead of expanding by force of arms, it has grown through a long succession of treaties.
What the Europhiles in the EU really want is to create a new power bloc that can rival the USA and Russia and China (and maybe India and Brazil as well). These are people who think in terms of the world, and of power blocs within it. They want to be sitting at the top table when it comes to making global decisions. And the only way to make it to the top table (like Roosevelt and Stalin and Churchill at Yalta in 1945) is to join the biggest power bloc you possibly can.
At Yalta, Churchill was only invited to the top table because he represented the power bloc of the British Empire. Ten years later he would not have been invited, because the British Empire had disintegrated, with most of its former colonies gaining their independence. And that was when the newly-unemployed imperialists in Britain started looking round for a new empire to join, and found one gradually emerging right on their doorstep in Europe.
Imperialists are concerned with power – military power -, and with nothing else whatsoever. The bigger the power bloc that you can construct, the larger the army you can raise. And that is why the belated creation of an EU army is now top of the agenda in Brussels. It is, after all, ultimately what empires are all about.
But all these empires first rise and then fall. And in the case of the EU empire, which expanded very rapidly over a few decades in the second half of the 20th century, signs of decay and disintegration are already evident everywhere. And this decay is almost entirely internal, and grows out of the inevitable rivalry between the imperial power centre and the imperial periphery. In Rome, this was the rivalry between Rome and its colonies. In the USA it’s the rivalry between Washington and the surrounding US states. And in the EU it’s between Brussels and the nation states of the EU. No doubt it’s the same with Beijing and the rest of China, or Delhi and the rest of India.
So the EU today is a nascent but already disintegrating new European empire. Brexit is one sign of that disintegration. And the rise of “national populist” parties all over Europe is another sign of it. Sooner or later other countries than Britain will want to gain independence from the EU. And if there is to be a new European war it will almost certainly feature the newly-formed EU army invading states that seek to secede from the Union – in the exact same way that the Confederate states tried to secede from the American Union. There’ll be tanks on the streets of Rome with little circles of stars painted on them should Italy attempt to secede from the European Union. And maybe they’ll be on the streets of London as well.