Richard North, 07/06/2020  

I wonder how many people actually realised that Pete wrote yesterday's piece on the blog, leaving me to crack on with The Great Deception. Certainly, some of the commenters don't seem to have noticed.

But then, I'm convinced that some of those who post comments haven't actually read the blog. And it's indisputably the case that some of them, if they have actually read the comments policy, haven't understood it, or believe it doesn't apply to them. After a few pained e-mails, things will have to change.

It might also be worth pointing out that this is a pro-Brexit site, which means that we're not in the business of providing free space for people to post anti-Brexit or pro-EU propaganda. That shouldn't make any difference, actually, because we frown on propaganda of any nature. Things will definitely have to change.

That said, it's very difficult focusing on the here and now when your brain is lodged firmly in the events of seventy years ago. Things really were very different then, and it is hard to take seriously some of the contemporary complaints. But then, I suppose each and every generation thinks it's the centre of the universe.

The moment I'd written that, though, I knew it was wrong. My generation, born only few years after the war, with conscription and rationing still in place, and more wars to come, did not feel this way.

Although we hadn't experienced it for ourselves, we only needed to see the gaps in the houses in the streets to know that something extraordinary had happened, and that many of our parents had suffered grievously on our behalf. Even at our most carefree, there was always a sense that we owed something to the generation which came before.

But, while our previous generation fought, died and suffered for us, that doesn't mean they were always right when it came to determining our futures. That much, I would hazard, we have in common with every generation which has come after us. We all reserve the right to make our own mistakes, and to decide our own futures.

As it happens, I'm engaged in writing about the time of my own birth and the few years leading up to it. That was the time of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin blockade and something that didn't attract so many headlines, the creation of the Council of Europe, areas where the "colleagues" were seeking to decide the shape of the world in which, as then unborn, I was to live.

When we wrote our book, Booker and I marked down the Council of Europe as the second of two attempts at launching a united Europe, two tries that failed. The first we identified as the Marshall Plan which the Americans quite deliberately framed in such a way that, in order to get aid, the Europeans would have to work together.

It was hoped that the organisation which was created to manage that Plan – the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) – would become a platform to promote economic integration, with both the Americans and many of the players keen to take the 16 countries in the plan into a customs union.

When push came to shove, though, it was the British who blocked this ambition, insisting that the OEEC (eventually to become the OECD) remained robustly intergovernmental. And it was partly in response to this, that integration activists, including a sizeable contingent of British politicians, launched The Hague Congress in May 1948.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that each of the 800 or so participants received a souvenir packet of cigarettes bearing the official colours of the event as a gift from the Dutch authorities and the organising committee (pictured). Things have changed in so many ways.

The outcome of the Congress was a determined push of the precursor organisation to the European Movement to push for a parliamentary assembly, which would provide a basic platform on which to build a comprehensive federalist structure.

Interestingly, in pursuing this path, the activists were following the advice of Arthur Salter, he of "United States of Europe" fame. He had been invited to speak to speak at the Congress, whence he cautioned that "a much closer and more expansive political union of Europe" should be achieved, "not by means of a sudden surrender of all our sovereignties".

Instead, he argued, they should take a "softly, softly" approach, developing "the financial and economic organs and others created for the purpose of dealing with their immediate tasks". As they developed, Salter said, they would gradually acquire 'by a delegation of sovereignty and authority from the constituent members so much power as will, without any sudden break, enable international authorities to be constituted'.

Eventually, he surmised, coordinated financial policy and economic development could be carried out "without us having made anything like a revolution"'.

He anticipated that it would bring the federalists to the point at which "an international authority which pools an enlarged sovereignty for all the constituent countries, will constitute something which, if not a federal state, is something which had the advantage of a Federal State".

When it came to the "European Assembly" that was being mooted by the Congress, he wrote later in the Manchester Guardian, telling the activists again to opt for the "softly, softly" approach. They should go for their European Assembly, "nominated by the Parliaments, without executive power", as a first stage.

Unsatisfactory though it was, if they bided their time, nomination could be replaced by direct elections and the Assembly could then, under the pressure of the Parliament groups, become "a constituent body for a new political authority of a federal character".

In the fullness of time, Salter suggested that any such federal body, "'might then be allotted defined powers, capable of gradual extension but comprising from the first a responsibility for military organisation".

This is exactly what the integrationists went for with the Council of Europe but, once again, the British – each time a Labour government – blocked all but a robustly intergovernmental structure, preventing any "mission creep" into a full-blown federalist organisation.

Jean Monnet, who had been closely involved in the Marshall Plan, had been scathing about the British action. He commented to his lawyer, George Ball, that: "the OEEC’s nothing: it's only a watered-down British approach to Europe – talk, consultation, action only by unanimity. That's no way to make Europe".

When it came – in his terms – the "second failure" of the Council of Europe – he agreed with Spaak that the Council "would never be anything more than a talking shop". They both decided that, if there was to be any measure of European integration, "we must do without Britain’s support if we were to make any headway".

That, not many years after, was precisely what happened, first with the Coal and Steel Community and then the Treaty of Rome and its "common market", where Britain was quite deliberately excluded until the structures were in place and proofed from British interference.

The same dynamic was to be played out when de Gaulle kept us out of the EEC until the financial package for the CAP had been finalised, leaving French farmers to benefit from the subsidies, while British taxpayers paid the bills.

This is, of course, why we can never trust "Europe". From the very first, a "softly, softly" approach was adopted (barring a moment of hubris when Monnet thought he could launch a European Defence Community), which means that the integrationists will take what they can get, and then come back for more.

This is what they have been doing ever since the Treaty of Rome and no one but the most gullible of simpletons would believe that the treaty-making process has come to a natural conclusion.

By common consent, a new treaty is much overdue and once Brexit is out of the way and the Covid-19 situation has stabilised, the "colleagues" will be actively working on a new draft, most like introducing additional governance measures for the euro and extending EU penetration into the defence field.

If we hadn't voted for Brexit in 2016, we would have found ourselves at loggerheads in the next treaty talks and, with a right to a referendum on new treaties, it is quite possible we would have refused ratification, creating yet another crisis.

It should thus have dawned on the "colleagues" that Britain simply doesn’t belong in the EU. We never belonged in a politically integrated Europe and leaving was always going to be the inevitable outcome. And, for better or worse, it's happened. It's time to move on, at least in EU Ref comments. Free cigarettes aren't the only thing that has changed.

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