Written by Vladimir Moss



     Tony Judt writes: “The very scale of the collective misery that Europeans had brought upon themselves in the first half of the twentieth century had a profoundly de-politicizing effect; far from turning to extreme solutions, in the manner of the years following World War One, the European publics of the gloomy post-World War Two years turned away from politics. The implications of this could be discerned only vaguely at the time – in the failure of Fascist or Communist parties to cash in upon the difficulties of daily existence; in the way in which economics displaced politics as the goal and language of collective action; in the emergence of domestic recreations and domestic consumption in place of participation in public affairs…

     “In more ways than most contemporaries could possibly have foreseen, a new Europe was being born.”[1]

      In Western Europe, the post-war poverty and depression had been much greater than in the Anglo-Saxon countries (especially North America), and therefore the contrast as prosperity returned in the 1950s was the more striking. Thus while in the period 1913-50 the average growth rate in Britain, France and Germany was 1.3 percent, in the period 1950-73 “French growth rate per annum had averaged 5 percent, West Germany had grown at nearly 6 percent and even Britain had maintained an average rate above 3 percent.’[2] This extraordinary growth in prosperity, unparalleled in European history, could not fail to have an important and deleterious effect on the European psyche, accelerating its already pronounced turning away from religion and the spiritual life to Mammon. The American gospel of self-fulfilment played its part in this change, as preached by the wave of Hollywood films that poured into Europe. But there were other, still more significant factors.

      One was the increased size and influence of the state, not in the totalitarian form of the contemporary Soviet Union, but in the more subtle and beguiling form of the West European welfare state…

      West European welfarism, otherwise known as Social Democracy, was for the time being a great success. As Judt writes: “In the peak years of the modern European welfare state, when the administrative apparatus still exercised broad-ranging authority and its credibility remained unassailed, a remarkable consensus was achieved. The state, it was widely believed, would always do a better job than the unrestricted market: not just in dispensing justice and securing the realm, or distributing goods and services, but in designing and applying strategies for social cohesion, moral sustenance and cultural vitality. The notion that such matters might better be left to enlightened self-interest and the workings of the free market in commodities and ideas was regarded in mainstream European political and academic circles as a quaint relic of pre-Keynesian times: at best a failure to learn the lessons of the Depression, at worst an invitation to conflict and a veiled appeal to the basest human instincts.

     “The state, then, was a good thing; and there was a lot of it. Between 1950 and 1973, government spending rose from 27.6 percent to 38.8 of the gross domestic product in France, from 30.4 percent to 42 percent in West Germany, from 34.2 percent to 41.5 percent in the UK and from 26.8 percent to 45.5 percent in the Netherlands – at a time when that domestic product was itself growing faster than every before or since. The overwhelming bulk of the increase in spending went on insurance, pensions, health, education and housing. In Scandinavia the share of national income devoted to social security alone rose 250 percent in Denmark and Sweden between 1950 and 1973. In Norway it tripled. Only in Switzerland was the share of post-war GNP spent by the state kept comparatively low (it did not reach 30 percent until 1980), but even there it stood in dramatic contrast to the 1938 figure of just 6.8 percent.

      “The success story of post-war European capitalism was everywhere accompanied by an enhanced role for the public sector. But the nature of state engagement varied considerably. In most of continental Europe the state eschewed direct ownership of industry (though not public transport or communications), preferring to exercise indirect control, often through autonomous agencies, of which Italy’s tentacular IRI was the biggest and best known…

      “Doctrinal differences over the ostensible goals of the state might noisily oppose Left and Right, Christian Democrats and Communists, Socialists and Conservatives, but almost everyone had something to gain from the opportunities the state afforded them for income and influence. Faith in the state – as planner, coordinator, facilitator, arbiter, provider, caretaker and guardian – was widespread and crossed almost all political divides. The welfare state was avowedly social but it was far from socialist. In that sense welfare capitalism, as it unfolded in Western Europe, was truly post-ideological.

     “Nevertheless, within the general post-war European consensus there was a distinctive vision, that of the Social Democrats. Social Democracy had always been a hybrid; indeed, this was just what was held against it by enemies to the Right and Left alike. A practice in lifelong search of its theory, Social Democracy was the outcome of an insight vouchsafed to a generation of European socialists early in the twentieth century: that radical social revolution in the heartlands of modern Europe – as prophesied and planned by the socialist visionaries of the nineteenth century – lay in the past, not the future. As a solution to the injustice and inefficiency of industrial capitalism, the nineteenth-century paradigm of violent urban upheaval was not only undesirable and unlikely to meet its goals; it was also redundant. Genuine improvements in the condition of all classes could be obtained in incremental and peaceful ways.

      “It did not follow from this that the fundamental nineteenth-century socialist tenets were discarded. The overwhelming majority of mid-twentieth century European Social Democrats, even if they kept their distance from Marx and his avowed heirs, maintained as an article of faith that capitalism was inherently dysfunctional and that socialism was both morally and economically superior. Where they differed from Communists was in their unwillingness to commit to the inevitability of capitalism’s imminent demise or to the wisdom of hastening that demise by their own political actions. Their task, as they had come to understand it in the course of decades of Depression, division and dictatorship, was to use the resources of the state to eliminate the social pathologies attendant on capitalist forms of production and the unrestricted workings of a market economy: to build not economic utopias but good societies.”[3]

     However, the European Social Democrat idea that “capitalism was inherently dysfunctional and that socialism was both morally and economically susperior” must be borne in mind when we come to the main political expression of the movement – the European Union. The underlying pathos of the European Union was socialist and collectivist, and consequently anti-nationalist. It is this fact more than any other that has caused the long-running battle between Britain (standing for the sovereignty of individual nation-states) and the EU (standing for the socialist super-state) that has reached a climax in our days.


      The European Union (EU), - or, as it was originally called, the European Economic Community (EEC) – was originally composed of the six Benelux countries, who created it jointly at the Treaties of Rome in March, 1957. This was the right moment for the French, the real drivers of the Union, because they felt betrayed by the British at Suez in 1956, and now hurled themselves enthusiastically in the opposite direction – towards Germany and the Continent. In June, the German Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Treaties. However, as Matthaus Haeussler writes, “Not all Germany’s parliamentarians played along. The young Helmut Schmidt – a brash, chain-smoking Social Democrat from Hamburg – refused to support the Treaties, largely because of British non-participation. ‘Much as I was convinced of the necessity of European integration,’ he later reflected later, ‘I then thought… that the EEC could never be successful in the absence of British experience and pragmatism.’”[4]

      As Britain wavered over whether to join the EU or not, and he himself ascended to greasy ladder to becoming Chancellor of Germany, Schmidt’s attitude to the British changed, and he came to think that De Gaulle had been right in vetoing Britain’s original application to join the Community. Nevertheless, the British arguments against membership, and criticisms of the EU’s institutional structure, did not go away, leading first to Britain’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 and then, after Chancellor Merkel’s decision to open the doors to immigration into the EU in 2015, to a Europe-wide resurgence of “Eurosceptisicm” at the time of writing. In many ways, the whole history of the EU has been defined by the quarrel between the French and Germans, on the one side, and the British, on the other, on what the future of Europe should be.

      After the war, the British by no means turned away from Europe, being very active in policing and feeding the British zone of occupation in North Germany, in organizing the Berlin Airlift, and in the creation of NATO. And there were many prominent Britons who believed in the creation of the European Union for the sake of peace. As David Reynolds puts it, for them the Treaties of Rome were “effectively a peace settlement for Western Europe”.[5] Many intellectuals in the early post-war generations believed that yet another war among the nations of Europe could be prevented only by uniting them in a new supra-nation. This was also Churchill’s motivation when, in a speech in Zurich on September 19, 1946, he called for a United States of Europe (with or without Britain – he never made clear), towards which the essential first step would have to be peace between France and Germany. In this sense he was, if not the father, at any rate the godfather of Europe.[6]

     According to Michael McManus, peace was also the motivation of the British Prime Minister Edward Heath, who took Britain into the Union in 1973. Heath “had first-hand experience of a Nuremburg rally in 1937, of the Spanish Civil War in 1938, and of combat in the Second World war itself. His greatest fear was of a resurgence of nationalism in Europe and of another ruinous war. European unity was, for him, first and foremost, the necessary key to peace. This was the predominant view within the Conservative Party from the mid-1950s until the mid-1980s including most of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, however, she recognised a new reality and was fearful of a united Germany. But Sir Edward’s needle had got stuck…”[7] 

     But was it really the European project that kept the peace in Europe? Hardly… The real causes of the preservation of peace between the West European countries were mutual exhaustion, the common threat of the Red Army just over the Elbe – and the consequent felt need for the formation of NATO. In fact, the real peace-maker was the American army, together with other American institutions in Europe. It was they that both defended the West against the Soviets and constantly cajoled the Europeans, especially the French, into working together for the common good.[8]

     “British politicians,” writes Tombs, “were never indifferent to Europe,… and 1950s polls showed public support for European unity. Bevin’s problem was over-ambition, aiming to create an independent European super-power. These visions were dispelled by the Cold War…, and then by the beginnings of European integration through the European Coal and Steel Community. Britain’s policy now focused on ensuring a continuing American commitmen to European security through NATO. Behind the scenes, there was unprecedented sharing of secret intelligence with the United States under a 1947 treaty, which also included Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and which still applies. The relationship with America (‘special’, as the British saw it) was not a barrier to integration with the Continent – far from it, as the Americans were eager backers of European unity…

     “The other main pillar of Britain’s foreign policy came to be Europe. The old dream of European unity had been revived during the interwar period. The Labour intellectual Harold Laski predicted in 1944 that ‘the age of the nation state is over… economically, it is the continent that counts: America, Russia, later China and India, eventually Africa… the true lesson of this war is that we shall federate the Continent or suffocate.’ The need to rebuild European economies, resist Communism, and prevent a possible resurgence of German nationalism turned rhetoric into policy. The Schuman Plan (put forward with American encouragement by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, in 1950) provided for supranational control of the coal and steel industries of Germany, France and the Benelux countries. It also advocated a council of ministers, a court and an assembly. The Treaty of Paris (April 1951) duly set up the European Coal and Steel Community, with an explicit commitment of political unity.”[9]

     As Yanis Varoufakis points out, however, the ECSC was in fact a cartel, and therefore “a remarkable departure from American principles of governance, which since President Theodore Roosevelt had included a healthy dose of cartel busting. However, America’s global plan could not fly in Europe unless it made its peace with the Mitteleuropa-Paneuropa ideology intimately associated with Central Europe’s cartels.

     “Making their peace with Central European corporatism, American policymakers had to swallow not only the idea of building the new Europe on a cartel of big business but also the unsavoury political agenda that went with it. Corporatists like Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet were bent on constructing the Brussels-based bureaucracy as a democracy-free zone. Count Coudenhove-Kalergi put it succinctly in one of his speeches when he declared his ambition for Europe to ‘supersede democracy and for it to be replaced by a ‘social aristocracy of the spirit’. As always happens when a technocracy harbouring a deep Platonic contempt for democracy attains inordinate power, we end up with an antisocial, dispirited, mindless autocracy.

     “Europeans recognize this in today’s Brussels-based bureaucracy. Every survey of European public opinion finds large majorities with no trust in the EU’s institutions. While it is true that citizens around the world – for example, in Britain, the United States or India – are highly critical of their state’s institutions, the discontent with Brussels is qualitatively different. Take Britain for instance. The British state evolved as a set of institutions whose function was to regulate the struggle between different social groups and classes. The tussle between the king and the barons gave rise to Magna Carta, a deal the essence of which was to limit the king’s power. After the merchant class acquired economic power disproportionate to its social and political rank, the state evolved further to accommodate its interests with those of the aristocracy, especially after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought new social strata into the mix (industrialists, trade unions, local communities made up of former peasants), extending the franchise and refining the state’s apparatus.

     “Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic a similar process was spawning the American constitution. The United States government and bureaucracy also emerged at a time of intense conflict between vested interests and social classes. Slave-owning landowners, mainly in the South, clashed with East Coast traders and manufacturers in Illinois, Boston and Wisconsin. The Louisiana Purchase triggered a variety of new tussles between multiple interest groups. A brutal civil war proved impossible to avert and facilitated America’s consolidation. Later on, the rise of the labour unions and the military industrial complex signalled fresh rivalries. To bring the nation together and to homogenize its institutions so as to deal with the political, social and financial crises that these tensions threw up, Congress had to play a central equilibrating role. Indeed, no authority in the United States can defy Congress or ignore it. Whatever demerits American democracy may have, there can be no doubt that the democratic process is essential to keeping the nation together.

     “By contrast, the European Union’s institutions did not evolve in response to social conflicts. National parliaments and institutions did all the heavy lifting in terms of ameliorating social conflicts while the Brussels bureaucracy was devised for the purpose of managing the affairs an industrial cartel made up of Central European heavy industry. Lacking a Demos – a ‘We the people…’ – to keep them in line, and indeed to legitimize their activities, Brussels bureaucrats both disdained democracy and were shielded from its checks and balances. While the cartel they administered was doing well under the auspices of the American-designed global financial system, the European Union’s institutions enjoyed widespread acceptance. However, unlike America’s Congress-centric system, the European Union lacked the democratic process necessary to fall back on in times of trouble.

     “From the viewpoint of its official ideology, the European Union sounded very similar to the United States, even to liberal Britain. Free-market liberalism seemed to be the order of the day, and a single market free of state patronage the union’s objective. And yet, remarkably, the European Union began life as a cartel of coal and steel producers which, openly and legally, controlled prices and output by means of a multinational bureaucracy vested with legal and political powers superseding national parliaments and democratic processes. Indeed, the inaugural task of the Brussels bureaucracy was to fix the price of steel and coal products and remove all restrictions on their movement and trading among the cartel’s member states. Curiously perhaps, this made perfect sense: what would be the point of cross-border cartel if its products were stopped at the borders, taxed and generally impeded by national government officials? The equivalent in the United States would have been a Washington bureaucracy, operating without a Senate or a House of Representatives to keep the bureaucrats in check, able to overrule state governments on almost anything and bent on fixing prices at levels higher than the market would have selected.

     “The next step was obvious too: once tariffs on coal and steel were removed, it made sense to remove all tariffs. Except that French farmers, who always exerted exceptional influence on France’s political system, did not like the idea of untrammelled competition from imported milk, cheese and wine. So to co-opt French farmers, the so-called Common Agricultural Policy was established. Its purpose? To secure the farmers’ consent to a European free trade zone by handing over to them a chunk of the cartel’s monopoly profits.

     “By the end of the 1950s a fully-fledged European Union (then known as the European Economic Community) which had evolved from the European Coal and Steel Community) had sprung from the multinational heavy industry cartel and its political incarnation in Brussels. Dollarized by the United States, it soon began to create large surpluses, which funded postwar Central European prosperity in the stable world environment provided by the Bretton Woods system, which was itself constantly stabilized by a United States ready and willing to recycle to Europe a large chunk of America’s surpluses. A golden age dawned, brimming with high growth, non-existent unemployment and low inflation, spawning a new Europe of shared prosperity. It was an American triumph that Europe’s elites were determined to portray as their own…”[10]

     Ambrose Evans-Pritchard confirms Varoufakis’ important conclusion: “The European Union was always an American project.

     “It was Washington that drove European integration in the late 1940s, and funded it covertly under the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

     “While irritated at times, the US has relied on the EU ever since as the anchor to American regional interests alongside NATO.

     “There has never been a divide-and-rule strategy…

     “The Schuman Declaration that set the tone of Franco-German reconciliation - and would lead by stages to the European Community - was cooked up by the US Secretary of State Dean Acheson at a meeting in Foggy Bottom. ‘It all began in Washington,’ said Robert Schuman's chief of staff. 

     “It was the Truman administration that browbeat the French to reach a modus vivendi with Germany in the early post-War years, even threatening to cut off US Marshall aid at a furious meeting with recalcitrant French leaders… in September 1950. 

     “Truman's motive was obvious. The Yalta settlement with the Soviet Union was breaking down. He wanted a united front to deter the Kremlin from further aggrandizement after Stalin gobbled up Czechoslovakia, doubly so after Communist North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the South.

     “For British eurosceptics, Jean Monnet looms large in the federalist pantheon, the eminence grise of supranational villainy. Few are aware that he spent much of his life in America, and served as the war-time eyes and ears of Franklin Roosevelt. 

     “General Charles de Gaulle thought him an American agent, as indeed he was in a loose sense. Eric Roussel's biography of Monnet reveals how he worked hand in glove with successive administrations. [11]

     “General Charles de Gaulle was always deeply suspicious of American motives… 

      “Nor are many aware of declassified documents from the State Department archives showing that US intelligence funded the European movement secretly for decades, and worked aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into the project. 

     “… One memorandum dated July 26, 1950, reveals a campaign to promote a full-fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen William J. Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency. 

     “The key CIA front was the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), chaired by Donovan. Another document shows that it provided 53.5 per cent of the European movement’s funds in 1958. The board included Walter Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles, CIA directors in the Fifties, and a caste of ex-OSS officials who moved in and out of the CIA.

     “Bill Donovan, legendary head of the war-time OSS, was later in charge of orchestrating the EU project… The US acted astutely in the context of the Cold War. The political reconstruction of Europe was a roaring success.”[12] 

     “The Schuman Plan,” continues Tombs, “was deliberately presented to Britain without consultation, as a fait accompli, which it was given forty-eight hours to accept in principle. Bevin would not take on ‘obligations’ in Europe that restricted Britain’s interests elsewhere, and he was suspicious of supranationality – ‘a Pandora’s box full of Trojan horses’, in his attributed phrase. Labour’s recent nationalization of coal and steel meant that government and unions were unwilling to hand control to an unaccountable body in Luxembourg – as Herbert Morrison, Bevin’s successor at the Foreign Office, put it, ‘the Durham miners won’t wear it’. Because of the Great Depression, the Second World War and the devastation of Europe, British trade had moved elsewhere, especially to the ‘Old Commonwealth’ countries, from which it imported cheap food and to which it exported manufactured goods. In restrospect, and even for some at the time, it is clear that this was an unusual and temporary circumstance. It is nevertheless understandable that Labour backed colonial development and Commonwealth ties, for reasons both of sentiment and of sel-interest. In 1950 Europe took only 10 percent of British exports. Australia was economically as important to Britain as ‘The Six’ (members of the Coal and Steel Community) combined, and New Zealand more important than Germany. As Keynes put, ‘What suits our exporters is to have the whole world as their playground’. So Labour’s refusal to  join the ECSC was inevitable. After the Suez debacle, the French, led down as they saw it by the Anglo-Saxons, turned towards Europe and Germany as alternative sources of Great Power status. The Treaty of Rome was signed in March 1957 setting up a European Economic Community committed to ‘ever closer union’.

     “It is commonly asserted that had Britain joined in early, during the 1950s. its moral stature and political weight could have enabled it to lead Europe, shaping developments in its own interests. This notion of Britain taking the helm is, in the view of the official historian of Britain’s European policy, ‘shot through with nationalistic assumptions… as great as and more misguided’ than those underlying its world-power pretensions. This was dramatically demonstrated when in 1958 Britain tried to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EEC. General de Gaulle, newly installed in power, stopped the negotiations in November 1958 – the first and most damaging of his three vetoes. Although the German finance minister, Ludwig Erhard, architect of its ‘economic miracle’, was in favour, the chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, would not oppose France. So Britain set up the European Free Trade Association in 1959, with Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland and Portugal.

     “Britain soon abandoned this policy, however. Here ‘declinism’ played a crucial role, creating a desperate hope that joining the EEC could both remedy supposed economic failure and buttress influence in Washington and the Commonwealth. Washington disliked EFTA and put pressure on London to apply to join the EEC. ‘If we try to remain aloof,’ a Cabinet committee warned in 1960, ‘bearing in mind that this will be happening simultaneously with the contraction of our overseas possessions, we shall run the risk of [losing] any real claim to be a world Power.’ The Foreign Office feared that ‘at the best, we should remain a minor power in an alliance dominated by the United States.’ Macmillan formally applied to join in 1961. ‘The question,’ thought the Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, ‘is how to live with the Common Market economically and turn its political effects into channels harmless to us.’ This question would continue to exercise politicians of several generations.

     “The main problem was France, newly ascendant and ambitious under Charles de Gaulle elected president of the new Fifth Republic in December 1958, and an old man in a hurry. He intended to make France the leader of Europe, and wanted ‘to be the cock on a small dunghill instead of having two cocks on a large one’, as Macmillan put it to a sympathetic President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Macmillan’s frustration stemmed from a televised press conference on 14 January when de Gaulle, after long and wearisome negotiations, summarily vetoed the British application for membership on the grounds that ‘England is an island sea-going, bound up by its trade, its markets, its food supplies, with the most varied and often the most distant countries.’ This would disrupt what he called a truly ‘European Europe’. The humiliation of de Gaulle’s veto further weakened Macmillan at home, where he was beset by the Profumo scandal, and he resigned, ostensibly on health grounds, that October.

     “The Labour Party had been led since 1963 by Harold Wilson. He was the most brilliant politician of his day, prototype of a new grammar-school-educated North Country professionalism that seemed to be elbowing aside the effect public school upper-class, embodied by Macmillan and his successor as party leader, the honourable, inoffensive, but emphatically not modern 14th Early of Home, probably Britain’s last aristocratic Prime Minister, who held office (renouncing his earldom) from 1963 to 1964 – his mother was said to have remarked that ‘it was very good of Alec to have taken the job on.’ Wilson, Prime Minister from 964 to 1970, was thus an embodiment of the social and cultural changes of the 1960s. He was an economist praising ‘pragmatism’ and embodying the new concept of ‘meritocracy’. In retrospect he seems an oddly insubstantial figure with no defining ideas, mainly remembered for his dictum that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Like most of his party, he was suspicious of European membership and urged support for Commonwealth trade: ‘We are not entitled to sell our friends and kinsmen down the river for a problematical and marginal advantage in selling washing machines in Düsseldorf.’ Once in power in 1964, Wilson found that plans for galvanizing Commonwealth trade were a pipedream. He renewed the application for the EEC, reflecting that Britain was like a faded beauty, and Europe a go-ahead young man with good prospects: if not a love match, it could be Britain’s last chance for a comfortable settlement. But de Gaulle pronounced a third veto on 16 May 1967, using language of ‘quite exceptional bitterness, hostility and scorn’. Britain, he said, was economically incapable of membership, and its desire for accession was driven by desperation. The English, he told his entourage, ‘are a worn-out people’.

     “After de Gaulle had retired in 1969, following his humiliation by rioting students in Paris, Edward Heath’s 1970 Conservative government seized the opportunity to pursue the application. Belief that membership at any price was the only remedy for Britain’s diplomatic, economic and political ‘decline’ had become the orthodoxy: Britain was ‘the sinking Titanic’, as one of Heath’s advisers put it, and Europe the lifeboat. Heath, the most ‘pro-European’ Prime Minister Britain has ever had, assured the French that the British were now ready to ‘give priority to [Europe] over their other interests in the world,’ though he grumbled privately that the Europeans ‘are constantly barging ahead with regulations drawn up to suit themselves and then coming alon, more or less with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, to present them to us.’ Sir Con O’Neill, the chief official negotiator, was clear that the EEC was about power: ‘None of its policies was essential to us; many of them were objectionable.’ But, outside, Britain would decline into ‘a greater Sweden’ – something Whitehall regarded as a fate worse than death. The terms for entry were tough, including sharing Britain’s vast fishing grounds, accepting the Common Agricultural Policy to protect faming by raising prices and penalizing imports, and a large British financial contribution to common funds; but O’Neill decided to ‘swallow the lot’. Public support had collapsed since the first failed attempt to join, so the government mounted the biggest state publicity campaign sincethe war with vociferous support from business and most of the intelligentsia. The issue was carefully depoliticized: ‘The Community… hasn’t made the Franch eat German food or the Dutch drink Italian beer.’ The EEC’s faster economic growth was the main theme, represented on the front of an official pamphlet, The British European, by a page three girl in a skimpy Union Jack bikini proclaiming ‘EUROPE IS FUN! More Work But More Play Too!’ Politicians and diplomats concealed – perhaps from themselves – the commitment to ‘ever closer union’ clearly spelled out in the founding treaties, which they dismissed as verbiage. The European Communities Act (1972), the legal basis of membership, declared that all present or future ‘rights, liabilities, obligations and restrictions’ created by European law automatically applied to the United Kingdom ‘without further enactment’ by Parliament, and with supremacy over English (and Scottish) law. High legal authorities debated whether thi had ended, or could end, parliamentary sovereignty, without reaching clear conclusions. The public too was confused, tending to notice when picturesque cases emerged, such as that of the ‘metric martyrs’, Sunderland market traders summonsed in 2003 for selling their greengrocery in pounds.

     “If Britain’s rulers had not been so panicky about ‘decline’, would they have followed a different policy? Would a longer game, and less eagerness to ‘swallow the lot’, have secured a better and less troubled relationship with Europe? It is commonly said that Britain joined the Common Market too late. Perhaps, on the contrary, it joined too early – just before the European economies entered a period of stagnation, and before it had faced up to it own economic shortcomings. In their haste, politicians avoided the question of what membership ultimately involved in terms of shifts of power and sovereignty. It turned out that de Gaulle had been right in fearing ‘England’ as a disruptive presence.”[13]     


     What were the attitudes of the other major players to Britain’s accession? France’s attitude, as we have seen, was deeply influenced by Great Power ambitions and a centuries-old rivalry with Britain. Germany’s attitude was more subtle and more interesting. As Haeussler writes, “For most Germans of Schmidt’s generation, the European project exerted a powerful emotional pull that stretched far beyond the concrete advantages of a customs union: it offered a unique opportunity to rehabilitate and reinvent postwar Germany within a European framework and to distance itself from the horrors of the recent past. Wilson and Thatcher, by contrast, may have concluded rationally that EC membership was in Britain’s national interest, but they lacked any comparative emotive and personal attachment to the European project. The EC therefore remained only one of many possible arenas for European cooperation in 1970s Britain – and not one that suited the country particularly well. For most Germans, however, the EC had by that time become the only framework for European cooperation. Any criticisms of its institutions and policies were almost inevitably interpreted as more general attacks on the very principles of European cooperation and solidarity…”[14]     

     And what of America, which, as we have seen, had been the real force pushing the European states into a political union? Did the Americans’ support wane as the EU’s undemocratic and socialist essence became clearer, and as the EU adopted an increasingly competitive attitude in relation to them? After all, in spite of the enormous debt the European Union owes to America - deliverance from Nazi rule, the Marshall plan, the underwriting of the world’s economic system, the protection against Communism provided by the American army in Europe and round the world - anti-Americanism has been a defining sentiment of European leaders almost from the beginning. The ungrateful and ultimately self-defeating desire to undermine American leadership in the western world has manifested itself in many ways: in France’s (temporary) withdrawal from NATO, in the efforts to undermine the Bretton Woods Agreement, which led to the “Nixon Shock” of 1971, in Germany’s Ost-Politik at the height of the Cold War, most recently in many members’ reluctance to pay their share of Europe’s own defence.

      In spite of these tensions, the United States has remained remarkably loyal to its European allies, and to the European project as a whole. Thus as recently as the Brexit referendum of 2016, President Obama interfered strongly on the side of the “Remainers”.

      Only since the election of President Trump in November, 2016 have serious tensions emerged. Trump supported Brexit, and strongly criticized the Europeans’ failure to pay their fair share towards NATO (America pays 4% of its GDP to NATO, Britain – 2%, and Germany – only 1.2%!) In 2017 the German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained that Britain and the United States were supposedly withdrawing from Europe, and then went on to say that Europe should “go it alone” in its defence. Of course, Europe has long wanted to have its own army, the one attribute of a truly sovereign state that it does not yet have. But in view of the Europeans’ reluctance to pay for their own defence, a European army could only be built at the expense of withdrawing forces from NATO, thereby undermining European security at a critical moment of history. As Putin probes Europe’s defences in more ways than one, the EU’s hostility to the United States, its progenitor and long-term benefactor, may well cost it dear in the future…


July 27 / August 9, 2018.

[1] Tony Judt, Postwar, London: Pimlico, 2007, pp. 236, 237.

[2] Judt, op. cit., pp. 456-457.

[3] Judt, op. cit., p. 361, 362-363.

[4] Haeussler, “Schmidt and the Brits”, History Today, August, 2018, p. 46.

[5] Reynolds, The Long Shadow. The Great War and the Twentieth Century, London: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

[6] “Let Europe Arise! – Winston Churchill”,

[7] McManus, “European dream that belonged to a different era”, The Sunday Telegraph Review, July 3, 2016, p. 19.

[8]The Cambridge historian Robert Tombs “points out that Nato and nuclear weapons have done more to keep the peace than the EU” (in Brian Appleyard, “Brains for Brexit: top academics and thinkers put the case for Brexit”, Sunday Times, February 18, 2018).

[9] Tombs, The English and their History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, pp. 805, 806.

[10] Varoufakis, And the Weak Suffer What They Must? London: Vintage, 2017, pp. 58-60.

[11]It was Monnet,” write Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, “who had secured the Allies’ backing for General de Gaulle against Roosevelt’s opposition, and in return, de Gaulle gave him responsibility for rebuilding the French economy and industry – a position he used to achieve his great dream, laying the foundations for the EEC.

     “The ‘Schuman Declaration’ was the result of intrigue, trickery and subterfuge by Monnet, his most audacious trick being to get French and West German governments to set up a supranational organisation to co-ordinate their industries without realising exactly what they had signed up to. This radical new concept, of an organisation with control over individual nations’ industries but with its own, outside autonomy, laid the foundation for all that came after. Unsurprisingly, Monnet became president of the new body, called – with a chillingly Orwellian tone – the High Authority. Schuman became the first president of the European Parliament in 1958.” (“Synarchy: The Hidden Hand behind the European Union”, New Dawn, Special Issue 18, See also Alan Sked, “How A Secretive Elite Created The EU To Build A World Government”, Sunday Times Style Magazine, 28 November, 2015. (V.M.)

[12]Evans-Pritchard, “The European Union always was a CIA Project, as Brexiteers Discover”, The Daily Telegraph, business section,

[13] Tombs, op. cit., pp. 805-809.

[14] Haeussler, op. cit., p. 50.

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