The fundamental objective
The EU was designed in a different age for different circumstances. Even then it had major design flaws and it has failed to adapt to meet today’s challenges. It is especially unsuitable for the UK, which has a history and traditions distinct from most of its neighbours. Although conceived with noble intention, to make inter-state war impossible following the two world wars of the twentieth century, it was decided that the only way to achieve this would be to subjugate national governments to the dictates of a higher authority. Since there is no way for democratic regimes to be overruled by a democratically elected higher authority, democracy has to be foregone and the supra-national regime has to be selected, not elected. (The role of the European Parliament is to scrutinise legislation but not to devise it.)
The EU project was inspired by a fractious continent at war. In the 1920s Jean Monnet had the vision of a United States of Europe: a unified continent under a single government. This idea remains at the heart of the Project, it is explicit in every treaty since 1957 and in the planning for the next one (The Five Presidents Report (*1)). It underlies grand (and sometimes reckless) schemes including monetary union, open borders, shared seas, political union and many more untried and untested schemes that have no basis in either political theory or experiment.
“Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.” (attributed to Jean Monnet)
The concept of federation is bold and idealistic, which appeals to many and frightens many more. It remains the underpinning ideology of the EU. A key question is whether it is practical. Monnet and his followers seem to assume that peace, harmony and wealth will be natural outcomes from a unified state, the European Nation, but this is not self-evident. Nor is there evidence from experience or theory to support the assumption. It seems reasonable to claim that we are social animals: people group together for cooperation and protection, with good and bad consequences. Dissonance between groups within one nation is common: Rwanda and Syria (in fact much of the Middle East) are extreme examples. Europe, including the EU, is no different, as shown by: Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland and Spain’s Basque region plus (less violently) by Belgium, Cyprus and (ex-) Czechoslovakia. Catalonia, Scotland and Bavaria offer still milder examples of peoples who identify more strongly with sub-national regions than with their nation state. Who identify themselves first as ‘European’? Perfect harmony within nations comprising groups with different languages, ethnicities, and religions is hard to find, especially where they were forced, such as the arbitrary divisions that ignored local differences when lines were drawn on a British Empire map. Successful unions tend to evolve. Even the United Kingdom was united by fiat and the same could probably be said of Germany and Italy. The USA was finally unified only through civil war and its states still keep many important powers to themselves, while resentment continues to simmer between Northern and Southern states. Unification is hard to achieve and sustain; it cannot succeed except by consent or coercion. Without consent fragmentation is probable. This is a major risk for the EU, which has neither democratic legitimacy nor military force to hold it together against the will of its peoples. The EU is an imposition by elites, over which the people have no say.