Elementary, My Dear Watson
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, called the EU: “An enduring, deep, benevolent collaboration between sovereign states unique in the history of the world. It produced a lasting peace from the ashes of war. It produced prosperity where there had been deprivation. It produced transnational partnerships where once there was a suspicion and division. It’s not perfect but what large institution is?“
Imperfect indeed, and we have said before that the EU cannot be shown to have “produced” the benefits he claims. Yes, peace in Europe was the inspiration but the tactical goal to achieve this was a unified Continent—the main strategic goal is now to achieve this in the form of a unified government. That reflects the ambition of political rulers, such as Monnet himself (the founding father), and is rarely a reliable path to peace. Certainly Scotland and England haven’t fought each other since their union, will they do so if they ever split again? It seems unlikely—technology, trade, tourism, transport and telecommunications have changed the world; land area is no longer the principal foundation of wealth and power. And the EU didn’t produce “transnational partnerships”; at its best it avoided squashing them.
Watson also claimed Shakespeare as an ally. “Probably the most important Englishman who ever lived was William Shakespeare – a man … – whose transcendent imagination was as broadly and deeply European as it was English.” The EU is not the same as Europe. It’s ‘values’ are not European, they’re the EU’s values, and they’re terrible because they put the Project’s advance before everything, especially its own citizens’ advantage (at least its true values do, as distinct from the ones they proclaim but don’t practice, such as democracy). It is absurd and impertinent to claim Shakespeare’s support, he might just as soon have said to Watson and his supporters “… you are all recreants and dastards, and delight to live in slavery to the nobility.” (Jack Cade, Henry VI, Part 2).
Europe versus EU
Europe and the EU are not equivalent, as Watson and many others seem to believe after swallowing the EU’s perpetual repetition of this canard. There is another, older, European organisation that includes many more countries of Europe and operates with respect for Europe’s democracies, without seeking supra-national authority. This is the Council of Europe (CoE). It is responsible for much that the EU takes credit for. For example, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which the EU claims credit for, was established in 1953 by the CoE and all 47 member states are party to it (as are the 28 members of the EU).
Council of Europe member states maintain their sovereignty but commit themselves through voluntary conventions or treaties. They co-operate on the basis of common values and common political decisions. Those conventions and decisions are developed by the member states working together at the Council. When its members reach agreement, the CoE issues conventions or charters rather than laws or directives; it is up to member governments to decide whether to convert these into legislation.
Ever Closer Union (the fundamental objection)
The EU 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.
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. 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.
Tom Watson’s claim that the EU “… produced a lasting peace” is not only untrue, it also ignores the price that the EU expects its member states and their citizens to pay for their ‘intention’.
Far from being a “deep, benevolent collaboration”, as Tom Watson wants us to believe, and a boon to the world the EU is illiberal, interfering, autocratic and protectionist. These are just labels of course but we feel we have justified their use in arguments and evidence accumulated in hundreds of posts to this blog since David Cameron announced that the people would vote on whether our membership should continue.
Of course most voters didn’t know enough to decide for the country, so they decided for themselves their answer to a different question, “Do you like the European Union? Yes or No.” Unfortunately for the UK ‘Establishment’ and EU bigwigs, a majority answered NO. And many of those who answered YES may well have been answering yet another question, “Do you believe what the EU claims for itself?” But only a minority had swallowed that guff.
And that is one reason why other governments will be loath to delegate such a question at that level. Since facts on the ground don’t work for them, the bigwigs have to put more effort and resources (our money ultimately) into marketing their project.