Our previous post asked basic questions aimed at discovering why anyone would want to believe or disbelieve in the EU and its mission. Here’s what we think.
Our previous post asked basic questions aimed at discovering why anyone would want to believe or disbelieve in the EU and its mission. We take a sceptical view but welcome reasoned and evidential challenges. We asked what the major aims and achievements of the EU are; below are our answers in brief, fuller accounts can be found in the linked posts at the end.
Has the EU avoided another big military conflict?
There is no disputing that WW1 inspired the idea of a “project for peace” and, spurred on by the next catastrophe triggered by the Continent’s competing powers, this eventually led to the European Union we have today. Moulding the Continent into one country was the answer that Monnet, Spinelli, Schuman and others believed would achieve their goal, in time. It is a satisfyingly simple solution: by removing the wish or need to compete there would be no reason to fight. And because no major war has occurred since the foundations were built by the 1957 Treaty of Rome many believe the theory has been proven in practice. But perhaps there are other explanations.
We have argued in previous posts  that circumstances have changed. Europe’s global empires have gone, other superpowers dominate the military scene and modern weapons could wipe out the antagonists. Although we can’t prove what would have happened if the Union had not been created, its constituent nations have never since had the potential to repeat what happened twice in the last century. Only France and the UK – allies for the last 200 years – have the forces to fight each other and create a global impact, and then only if it were a nuclear battle.
The New Statesman, a strongly Europhile magazine, published an article shortly before the Referendum extolling the peaceful intentions of the EU . It draws on words without actions and makes assertions without evidence of the EU’s internal achievements but admits that beyond its borders, in Europe and elsewhere, it has done very little to oppose actual aggression. In Kosovo, Ukraine, Kuwait and Libya it could only wring its metaphoric hands, which is just as well for in which members’ interests would it have acted? For example, Germany is increasing its dependence on Russian gas supplies and is not keen on much practical action in response to Crimea. What merit is there in good intentions without action?
Finally, the EU is literally bloody-minded over the Irish border issue. There may be no perfect solution but good enough ones have been proposed—and given the nod by independent experts. [2a] The Good Friday Agreement rests on the acceptance by all parties that the status of the North will not change without the approval of its citizens. Most of them voted to remain in the EU to avoid customs issues but a majority wishes to remain fully part of the UK. The EU has inverted the blame for risking the peace while refusing to discuss a compromise (Varadkar’s predecessor, Enda Kenny, was engaged in discussions with the UK).
Has the EU Increased prosperity for all?
The Continental countries had to rebuild their economies after 1945, which they were able to do with some help from America. By the late 1970s the post-war recovery boost had petered out, growth continued but at a moderate rate relative to similar economies; the UK, which had envied its neighbours, did not improve its post-war trend-growth after joining. At the end of this period the EU accounted for roughly a third of the world’s GDP, today its share has halved despite adding a lot more member countries. Furthermore growth has been very unequal. Italy for example has scarcely grown at all this century while Germany has benefited from an undervalued currency which does not reflect its economic strength. We won’t detail all the winners and losers here but the eurozone is facing a global slowdown with its counter-measures virtually spent. 
Has the EU brought people across the Continent closer together?
To many people, and particularly in Britain, the mission statement ‘Ever Closer Union’ does not hold the benign interpretation of growing cooperation but of greater control by a remote bureaucracy which does not understand and is not concerned about national issues. Every crisis leads to calls for ‘more Europe’ and this is not only ingrained in the psyche of its leaders, it is the principal methodology of the Monnet plan.  Of course they realise that citizens may not be enthusiastic, so they deploy the language of high moral purpose and use technical terms such as ‘subsidiarity’, which in English has its dictionary meaning, but in EU-speak is more like its opposite. 
National rivalries still exist and in increasingly difficult times tensions have risen; it isn’t clear that unbreakable bonds of friendship have been formed. Conditions have become challenging due to migration, trade wars and economic mistakes, the ill-formed euro in particular. Tensions have risen but the Union is structurally inadequate to overcome its problems and has few means left to protect its citizens from economic stress. Brotherhood (and sisterhood) has not embedded itself across communities so that it can withstand the shocks it will surely face; that would imply the better-placed nations making sacrifices their voters will not accept, but without those the others cannot recover under the constraints of Union law.
We might add that focusing on our nearest neighbours and discriminating against the wider world in immigration and trade, may represent a broadening for some countries but not for Britain. On the whole the world has got richer over the last few decades, aside from countries in war zones or suffering outright despotism (such as Zimbabwe); this includes the relatively developed nations of Europe but there is greater potential in trade further afield.
Is the EU protecting the environment?
The UK still has plenty of coal but has virtually abandoned this once-critical source of energy, Poland mines large amounts of it as does Germany (in this case lignite, the filthiest form of the fuel ). In achievement and legal commitment the UK is way ahead of the EU, cutting its carbon emissions further than any other G20 country; it doesn’t need pressure from Brussels, which should be applying the screws to other laggards.
Although the UK is still a member and pays its full membership fees the EU suspended carbon credits for UK companies as part of its ‘Brexit-contingency planning’, in other words it is shamelessly using its green programmes for aggressive political purposes.
Has the EU aided scientific advance?
Political and economic integration has never been necessary for scientific cooperation . Projects like CERN and the International Space Station did not require political or economic union to succeed. Universities around the world have joint research projects; the Galileo, Erasmus and Horizon programmes need not exclude countries outside the EU if they pay to take part, as the UK has offered to do after Brexit (the EU hasn’t even offered to repay what the UK has already contributed to its satellite programme). Once again the EU chooses exclusion rather than cooperation for political reasons, despite the loss to science.
Any other questions?
Our answers imply that the EU in practice exemplifies the maxim “all mouth and no trousers”. Of course this is not 100% true, there are many cultural, scientific and regional support initiatives funded by the EU, or rather by its net contributors, including the UK and even debt-ridden Italy. And yet a majority of voters (in Cornwall, Northern England and Wales in particular) do not feel this justifies their support for the Union. Others are persuaded, we think by the promises rather than their delivery, or in the expectation that the less-than-perfect EU can be reformed if we stay. We doubt it because the relentless drive towards central authority is implicit in its design and embedded in its culture. 
We can see (if we choose to) that the EU is focused on winning rather than cooperation because it is a political project rather than the benign one it pretends to be. In every answer above we have found serious examples where the mission statement conflicts directly with behaviour.
We have asked what we think are the Big questions, the answers to which must settle anyone’s viewpoint. But what might we have we missed?
Links and related posts
(written by the editor-in-chief of Lacuna—how appropriate is that?)
 More is Less: Subsidiarity-1 and -2