The relentless claim by Remainers, that Leavers didn’t really understand what they were voting for, or what the consequences would be of leaving the EU, have been repeated ad nauseam, along with the offensive accusations of racism, not caring about the future of the children and grandchildren, and the ludicrous assertion that Leavers were nostalgically longing for the return of the blue British Passport and the days of the British Empire.
The question that has never been asked, however, is whether Remainers knew what they were voting for. David Cameron’s failed attempt to re-negotiate the UK’s future relationship with the EU, prior to the June, 2016 Referendum, may well have pushed the final result over the edge into a Leave majority. One of the key issues was, of course, about free movement of people and the consequent levels of immigration into the UK. This was the issue on which the EU refused to budge, and this simply repeated a historical pattern of behaviour by the EU, during the last fifty years, where fierce protection of its political ideology was deemed to be more important than supporting and encouraging free trade.
Perhaps even more startling was the revelation by The Sunday Times on April 24th, 2016 that it had seen a copy of “a document signed last September in Rome, by the speakers of the national parliaments in Germany, France, Italy and Luxembourg” which was calling for “the creation of a full blown “federal union of states” which would be “drawn up at a meeting in Luxembourg next month, raising the prospect of a new row about powers leaching to Brussels ahead of the referendum on June 23rd. The fact that this document became public knowledge ahead of the referendum suggests that EU political ideology had reached the point, as ideologies always do eventually, where it believed that it was now invincible.
The terrible irony is that the issue of Europe having ambitions to strip its member states of their sovereignty, in order to establish a centralised European super-state had been written off by many as no more than a right-wing tabloid press myth for decades. So it was no surprise to find that Remainers thought the old myth was being substantially orchestrated leading up to the referendum. What The Sunday Times had revealed was incontrovertible evidence that it was not a myth. It was true. Whether the EU deliberately leaked this document, or whether it was the result of bureaucratic incompetence, we will probably never know. Either way it was a damning confirmation of what had been written off as a tabloid myth for as long as anybody could remember, and it made a complete mockery of the supposed “negotiations” with Cameron, prior to the referendum.
The roots of all this actually goes right back to the foundation of the EU during the two decades after the Second World War. The long term plan, right from the outset, was to create a centralised European super-state, but to hide this from the electorates of each country which joined. The plan was to persuade countries to join, by convincing them of the obvious advantages of free trade which membership would bring. As more and more countries joined, the sovereignty of those member states would steadily be eroded in successive treaties, and the sovereignty would gradually be centralised in Brussels until the conditions were such that the electorates of Europe would not see the creation of a centralised super-state to be anything more than a perfectly logical development. Successive British Prime Ministers were well aware of this plan, from Harold Macmillan in the 1960’s, right through to David Cameron in the second decade of the 21st century. Edward Heath, who took Britain into Europe in 1973, and Margaret Thatcher, who spent so much time apparently “hand-bagging” Europe, also knew what the long term plan was. Why all of these Prime Ministers conspired to hide what they knew from the British electorate remains an unanswered question. Perhaps they thought it would never come to fruition. Given the appalling state of industrial relations in 1970’s Britain, and four million unemployed in the 1980’s, it is distinctly possible that Heath and Thatcher simply decided that protecting jobs and trade was more important than worrying about what kind of political entity Europe was committed to creating. The history of this political conspiracy to hide the ultimate political intentions of the intellectual and political elite in Europe, from the electorates of member states is documented in considerable detail in The Great Deception: Can the European Union Survive? by Christopher Booker and Richard North. The vast amount of primary source evidence used to support the arguments in this book finally demolishes the claim that the intention to progressively strip EU member states of their sovereignty, in order to create a European super-state, was a tabloid myth.
Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. The application had first been made in 1961 and the French government had blocked UK membership until 1973. Membership was sold to the British electorate on the basis that it was about free trade and jobs. Indeed the very name EEC embodied that idea. National disagreement with EEC membership caused the Labour Party to try to renegotiate membership, but once this failed, Labour triggered a referendum on continued membership in 1975. The vote to stay was almost certainly a result of the belief that a vote to stay was a vote for free trade and jobs. The incremental moves to gradually reduce the sovereignty of the member states, and move towards a centralised European super-state, were embodied in each successive treaty in the following decades, and this was epitomised in the change of name, in 1993, from the European Economic Community, to the European Union. This name change finally revealed that Europe had slowly metamorphosed from being a free trade entity into a political entity, along with its own anthem, (established in 1972), its own flag (which became the official emblem in 1985) and a common European format for passports issued by each member state, starting in 1988. Then, in 1999, the Euro became the single currency of the European Monetary Union. Many economists saw it as potentially disastrous to create a single currency before political union had been completed. (Their fears were to be realised on a frightening scale in 2009-10 when the Euro came very close to total collapse. Had it done so, the economic consequences for the economies of all the member states, would have been unimaginable). All these earlier developments were further reinforced by the attempt to establish a European Constitution which was ratified by eighteen member states, but was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. This appeared to be the first significant sign that misgivings about a European super-state were beginning to emerge in two European countries. Since the Constitution had to be ratified by all member states, the rejection by French and Dutch voters left the idea in limbo.
The EU’s failure to engage seriously enough with Cameron as he prepared for the referendum in 2016, as noted earlier, may well have tipped the national vote over the edge into a 52% vote to Leave. Had the EU given more ground, especially on the free movement of people, it is possible that the referendum result would have been a narrow majority to Remain. On the other hand, the migration catastrophe in 2015, alongside the Greek financial crisis, which appeared to be bringing the Euro, and the European banking system, close to collapse, yet again, almost certainly put a final nail in the coffin of many people’s willingness to give the EU the benefit of the doubt any more, as a credible political entity. Just how many wounds the EU was inflicting on itself at the time, as a result of its ever more closed-minded ideology, was revealed by Yanis Varoufakis in his 2017 book Adults in the Room. As Greek finance minister for seven months, at the height of the 2015 financial crisis, he had tried, as an academic economist, to persuade the EU to accept an arrangement which would save Greece, its creditors, and the European banking system. He resigned in despair after just seven months, having come to the conclusion that a combination of the political ideology, and the sclerotic, highly secretive, labyrinthine, and frequently dishonest bureaucracy, had taken the EU to the point where it was no longer capable of rational argument, negotiation, or of showing any respect for evidence. Ironically this is precisely what Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic had predicted in his 2011 book Europe: the shattering of illusions. Having lived the first 48 years of his life in a country which was a Communist satellite state of the Soviet Union, he knew only too well what political ideology and ever more suffocating bureaucracy produces, and he warned that he EU was sowing the seeds of its own destruction, just as the Soviet Union had done for decades until it finally collapsed in 1989.
In the nearly three years since the UK voted to leave the EU, what has become more and more apparent is that ultimately, the EU is so determined to protect its political ideology, that it is now even prepared to risk Britain leaving with no deal, despite the very serious implications for trade and business right across the continent. The consequences of a no-deal exit for EU business and trade were highlighted in The Telegraph, on 31st January, 2019, in a report with the headline German anger builds over dangerous handling of Brexit by EU ideologues. According to the report “a group of top German economists has told the EU to tear up the Irish backstop and ditch its ideological demands in Brexit talks, calling instead for a flexible Europe of concentric circles that preserves friendly ties with the UK”. So, top German economists also see EU political ideology as trumping concerns about free trade: “Brussels must “abandon its indivisibility dogma” on the EU’s four freedoms and come up with a creative formula, or risk a disastrous showdown with London that could all too easily spin out of control”. The Telegraph reported that “a joint report by the influential Ifo Institute, and universities across Europe, had warned that Brussels may be deluding itself in thinking that the EU has the upper hand in all respects, or that the British will inevitably capitulate by March 29th.”
Ideologies are closed systems of thought which can become very powerful, but in the long run, ideologies end up destroying themselves simply because they are closed systems of thought with ever more complex interlocking beliefs and assumptions which have to be protected at all costs. Ultimately, ideologies defend themselves to the point of their own destruction. The most obvious examples in the 20th century were Fascism and Communism, but any number of other political and religious ideologies have ultimately destroyed themselves for exactly the same reason. The relentless intransigence of the EU, even now, with less than two months to go before the UK leaves, and with the kinds of hugely damaging costs to EU business and trade of a no-deal exit identified by German economists, is all symptomatic of a political entity which is slowly destroying itself from within. Ideologies, like cornered animals, are at their most determined when they begin to fear that the assumptions and ambitions under-pinning them have been exposed for what they are. Political ideology clearly trumps free trade at the highest reaches of the EU. If there is another referendum, or a General Election, in the UK, this needs to be made abundantly clear to those who might be tempted to vote Remain in another referendum, or to vote for a political party in a General Election which stands on a manifesto of remaining in Europe. The over-riding concern of the EU is not protecting trade and jobs: it is protecting its political ideology and its dream of a centralised European super-state which can rival the United States of America. Nowhere is the evidence for this clearer than in Emmanuel Macron’s book Revolution, published just before the French Presidential Election in 2017. Macron sees the EU as being in an existential crisis which is likely to lead to its total collapse without serious reform. His solution, however, is not to abandon, or even modify the political ideology. Rather, Macron is determined to do whatever is necessary to finally strip EU member states of their remaining sovereignty, and centralise sovereignty in Brussels.