Lest We Forget: The EU Has Brought Peace To Europe
Brexit negotiations are going disastrously wrong at the moment when commemorative events are taking place across Europe to mark the centenary of WW1, a disastrously destructive and catastrophic war between Europe’s leading nation-states in which 17 million people and 6 million war horses died.
While WW1 was called a “world war”, its origins lay in Europe. Just twenty-one years later, WW2, a more destructive and catastrophic global war broke out. Again, its roots were in Europe although WW2 was far more a world war than WW1.
In both wars, Britain played a crucial and mostly honourable role. While we didn’t emerge from WW2 unscathed, all relevant economic indices placed the British economy comfortably ahead of our continental neighbours. As I explained in my article Half In, Half Out: British Leadership in Europe, unlike our European neighbours, Britain was slow to recognise that we needed a new structure for economic and political cooperation between Europe’s different states if we wanted to guard against another disastrously destructive and catastrophic war happening again.
Winston Churchill believed British and European interests were best served by unity. Indeed, Churchill was instrumental in the 1951 Treaty of Paris which founded the European Defence and Economic Community declaring:
If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance there would be no limit to the happiness, prosperity and glory which its 300 million or 400 million people would enjoy.”
While Britain played an instrumental role in the founding of NATO, we stood aside from the European Communities at a time when we should, in Churchill’s words, have united. Now, seventy years later, having historically adopted a ‘half in, half out’ approach to the EU, we are preparing to leave the European Union.
The centenary of WW1, when we remember those who gave their lives in order that these Isles be free from tyranny, is an apposite time to consider whether the decision to leave the EU makes sense in either geopolitical or economic terms.
My own view is it does not. I would argue that our timing could hardly be worse, as the rules-based international order, which we and our European allies have worked so hard to build, is under greater threat than at any point in recent history. Russian interference in US elections and the EU referendum, Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and shifting power relationships with authoritarian leaders like Putin have shaken the foundations on which our future prosperity and security depend. The European states, of whom we are one, will either hang together, or we will hang separately.
This is the context in which Theresa May has based her proposal for a new security treaty with the other 27 EU countries after we leave the EU. But that proposal is very much a third-rate option. While the EU 27 will work out their joint policy responses to international events, we will be sitting outside the room where these discussions are taking place. This will not only weaken our influence in Brussels, but in Washington too.
Why should we settle for a third-rate security treaty? There's no reason why we should have to. As the Conservative MP and leader of the People’s Vote campaign said, if you buy a house “and the survey reveals it’s riddled with damp and cracks you’re entitled to change your mind and stay put.”
The choice about our future is ours to make. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether it’s in our national interest to distance ourselves from European policy making in which we’ve played such a vital role since WW2 - and which has kept the peace in Europe?
As a strong pro-European, I believe it is time for a new vision and bold leadership on Europe. No more ‘half in, half out,’ but instead fully subscribed to the words of the 1951 Treaty of Paris which is founded on safeguarding world peace.
OVER TO YOU
Question: What are your thoughts on Britain leaving the EU at this time? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to tell me in the comments box below.
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