Contrary to Andrew Wierzbicki's assertions in his article 'Whither European Unity? (vol 43, no 4), I believe the European Union will fail.
The European Union is not what it seems and to accept the 'correct' litany is to perpetuate the falsehood. France has schemed for possession of the German territories the Saar and the Ruhr since before Germany existed. If those natural resources were French, the French thinking ran, it would be France that was prosperous, not Germany.
In 1945 de Gaulle flew to Washington to demand of President Truman that the Saar and the Ruhr be transferred to France as sovereign French territory. With the American Morgenthau Plan, requiring the 'pastoralisation' of Germany, US policy at the time, it must have appeared to the French that the American government would agree. Truman refused.
In pursuit of their objective the French strove to find a route the Americans would follow. The final result of their efforts was the European Coal and Steel Community. The Americans agreed to it and Marshall Aid was granted to it. The objective of the ECSC was to rehabilitate the Saar and the Ruhr. The structure of the ECSC was to ensure that no benefit from Germany's natural resources accruing to Germany did not equally benefit France. The ECSC was the well into which 'deep' government was sunk in Europe. De Gaulle was a supporter of deep government. It is based on the Code Napoleon, which not only is economically defective but also thwarts meaningful democracy. Konrad Adenauer was also a supporter of deep government, which was fortuitous, because he did not have a choice.
The European Union, as it has become, was built on the foundations it inherited. It is unaccountable, it is not responsive and it is not democratic. But it is necessary to insist on the most robust definition of the abused word 'democracy' before going forward.
The Code Napoleon defines what a subject must do, not what he must not do. Common law defines what you must not do. And here is the real clash between the British and the European Union. In 2000 the European Court of Human Rights adopted the Declaration of 2000, which changed the definitions of human rights from a gentle assembly of guiding principles to a vicious litany of partial activist demands to be imposed on the population.
The ECHR is the most corrupt body in Europe because it wrote its own mandate and it is answerable (effectively) to nobody and, as Lord Acton said (3 April 1887), power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, it is safe to conclude the ECHR, if not corrupt now, will be.
The debate that is neither 'politically correct' nor acceptable in a time of the 'suppression of dissonance' is over the difference between a subject and a citizen. The schism between the British and the Europeans is that the British do not believe that Europeans enjoy citizenship. A subject relies on his or her rights being protected and will claim them. A citizen understands his or her duties, obligations and responsibilities and makes his or her own choices.
The Treaty of Lisbon signed by Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair, had the effect of betraying what the British thought they stood for. To those who believe that, it remains a betrayal and is therefore unforgivable.
Emphasis is given to the notion that the European Union has brought peace to Europe, but this is not true. Peace in the past is no guarantee for the future. Giving France all it craved certainly removed the need for a Third World War, but it must never be thought that the First World War was anything other than a French construct to take revenge for France's defeat in 1870-71. French thinking at that time blamed their defeat on a lack of allies and it took until 1914 to recruit them. The British were dozing at the wheel and never saw it coming. That crass incompetence cost a generation of young men from what was then the British Empire. The assassination of the Russian Tsar in 1881 delayed the outbreak of the First World War because the new Tsar had to be brought to understand the position agreed between his predecessor and the French government. The Second World War has its roots in excessive French reparations demanded from Germany following the First World War.
The post-war boom is over in Europe and now the continent is broke. Germany and some northern states remain apparently prosperous, but only until their debtors are exposed as bankrupt. France is included in this list.
The historic structure cannot stand for much longer. Unaccountable governments always fail, that is guaranteed. All that is for debate is timing.
And here is the paradox. The European Union will fail because unaccountable governments always fail and the economic model is defective. But it must not fail because we know what happens in Europe when a government does fail, especially ones that take the currency with them, as will surely be the case with the Euro.
Brexit was the right answer to the wrong question. The British should never turn their back to oppressive government, especially in Europe. They have traditionally removed them, with allies it is true, and there is nothing wrong with that. Instead of the referendum, the British should have had a government bent on the reforms necessary in Europe to prepare it for the future--an accountable, democratic future; a continent of citizens, not subjects; a free people not one living in a siege economy regulated at every step and one that generates impoverished people at its gates. That is another discussion, but I make the proposition in confidence that it can be carried out, and spreading a shadow of prosperity outwards from the European Union will solve the immigration problem.
The European Union must not fail. But for that to be assured everyone who supports the idea of a united Europe must agree that radical changes to the European Union's structure are imperative.
Andrew Wierzbicki responds:
There is nothing said here by Mr Heale which in any way detracts from the key message in my article: that the European Union (and its predecessor organisations) is based on 'binding nations together to work on what they had in common, rather than what separated them' and the promotion of 'co-operation, unity and respect' and that Britain's impending exit goes against all of this to the detriment of both the European Union and Britain.
In that regard I found the logic of a number of Mr Heale's comments difficult to understand. For example:
* His opening assertion is that the 'European Union will fail' which he then seeks to justify albeit with some questionable historical references. He concludes his letter, however, by saying that the 'European Union must not fail'.
* He makes much of past Franco/German ambitions, disagreement and conflict and he is correct to point out this history. But is not the avoidance of these why the European Union is so important for the future of Europe? I argue in my article that the European Union is fundamental to having a united rather than a divided Europe. It has also been fundamental in the spread of democratic principles among those former communist states in Eastern Europe that have joined the European Union. Mr Heale does not touch on this.
* The discussion of the 'ECHR' (the European Court of Human Rights) nowhere mentions that this is not an EU institution but a creation of the European Convention on Human Rights and overseen by the non-EU Council of Europe.
* I agree with Mr Heale that 'Peace in the past is no guarantee for the future'. But has not the European Union already demonstrated that it is a realistic guarantor of peace among its member states (and more broadly in Europe) thereby avoiding another ruinous and destructive European war, a better situation than if there was no European Union?
* There are links drawn in several places between the 'European Union' and 'unaccountable governments'. But the European Union is, of course, not a government. It is an international organisation which is composed of its member states, all of which must have democratically elected governments to be an EU member. And the irony of this, which I point out in my article, is the worrying trend in a number of member states' recent elections of right-wing, nationalistic, in some cases semi-fascist, parties garnering a greater share of the popular vote and being in a position to push for a place in government, or at least stymie the creation of a working government. The most recent example of this is Sweden, which had its elections since I wrote my article. The outcome on 9 September left the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats with 62 of the 349 seats contested, the third biggest group in the Riksdag. As Swedish politicians struggle to form a governing coalition, it remains to be seen what influence this far right party might yet have.
The European Union is far from perfect. On this I think we could all agree. Indeed, as I note in my article, the combined pressure of millions of refugees, and economic disparities, social disharmony and unstable governments in member states, not to mention the fractious Brexit negotiations, are putting huge pressure on the European Union to recast itself for the future.
This is not, however, a reason for arguing that there is no place for the European Union, which Mr Heale is advocating. If this logic was followed, one would, for example, be arguing that the United Nations Organisation, with a much less successful record than the European Union, should be discarded. No-one, though, is seriously arguing for this. The answer is to look for solutions, whether incremental or transformational, which enable the organisation to adapt and respond to changed circumstances. This is the challenge facing the European Union.
In a welcome Brexit development, for example, The Times has reported that France's President Macron is apparently looking at a possible arrangement between the European Union and a post-Brexit United Kingdom that would link them through a 'concentric circles' approach: the European Union being in the core and the United Kingdom being in a second ring. It is this type of thinking which is required.
A revitalised European Union will also be in a far better position to meet head on the challenges posed by President Trump and his anti-EU trade policy, and an emboldened and unpredictable President Putin of Russia. Lest there be any doubt, in both cases their positions would be substantially strengthened if they could deal with 28 individual and, in many cases, powerless member states instead of the combined influence of the European Union. This approach seems to be the one being advocated by Mr Heale.