The history of the European Union is not our memory of Europe

Published by Reimagining Europe

Parliament EU flagHistory is as multifaceted as truth is many-sided. In ages past it was written by the victors; today it is moulded by Bloggers, Vloggers, Tweeters and Tumblrs. Now we create our own democratic history on YouTube and forge our own relative truths on Facebook: the whole trajectory of social media is toward introspection, subjectivity, relativity and personal knowledge. What we say is honest and sincere, and whatever we believe is true.

So now the vanquished have a voice – at least in the free world and on this blog – to challenge the previously immutable constructs of culture and the infallible conceptions of the political elite, such as the unrelenting assertion that the European Union is an inescapable part of us, and that our national peace, prosperity, identity and solidarity are owed to it because we are part of it: a hypostatic union of peoples and borders; a continent of indivisible natures and combined cultures. Some might call it Christendom.

But the age of empire has passed, and, by the looks of things, the imperial Church is now following. Some call this Postmodernity, but it’s a nebulous term to define an incoherent construct. There’s just a feeling of a search for national significance in a world that’s indifferent to the soul of personal identity.

No-one seems to have much memory any more of the centuries of incremental British liberty, stability and fraternity which preceded these past few decades of European equality, bureaucracy and oligarchy. The pebbles of 1973 and 1975 grind down the cornerstones of 1215, 1534, 1628, 1679, 1689, 1701, 1706, 1829, 1928… I could go on, but few of these dates resonate any longer against the incremental attrition of ‘ever closer union’ couched beneath ‘unity in diversity’, in which cultural difference and historic detachment must be subsumed to an overarching judicial-political construct by which our national freedoms and individual unfreedoms are now defined.

And even fewer in the UK now seem to have much historical memory of the millennia of ‘Europe’ which preceded these past 60 years of European union. It’s a generational thing, and it was very clever to conflate the two. Whoever dreamed up the simultaneous quasi-equation of ‘Europe = EU ergo EU = Europe’ played a propaganda blinder. We’re not overly bothered that Europe consists of 50 recognised sovereign states, while the EU has just 28. Are the other 22 not ‘Europe’? Are their peoples less European?

The Treaty of Rome stemmed from the Schuman Declaration of 9th May 1950, which announced that “the uniting of the European nations requires that the age-old opposition between France and Germany be eliminated”. Since Britain had not been occupied or defeated in war for a thousand years, we preserved our customs and traditions, along with our organic political and legal systems. Historically, we set ourselves apart from the Continent, as Hayek observed:

The legal and political tradition of Continental countries is the exact opposite of the British tradition, and there is no way in which they can be merged without destroying one or the other.. Under the Code Napoleon, which is the fundamental law of France, Italy and Belgium, every activity is illegal unless a law has been specifically passed permitting and regulating it. The German legal system is very similar. By contrast, in the British tradition every activity is legal unless Parliament has passed a law prohibiting or regulating it. The English tradition of the common law, individual liberty, freedom of contract, and the rule of law, which makes what we call “libertarianism” possible, was extended to those countries which were colonised by the British and later became independent of them (The Road to Serfdom [London: Routledge and Kegan, 1944:36]).

Yes, the United Kingdom is part of Europe, but, no, we don’t belong in this one. Like pilgrims in the world but not of it, we are, as Churchill expressed, “interested and associated but not absorbed”. But absorbed we have been – incrementally, almost imperceptibly, ratchet-like; click by click.

Now we are to decide our European destiny again by referendum, but this time we must be told the truth: we either leave to pursue a future that is contiguous with our past, or we stay to be absorbed into a United States of Europe, which is already being rolled out as “economic governance” – just ask the peoples of Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The “democratic deficit” cannot be fixed: the whole project was designed at its inception to bypass the capricious and unenlightened will of the people. Democracy is an inconvenience: the epistocracy knows best.

We were lied to. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s the history. If my parents and grandparents had been told back in 1975 that their voting to remain in the EEC would eventually mean that a market trader would be arrested for selling a pound of bananas, or a young student could be carted off to a Greek jail and deprived on his ancient rights of Habeas Corpus and trial by jury, they’d have voted to leave. And that’s what I’ll be doing, whatever honest, sincere or cast-iron guarantees they decide to give.