We have seen that the UK’s foreign policy has lurched from wanting a divided Europe with no one power dominating our near neighbours, to accepting the drive to European integration. This has never been put honestly and openly to the British people, who have been told sovereignty and power still rests with them, as it is wrestled away to Brussels.
The crab like approach to European integration has proceeded on the basis that the UK will be a late joiner, but will in the end sign up to the whole menu. The UK was after all in the second wave of entrants to the EEC. She delayed joining the full criminal justice package but is gradually opting in, delayed entry into common borders but now is governed by some of the common measures, delayed joining the social chapter but later did so, and says she is against a common foreign policy yet backed the growing diplomatic corps of EU officials.
Many on the continent thought it would only be a matter of time before the Uk joined the Euro. Maastricht gave us an opt out, but also left the door firmly open for us to join. I used to be the object of Germany briefing and persuasion, as various senior protagonists of European integration sought to persaude me to change my mind about the single currency.
Today we are on the threshold of a new reality that cannot easily be hidden. Euroland intends to deal with its stresses and strains by pushing on to much fuller political union. The UK will not be in the Euro, and has a government which says it does not wish to surrender more power to the EU. Temporarily all three main parties are united in agreement that we should not currently join the Euro, but disunited in what else we should say and do.
The old nightmare of UK foreign policy is about to come true. France, Germany and the low countries, our nearest neighbours, will be a united single power. It is true they will have the bills and troubles of the south to worry about. There at last will be the powerful European sovereign authority that eluded the Spanish, The Holy Roman Emperors, the French and the Germans at the height of their miltary power when they all sought to unite Europe by more violent means. It will be closer to the days of the Roman empire, when Roman rule stretched far and wide. They had a single language, latin, for administration, a single gold currency, a common system of government and enforcement by a very active army.
I do not think the UK should try to stop this more modern and peaceful union, as they seem to want it badly. I doubt it will last a thousand years, or even a hundred. I fear the Euro will do more damage to jobs, living standards and tempers before it is finished. We should warn them that we think there will be great troubles ahead as they press on with it. It will cost far more and take far longer than they expect. They will ignore our warnings as they did over the Euro.
It is time for the UK to adjust to this new reality, and to set out what we want and how we intend to proceed.
We could begin by saying it has more chance of success without us in it. We could stress that by staying out the UK is acting as a good neighbour. With our state debts, large running deficit and semi nationalised banks we would impose huge and possibly terminal stresses on the Euro project. It is better for them that we remain out.
We should go on to say we will co-operate in creating the new political and constitutional architecture they want. They will need us to vote for it. We should do so , as long as our interests are protected. Tomorrow I will talk about what we should want in return for approving the next big step in the project to create out of Euroland a United States of Europe.