I have written before that for centuries one of the main aims of UK foreign policy has been to avoid one single power dominating the continent of Europe. The question today is why has the modern Foreign Office changed its mind on this fundamental issue? Why is it now UK government policy to welcome a single country with a single currency controlling most of the continent?
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the UK fought against Spanish domination of the continent. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the UK successfully opposed French domination. In the twentieth century the UK with the help of the USA successfully resisted German domination.
The UK used to fear that if a single country came to dominate, they could close the continent off to fair trade with the UK. There would be the ever present danger they would want to take us over as well.
Today the UK goverment tells us encouraging the emergence of a single government for much of Europe would secure our trade and improve our relations with the continent. It is difficult to see why they believe this. All those people who for years have been telling us Europe is “going our way” and under Labour how “we have influence in EU matters” now have to explain how it is most countries in the EU are poised on the edge of substantial further economic and political integration, with the UK on the outside with no clear view of how its relationship with such a new country might work.
There is evidence of protectionist tendencies in the bureaucracy of Brussels. It is ever ready to impose taxes and regulations on business, to create barriers to entry and to seek to control or reduce UK successes from the art market through to various financial services. The Franco-German architects of the current phase of ever closer union are no friends of the finance sector, the one which just happens to be the UK’s most successful.
The truth is it will be more difficult for the UK to protect herself from EU rules and regulations if there is further integration and the creation of a strong inner Euro bloc within the EU. The Foreign Office should have thought more carefully about the economic dangers of more Euro integration, as outlined here yesterday. It needs to follow up that thinking with more thought about what the UK should demand and insist on to protect against the obvious dangers of a more powerful and more integrated Euro zone emerging as the UK government claims to want.