For centuries England and the Uk has stood against any one power dominating the continent. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century the superpower was Spain. England supported the Dutch rebellion and established the supremacy of her navy, protecting these islands from invasion. The Protestant revolt fractured the power of the Habsburgs, who found it difficult to forge a union out of Iberia and the Holy Roman Empire, the wider Germany.
In the later seventeenth century and the eighteenth century England stood against French imperialism. We constructed alliances of the smaller states who resented the idea of French control. We fought lop sided wars,with the superior English navy trying to check the progress of the all conquering French army. Finally England forged an army of heroes, which fought its way up through the Iberian Peninsula to Paris. This same army had to finish the job at Waterloo, after the victors mishandled Napoleon again.
In the twentieth century even more blood and treasure was spent to prevent German domination of the continent. All these wars centred around the low countries. There has been much Flanders mud on British military boots over the centuries. The theory stood that England should never allow Belgium and Holland to fall under the control of a large and potentially hostile power.
From 1972 onwards UK foreign policy has turned this round. It has backed plans to create a single governing force on the continent. Instead of playing off one great power against another, or one superpower against an alliance of smaller ones, the UK foreign office has promoted a scheme for bureaucracts and a proto Parliament to exercise more authority across a united Europe. EFTA, the rump of the old Protestant alliances, was summarily dismissed.
In the earlier days some remants of the divide and rule approach to Europe was incorporated. Some were reassured to learn that the UK, by being round the table, could get its way by exploiting the disagreements and rifts between the various continental countries.
In more recent years all such pretence has been largely abandoned. The UK has been told by the foreign affairs establishment to go along with the plans emerging from Brussels. The double speak says we have to be in the EU to have influence, yet having influence usually means going along with whatever the latest EU fashion is in excessive government and more regulation.
It is true we should worry less today about a large power controlling the low countries. Such a development will not lead to any direct threat to ourselves, as the emerging power or powers on the continent will not have military aims against the UK. We should ask ourselves why there has been such a dramatic lurch in the UK’s position.
We should note that endless briefings have told us “Europe is going our way”. They meant by this it was moving to an association of sovereign states who wish to trade with each other and be friends with each other, promoting more competition and freer commerce. This is at best a monumental misreading of what has been happening, and at worst is an attempt to deceive.
The truth was expressed in the Treaty of Rome. It was no simple prospectus for a Common Market, as described by the political establishment of all three main parties. It was always a guide to ever closer union, the first steps on the long road to a United States of Europe. By ignoring it at first, then joining it later, the Uk has ended with the one thing it always said it wished to avoid – a single power on the continent with power over us. Successive governments have given it more powers in an attempt to humour it. The long retreat from the Common Market has proceeded through Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. Veto after veto has been surrendered, and with it the capacity for effective self government in many areas.
It is time to be honest. It is time to reappaise. It is time to say what we want.