Modern England and Britain has always had a simple aim in European policy. We have sought to prevent the domination of the continent by a single power. We have defended the smaller and weaker countries against overmighty neighbours. We have been a voice for democracy, freedom of religion, and the self determination of peoples.
We championed the Netherlands against Spain in its fight for independence in the sixteenth century. We fought for a range of smaller countries against French imperial ambitions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We fought for the freedom of most European countries against Nazi German aggression in the twentieth century. Europe is a better place for the stances we took on those mighty issues.
England, later the UK, had to face down the might of Spain and the Habsburg Emperors, the power of France’s autocratic monarchs and then of Napoleon, and the militarism of last century Germany. On some occasions we might have been more prosperous and had an easier life if we had ignored the barbarisms and lack of liberty on the continent. On other occasions the nation had to engage in a titanic struggle to avoid a single European power turning to damage us with the full force of continental manpower and economic resources behind it.
It makes more recent UK foreign policy almost impossible to fathom. Why did the Foreign Office persuade Labour to run up the white flag and go along with the idea of a single continental driven foreign and security policy? Why has the UK made such a welcome for the integration of the Euro and the centralising Treaties of Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon, to apply in full to the rest of the EU and in no small measure to us as well? This is against the whole thrust of five hundred years of UK foreign policy. Our attitude was fashioned by our decision to become a Protestant state, protesting against the use of power from the continent in British matters.
I find the development of a fairly undemocratic Euro polity extremely worrying. I find it even more worrying that much of the UK policy establishment knows so little history and has so little wisdom that it does not see the longer term dangers of unifying the continent under one imperial power. They claim it will bring or preserve peace in our time, yet the EU’s blunders in former Yugoslavia and more recently in the Ukraine should warn us that this is a centralising power that will soon be starting or fomenting wars of its own.
The UK should make clear it does not want to be part of a Common foreign policy any more than it wants to belong to a common currency. It should also be more ready to warn of the dangers of a centralised EU that appears as a threat to its neighbours. Past attempts to unite most of the continent have led to attempts to regulate and stifle trade and commerce, as this one will doubtless do as well. The EU is currently engaged in a desperate attempt to tie up all pour overseas trade in EU agreements, so they can then threaten us with made up problems with non EU trade should the British people want to leave the EU.