hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Euro-Realism, not euro-scepticism, Mr Cameron

Alphen (NB),
Netherlands, 17 January.

Dear Mr Cameron,
Tomorrow you will make the most important speech of your premiership on Britain’s relationship with Europe here in the Netherlands.  Yesterday in Parliament you gave me some encouragement that you have finally grasped the huge strategic significance of what is happening here on the Continent.  It is precisely these strategic factors you must focus on in your speech.  Indeed, at this critical moment in Europe’s history you must endeavour to communicate two vital messages not just to Britons, but all Europeans.  First, the drift of the EU towards bureaucratic tyranny represents a danger to democracy.  Second, Europeans must again look outwards to the world and become competitive across all economic and strategic domains.  Euro-Realism must be your theme tomorrow, Mr Cameron, not euro-scepticism.
Living here in the Netherlands with my Dutch wife as I have done for many years there is much frustration with Britain.  On the one side there are the Euro-fanatics who will go to almost any lengths in pursuit of the ‘Grand Europe’ they seek.  Joseph Goebbels once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.  Now, I am not for the moment equating European federalists with the Nazis, but be it here or in Britain the use by the pro-Europe lobby of fear is disgraceful. 
On the other side there are millions of ordinary Europeans looking to Britain to offer some alternative to the ‘ever more Europe at any cost’ creed.  All they want is for their nation-state to remain the centre of Europe’s political gravity with national governments and parliaments firmly in control of their interests and their futures.  And yet all they hear from Britain is an incessant and self-defeating “we want our money/laws back” whinge.  There is no sense of a Britain willing to fight on the bigger, principled questions of balance, liberty and democracy. 
We both know that the Eurozone will soon commit a terrible error and cross a dangerous political Rubicon.  Once crossed too much power will be placed in the hands of an elite few with the unelected and unaccountable strengthened at the expense of liberty.  Democracy itself may well be at risk if all people can elect in future is hollowed out politicians in hollowed-out states.
Britain must therefore do what it has always done; prevent the emergence of an unholy alliance and over-mighty power on the Continent.  However, Britain can only do that if London takes a strategic and historical view of Europe rather than the narrow, short-term, parochial view so far offered.  What is happening is far more than a simple issue of cost.  Be it Phillip II of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser or indeed Hitler, Britain’s job has always been to prevent the hegemony of any one single power over Europe in whatever form it casts itself.  The rhetoric might have changed but behind all the Euro-speak the same old European geopolitics are at work and Britain as ever must lead the resistance.  That is the kind of leadership for which millions of concerned Europeans are looking to Britain.  It is something past British leaders would have immediately understood, but which hitherto has been utterly absent from your own leadership.
Britain must also fight for a Europe that again looks up and out to the world.  The killing of two European citizens yesterday by Islamists and the kidnapping of forty others is but one example of a European strategic neighbourhood replete with dangers.  You were right to support France’s efforts to stabilise Mali, although Paris deserves far more.  Sadly, the flip-side of the Eurozone crisis is a Europe that is fast becoming neo-isolationist and neo-pacifist as evinced by the effective scrapping of credible armed forces in many European states.
In that light Britain’s agenda must be twofold.  First, to make pragmatic, common cause with all those who want to repatriate powers from Brussels, and that includes Germans, Dutch and many others.  Second, with France start to lead Europe back to strategic seriousness in what will be a dangerous instable European neighbourhood in a dangerous world. 
Yesterday I watched with interest your Fresh Start group of MPs present you with what a long and frankly not unreasonable list of ‘competences’ you wish to see returned to London from Brussels.  In essence they were asking for the return of many of the same powers that will be integrated in the coming EU treaty changes that will emerge after the September German elections.  However, unless such demands are embedded in the broader Euro-realist agenda I have outlined they will have no chance of being agreed.  Win the argument over principle and you may have some chance of winning the argument over particulars.
Winston Churchill once said, “every time Britain has to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea that we shall choose” Were life that easy.  Remember, Mr Cameron, Euro-Realism, not euro-scepticism tomorrow.  Good luck!
Yours sincerely,

Julian Lindley-French

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