Alphen, Netherlands. 28 October. Machiavelli once wrote; “States suddenly acquired, like all else that is produced and that grows up rapidly, can never have such root or hold as that the first storm which strikes then shall not overthrow them”. France’s President Hollande says the rise of Euro-sceptics could bring “regression and paralysis” (sounds like his government) whilst Italian Prime Minister Letta has warned that Euro-sceptics could win up to a third of seats in next May’s elections to the European Parliament. Both reflect the now ignoble elite European tradition of the ‘One Truth’ mantra – there is no alternative to more ‘Europe’…whatever the people think.
One Truth reflects the acuity of the existential battle between the nation-state (and its people) and hard-line integrationists and federalists who dominate Brussels and some national capitals. It is a struggle intensified by the profound lack of consensus between EU member-states over Europe’s future and a deepening split between those paying for the EU and those not.
One Truth also reveals a deeply insecure Euro-elite. Indeed, one can smell the faint, rotting odour of Spanish Inquisition hanging in Europe’s air these days as all and any critic of integration are dubbed ‘populist’, ‘nationalist’ or both by Europe's High Priests. To be accused of ‘populism’ or ‘nationalism’ in Europe is akin to being called a Fascist or Nazi. Indeed, I have found myself accused of being somehow in league with truly fascist nutters such as Greece’s Golden Dawn simply for expressing my legitimate concerns about the concentration of elite power in Europe.
One Truth is an old technique – quell debate over an important, controversial question by suggesting any criticism is an aberration in the face of ‘truth’. The most recent example of One Truth was the attempt by Britain’s last Labour Government to quash legitimate concerns over the hyper-immigration they oversaw as racist. By the time they admitted such concerns were legitimate the damage to social cohesion had been done.
Britain should be playing its traditional ‘hold on a bit’ role with Prime Minister David Cameron positioning himself as the champion of the disempowered concerned across Europe. However, Cameron again fails to see the bigger, strategic picture and is only acting on the most tactical, narrow and short-term of political impulses. In his January 2013 “Europe speech” Cameron laid out a series of principled battle-lines for the reform of Europe and the ending of blind integration. Since then he has been in retreat captured by Europe’s true power-broker Chancellor Merkel for whom further political integration is vital to impose discipline over the Eurozone, the only bit of the EU that really matters.
Sadly, any hope that Cameron had of driving forward a state-friendly reform agenda were killed at last week’s Brussels EU summit at a meeting he hosted for his fellow ‘reformists’ (I will not dwell on the utter hypocrisy of Europe’s leaders over ‘Snowden-gate’). The French Government flatly opposed any cull of EU regulations (now there’s a surprise) and afterwards Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Cameron had no chance. The now inevitable showdown between Britain and the rest of the EU just moved one step closer with the British faced with a simple choice; leave the EU or surrender.
Still, by way of responding to Cameron’s call for a regulation cull Commission President Barroso said some 5590 regulations had already been cut. However, Barroso failed to point out that the aforesaid regulations had been either temporary or obsolete whilst new regulations take the Commission into the very heart of state competence – finance, justice and even defence. Given Britain’s ‘constitutional lock’ on future integration the Commission is now looking at every possible way to deepen Europe by stealth. Watch this space!
This danger is reflected in a new report by the normally slavishly pro-EU Centre for European Reform which warns the European Commission that its job is not to act as captain for the integration team. It is refreshing to see a European think-tank for once not trumpeting the Commission’s line just so they can get their grubby hands on the next dollop of Commission (sorry my) cash.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes a ‘populist’ as “an adherent of a political party seeking to represent the whole of the people”. This is something President Hollande, Signor Letta and Mr Barroso would be well-advised to consider. Indeed, as Machiavelli wrote, “…a man who is accustomed to act in one particular way, never changes…However, when times change and no longer suit his ways, he is inevitably ruined”.
Blind integration and One Truth politics is the real danger to Europe’s liberty and democracy and millions of Europeans instinctively sense that. Therefore, Cameron, Rutte and other reformers need to start building a new pan-European movement of Euro-Realists before it is too late.
Off to Rome today if the storm here blows out...