Alphen, Netherlands. 17 April. Have I missed something? When did Britain or indeed any EU member-state formally hand-over its foreign and security policy to Brussels? Today a meeting will take place in Geneva at which the American, Russian, Ukrainian and EU foreign ministers will sit down to discuss the current crisis. As far as I can see this is a first and establishes a dangerous precedent for the conduct of the foreign policy of Europeans by the EU. Indeed, it is precisely the kind of functional precedent European federalists use to prosecute creeping federalism. It must stop as it is neither effective nor efficient and certainly not legitimate.
In AD 46 at the end of the Roman Civil War Cato the Younger warned that “Necessity is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves”. He was speaking as he was about to commit suicide having watched Pompey and Caesar destroy the Roman Republic in the name of Rome. Don’t worry as I am not going to fall on my sword even though Sheffield United did lose 5-2 to Hull in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last Saturday.
Cato’s words were prophetic as Rome moved to greatness under the emperors but only at the expense of liberty. The headlong rush to give ever more power to Brussels in the name of necessity is a similar such political sleight of hand. The strange thing is that national leaders allow this to happen behind the backs of their people. I can fully understand why officials in London’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office want to do this. The FCO as an institution has lost all faith in Britain and its leaders and believe to a man and woman that Little Britain can only survive in the comforting bureaucratic embrace of an ‘over-mighty’ EU.
When William Hague, my fellow Yorkshireman, became Foreign Secretary I thought “na then, him at’t Foreign Office will give them southern diplomatic plonkers some reet Yorkshire nous” (Translation; Mr Hague will ensure Foreign Office Mandarins protect the British national interest). I could not have been more wrong (it happens once every five centuries or so). Hague has gone completely native by allowing his Mandarins to convince him that it is in the British interest to hand over foreign and security policy to the EU in the midst of a crisis for it marks the beginning of the end of a distinctive British foreign and security policy.
Some of you will no doubt be accusing me at this point of falling into the grip of those who equate the EU with the dark arts. Not a bit of it. I am more than willing to see the EU in the room with the big three. That is precisely what happened in the E3/EU+3 talks with Iran last year. The EU joined Britain, France and Germany in the room with the US, China and Russia.
So, can the EU move to greatness? Indeed, if an EU foreign policy could ensure European effectiveness then at least a case could be made for a European foreign policy even if it fails to meet my standards for representative democracy and legitimacy. However, an EU foreign policy is anything but effective. Baroness Ashton (bless her soon to be departed Lancastrian heart) far from representing the collected and collective will of the EU and its peoples (i.e. me) will in fact say very little that would convince Moscow of Europe’s collective will. At the same time she is by extension neutering the only voices in Europe to which Moscow might listen because of their vestigial Realpolitik power – Britain, France and Germany.
EU foreign policy paradoxically is about the representation of the weak at the expense of the strong. Indeed, an EU foreign and security policy is less not more than the sum of its parts as it reflects neither power nor policy. Ashton will therefore sit in the Geneva room (I know which one) with twenty-eight hopelessly split EU member-states sitting on her shoulders plus the European Parliament and the European Commission (the EU’s twenty-ninth and thirtieth states respectively). She will say precisely nothing of substance.
What is more important is that her sole presence marks the beginning of the end of the Republic as represented by the nation-states and the creation of a form of horribly inefficient and ineffective empire which will make me less safe, less secure, less free with less of a voice. Like Sulla, Pompey, Caesar and Augustus before her she claims (not personally) ever more power unto the EU in the name of the very Republic she is destroying.
Therefore, handing European conduct of the Ukraine crisis to the EU is a dangerous oxymoron. Indeed, an EU foreign and security policy can neither be effective nor efficient let alone legitimate because it does not reflect the very thing vital to crisis management - reality.