Friday, 31 March 2017

Europe's Grand Opportunity

So article 50 has finally been triggered , what it will mean for the future of Britain, Europe and regional integration at large?. It never really occurred to me until now that the Europhiles are in truth wasting a grand opportunity and I’ll tell you why. After seeing the arguments for and against BREXIT, I have held that Britain leaving the European Union might just be the best thing for Britain however of late I have also been thinking that Britain leaving the EU actually is actually what is best for the rest of Europe as well. I know, I sound absolutely crazy to even think of such a thing but hear me out, and then take a good look at the evidence to decide for yourself.

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 The European Integration process didn’t occur overnight, instead it was decades in the making and started all the way back to the European Coal and Steel Commission with 6 states in 1951, over the years this has grown and evolved to the European Economic Community and later to the European Union we know today, the question is where does Britain fall in all this?. For all the strides it has made, European integration is not yet completed, it started out based on functional cooperation but then evolved into a regime and later still started operated on a neo-functional principle. According to political scientist Ernst B. Haas in his 1958 work The uniting of Europe: political, social, and economic forces. The rise of functional cooperation between states will lead to cooperation in other areas thus deepening integration between countries in a particular region, this he called the “spill over effect”, according to him, for any union of states to truly work then states must be willing to partially surrender their sovereignty to a pooled body in order to serve the greater good of the region. This is currently where the EU is at today, as the evolution from a single commission to a supranational entity makes it the most advanced experiment in regional integration to date.

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That being said, the EU isn’t satisfied with being governed by functional or neo-functional ideal but wishes to move one step further into full blown federalism, already the wheels of this have been set in motion with the European Parliament, the EU Commission, the European Council, the ECJ and a plethora of accompanying institutions, they now have a common currency, central bank and trade policy but the dream of a federal Europe is not complete as yet, there more left to be done in order for the Europhiles to achieve their ultimate ambition which is a United States of Europe.
Ironically enough, the term United States of Europe was first coined by revered British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who was a firm supporter of the idea of a United Europe, as he believed that this would be the best way to avert war on the continent when he made the quote “It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”  Those who would use this quote to justify why Britain should remain in the EU however are those who focus on this line while failing to  recall the rest of the 1946 speech which also had the following to say “In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia - for then indeed all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.” This then goes to show a clear evidence that while Churchill did advocate for a USE, even back then he knew that if it was going to succeed then it must needs exclude Britain as it is clear that Britain’s future lies elsewhere.

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And was he wrong to assume this? Not at all, history has shown that every attempt to bring Europe together whether by coercion, sheer force of will or voluntary democratic means has always been foiled by Great Britain,  stretching as far back as the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 whereas the rest of European potentates were one by one signing on to this ground-breaking document pledging non aggression and respect each other’s sovereignty, neither England, Scotland nor Ireland (then 3 separate kingdoms under a single monarch) were present even while their continental neighbours were. Later on at the rise of the Holy Alliance, while the great powers of Austria, Russia and Prussia were steadily increasing their cooperation to signify the rise of a new order in Europe due to fall of both the Holy Roman Empire and Napoleon’s continental system, Britain stood outside of the fray and steadily refused to join any such agreement even while the rest of Europe were declaring their acquiescence to its principles.  And while it is true that Britain did cooperate in the 1815 congress of Vienna that created the concert of Europe it did not gain as much as the great powers on the continent itself because its interest lied closer with its imperial holdings elsewhere than with Europe itself. Eventually as the European Coal and Steel Commission was being upgraded to the European Economic Community, while many other states joined with little internal fuss, it was not the same with Britain which spent a long time debating whether or not they should even sign on in the first place and even afterward, the mood in the UK itself was still one of half-heartedness where the UK was never truly committed to a united Europe like say a France or Germany.
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Nothing more explicitly showed this fact than in 2002 when the European Union decided to unveil its new currency the Euro. While one by one, European countries abandoned their national currency to join the Eurozone, the United Kingdom steadfastly refused to let go of its pound sterling. It must be noted that Britain isn’t the only EU outside of the Eurozone but it is the only country qualified to join to Eurozone (pre BREXIT) that has not done so, the other non-Eurozone countries are kept out of the Eurozone because they do not meet the economic convergence criteria set by the European Central Bank, Britain however CHOOSE to keep its monetary sovereignty, thus again showing their traditional lack of commitment to fully immersing itself in the EU.

Another thing that depicts Britain’s unwillingness to join a United States of Europe is the way they view themselves in the world, In addition to Europe, Britain’s foreign policy has always heavily featured its Atlantic Connection and its relationship with the Commonwealth. Britain wasn’t the only European power to build a colonial empire, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and even the Belgians did exactly the same thing. But none of these former colonial rulers kept the link with former vassals like Britain did, sure the French has la Francophonie while Spain and Portugal tried the Latin Union but neither of them reached the same level of influence of the Anglosphere and even while Britain had one foot in the European Union, the Commonwealth continued to grow and thrive. Its special relationship with the United States is nothing to be taken lightly either, beginning with F.D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, relations on both sides of the Atlantic have been for the mostly excellent, with a few ups and downs of course but the United States isn’t likely to forget that Great Britain alone supported their decision to go into Iraq while the rest of Europe decried it as criminal (whether these allegations have any merit isn't the  point here, this is not a discourse in international, law), the point is that the notion of CANZUK and its connection with the rest of the Anglosphere remains strong. And while some overeager enthusiasts have been banding the notion of Empire 2.0 about, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it happening anytime soon, but the very fact that this notion does exist is testament to the fact of how Britain views themselves as being separate from Europe.

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What exactly is the point I’m trying to make by all of this? It is quite simple, for the proposed United States of Europe to be transferred from idea to reality, it must (I repeat must) exclude Great Britain, centuries of precedent have shown time and time again that every attempt to unite the states of Europe under a single flag (whether by force as Napoleon tried or by choice as the EU is doing now) has always been thwarted by the Brits and its interest. It is clear time and time again, that Britain’s interest lay outside the continent, anybody ever wondered why prior to World War I, while the UK had the world’s largest navy and biggest empire, Germany and Austria-Hungary  still had more influence in Europe than they did?  Its not because they couldn’t project power in Europe, its simply because they didn’t want to. France and Germany should take Churchill’s advice, forget about trying to bring Britain into the fold and use their influence to work to integrate the rest of Europe even further. Europhiles shouldn’t weep over BREXIT, rather they should rejoice as now a great obstacle to European statehood has finally been removed as it would have never worked with Britain in the mix, not in the sense that the federalist dreamed of. If the federalist really want to seize their grand opportunity then now is not the time for Europe to be talking about losses but instead use this as the perfect opportunity capitalise and take the dream of a United Europe forward into the future.

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