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Europe – from hope to scepticism

17 May 2014

10:03 AM

17 May 2014

10:03 AM

In the lead up to next week’s European elections, voters seem to be disenchanted with the European Union. Around a quarter of the seats in the European parliament are expected to go to anti-EU or protest parties – almost double the proportion those groups won in the last elections five years ago. Ukip is in the lead in the UK and nearly a third of Britons support Nigel Farage and his campaign to take power away from Brussels.

When the European project first got going in the early 1950s, sceptics had concerns about sovereignty – but the combination of economic enticements with the objective of preventing war in Europe meant that most people thought unity was too good to miss out on. Six European countries got together to form the European Coal and Steel Community, creating a common market and neutralising competition. Even before it had been formed, The Spectator counselled the British government that it was already too late to start raising objections about compromising sovereignty:

The British Government must rid itself of its rather negative attitude… [It] bodes little good for independent relations between Britain and the new iron and steel community. There are already fears that the clauses in the treaty which permit the signatories to raise protective barriers against third parties in times of crisis might be awkward for British industry. Such a situation would be very dangerous, and the sooner the British Government and the new High Authority begin discussions about it the better.

In 1957, the six countries involved in the Coal and Steel Community signed up to the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community. Britain was faced with a choice: remain outside it and be faced with tough competition, or enter it and risk losing our special position with the United States and Commonwealth. Economics should trump sentiment, the magazine argued in an editorial.

Closer association with Europe, in spite of its economic side, is primarily a political gesture. If such organisations as the Coal and Steel Community are not steps on the way to an increasingly federal Europe they are nothing. To this process Britain has its contribution to make—a contribution which the existence of the Commonwealth only makes the greater. To hang on too long to the idea of special advantages to be gained from the US at a time when we are seriously threatened economically might be to lose the substance of power for the shadow. It would be a pity were Mr. Macmillan not to achieve the one positive aim his Government has set itself in the field of foreign affairs.


By the time Britain applied to get involved in the EEC in 1961, the other members were ready to strike a hard bargain. They anticipated any objections or demands that the then Lord Privy Seal Edward Heath might bring up and rejected them before he even got to the table.

So now it is Britain’s turn to move. On October 10 Mr. Heath and his team will have the delicate task of persuading the Six that their demands for special consideration will be reasonable—whilst at the same time leaving themselves the greatest possible margin for negotiation. If incentive were lacking, they need only recall that the Six…are not going to wait for Britain: every month will see a further consolidation of the Common Market, every Council session a new set of decisions which Britain can neither influence nor delay until she is a member.

He didn’t manage it – Charles de Gaulle vetoed this application. A decade later, when he was Prime Minister, Heath did sign Britain up to the EEC, but The Spectator was not enthusiastic.

It is not as if the Rome Treaty itself is negotiable, or being negotiated. The Treaty is written, and the Commissioners have for some years now been interpreting it. Those interpretations have the overriding force of supranational law: and one of the first acts the Commons would have to pass following accession would be an Act of Parliament declaring the precedence of Community over British statutory and common law…It has already been made plain as a pikestaff that the claim that in joining the EEC this country will suffer no loss of sovereignty nor any diminution of national identity is a dishonest and fraudulent claim which cannot be made by any responsible statesman conscious of his public duty.

The problem, argued John Vaizey in 1974, was that the Foreign Office had become obsessed with the Common Market.

What is paradoxical about this is not only that certain long-term interests may well have been jeopardised by the recent neglect of America and the Commonwealth by the United Kingdom, but also that Britain’s long term economic interests cannot be limited to the EEC…A Britain whose Foreign Office is mesmerised by getting agreement within the limited area of the European Economic Community is unlikely to be best aware of its own major diplomatic and strategic interests. It is at this sort of moment that the sentimental rot about feeling oneself to be a European is particularly dangerous, at least as dangerous as the previous mumbo-jumbo about the Commonwealth was. It is greatly to be hoped that the new government, when it takes office, will be more concerned with a shrewd and realistic assessment of British interests than with taking part in some enormous collective Western European folk myth.

Later on, after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which led to the establishment of a single currency, John Keegan looked back at the roots of Europe’s gradual federalisation process in an article entitled ‘From Albert Speer to Jacques Delors’.

To re-read the objections made in 1950-52 by French, Dutch, Belgian and even German constitutionalists to the intended nature of the Coal and Steel Community — that it required ‘jumblings of legislative, judicial and executive functions’, that its High Authority would be ‘autocratic’, its parliamentary assembly ‘powerless’ and its court an instrument of ‘economic review’, and that ‘a permanently outvoted member would not be able to threaten to withdraw’, in which case ‘how would unity be preserved if one member wanted to leave?’ and ‘how would the infidel be punished?’ — is to be carried not into the past but face to face with the present. The objections were not answered then. They have resurfaced to torment us now. If they are not met, and if constitutional measures are not framed to accommodate them while Britain — the one member state unafflicted by memories of occupation — holds the Community’s presidency, the EEC is unlikely to survive as an entity.

David Cameron has pledged to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU, but without compromising the common market. No one yet has found a way of securing economic union without cast iron rules that some feel compromise British sovereignty, but perhaps he’ll come up with something.

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Show comments
  • Mike

    Camerons pledge to hold a referendum on EU membership means nothing as he wont honor it. Perhaps if he’d grown some cajones, faced a debate with Farage and scored some points he might have some credence but he chickened out just like Milliband.

    If nothing else a severe beating at the polls is needed over the EU elections and then a General Election to draw out all the lying cowards from LibLabCon to stand up and be counted for once. UK politics isn’t a democracy with the whip system and it certainly isn’t with an unelected EU making 50% or more of our laws.

  • Bonkim

    Live in hope – Britain is a lone voice – and all the rest are culturally more European and more federalist. Britain will come out of this mess sooner or later.

  • global city
  • you_kid
    • global city

      Watermelons are as anti democratic as every other leftist ideological tribe…. so it is no surprise that you support the EU

      • you_kid

        Anti-democratic, lad – you peddle some tripe. Have fun in that little special educational needs world of yours.

        • Lucy Sky Diamonds

          And what good do the elections do? MEPs have no power.

          • you_kid

            May I suggest you discard thirty year old school knowledge and familiarise yourself with the ever so slight change of detail.

        • global city

          … someone who loved the undergraduate student politics world, but clearly wasn’t very good in it!

          Also, you clearly do not understand the creed you have latched onto.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Cameron’s changed his tune.

    He no longer talks about reforming the UK’s relationship with the EU – for the very good reason that foreign Kommissars, Merkel, Hollande and other European leaders have made it perfectly clear that it isn’t going to happen. They will not re-open the treaties and they will not give the UK “special terms.”

    Now Cameron talks about reform of the EU. Merkel has signalled that she’s prepared to consider some minor procedural changes, which will apply to the whole of the EU and/or those countries outside the Eurozone.

    That’s what he’s now aiming for.

    Any minor concessions will be dressed up as a major achievement and “fundamental reform” and he will assure us that the EU will no longer control this country.

    It will all be a load of hogwash and blatant propaganda.

    There are two ways to significantly change our relationship with the EU:
    1. Repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and leave. Parliament is Sovereign and can do this.

    2. Invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treachery and signal our intention to leave. During the ensuing 2 years, negotiate a Trade Only Treaty.
    Option 2 is the better.

    The British people never gave our Political Elite and Whitehall a mandate to transfer our Sovereignty to the EU.

    We want it back.

    • you_kid

      You never had it, you cannot demand back what you never had.

      Only the Magna Carta elite could and they have gambled their monies away, socialised their losses via QE and in step 3 raised their asset base by 20% since 2013. Sorry to disappoint.

    • Denis_Cooper

      “One of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s closest allies has firmly rejected David Cameron’s proposal to extricate the UK from the EU’s commitment to “ever closer union”, accusing the prime minister of putting it forward in a “desperate attempt to appease Ukip”.

      The comments from Gunther Krichbaum, head of the German government’s committee on EU affairs, will cast serious doubt on Cameron’s ability to deliver on a pledge that he said a week ago was the “most important” change he wanted to see in the UK’s relations with Europe.

      The remarks, backed by other senior German politicians, come before Thursday’s European elections in which the Tories are trying to defuse the Ukip challenge with promises to renegotiate the terms of UK membership in the runup to an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.

      A week ago, Cameron said in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr that he would insist the UK was no longer bound by the commitment to “ever closer union”, which is one of the core principles of the EU rulebook.

      But Krichbaum, a Christian Democrat, told the Observer that in his view the other member states would not agree to the demand, which was central to the operation of the EU … ”

      “Elmar Brok, a Christian Democrat MEP, said: “It seems ironic that Cameron is focusing his calls for EU reforms on the phrase ‘ever closer union’, given that it was only put in the Maastricht treaty thanks to Britain in the first place. At the time, we would have preferred the term ‘federal Europe’, but in Britain that phrase was too problematic … ”

      But of course it was only reiterated in the Maastricht Treaty, it was already in the very first line of the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

  • tres66

    It seems to me that the Con-Lib-Lab plan is don’t worry because:
    1.. the EU will soon be forgotten about by a bored population after the election.
    2.. The Scots won’t break up the UK.
    They haven’t got a plan B.

  • The_Missing_Think

    So my real life observations about the physics of tie-wraps and wire-cutters get Team Spectator deleting things do they?

    Nail on head then, pray tell more?

  • HookesLaw

    An economic union needs rules. Any trade agreement needs rules. But what is at issue is the political aspect. An economic union needs relatively minimal political impact.
    A currency union is a different thing.
    We are not part of a currency union. Unless labour are elected we will not be. The eurozone is a different matter and taxation and political integration will play an increasing part in the Eurozone’s EU members. Thats why the rules need renegotiating and clarifying.
    We cannot ignore the EU even if we were out of it. If we were to straight leave then we would be open to manipulation in trying to retain the trade advantages. Our best bet is to renegotiate from within as part of the Eurozone changes that are inevitably coming.

    • Alexsandr

      yes but the EU wont negotiate will they. they will give cameron some sops so he can come back in triumph and tell us all to vote to stay in the EU
      Wilson did it in 1975.
      but we know that trick now.

    • Lady Magdalene

      Our best bet is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treachery and signal our intention to leave. During the ensuing 2 years, the EU will be only too willing to negotiate a Trade Treaty.

      You cannot compromise over Sovereignty, Democracy and the right to self-governance.

    • global city

      Which is precisely what the whole Euro project is intended to further.


      Apologies for the mad man’s caps!

  • Alexsandr

    well done Molly
    most of us had sussed this years ago.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “David Cameron has pledged to reform the UK’s relationship with the EU”

    Actually he has pledged rather more than that, although some might prefer to forget it: he has pledged to transform the EU, not just reform our relationship with it.

    “This is an ambitious agenda for a new European Union. Delivering it will take time and patience, as well as strong relationships with our key allies and goodwill – not shouting from the sidelines. It will require a negotiation with our European partners. Some changes will best be achieved by alterations to the European treaties – others can be achieved by different means.

    But when we achieve it, we will have transformed the European Union and Britain’s relationship with it. I would then campaign for Britain to remain in this reformed EU in 2017.”

    So if/when he comes back from Brussels saying “Game set and match for Britain”,
    as per John Major at the time of Maastricht, we will be looking not just for minor tweaks and temporary opt-outs for the UK, we will be looking for radical treaty changes which transform the EU as a whole, creating a “new” EU.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Well you know what they say::

      If you are going to tell a lie, tell a whopper

  • keith

    the last paragraph says it all, are you holding your breath, don’t bother

  • Adam Carter

    It is true that many voters in Europe are disenchanted with the EU.
    It is also true that the controlling bureaucrats and commissars of the EU don’t much care about this.
    THAT is the problem with the EU, and THAT is why we must leave. As it stands we cannot remove from office those who make our laws.

  • The_Missing_Think

    “No other party can register the same (or in our opinion, confusingly similar) identity marks that are already registered. Identity marks are also protected on ballot papers. This is to stop voters mistaking one party or candidate for another when they vote.”

    “Once a party has registered, no other party can register their name or, in our opinion, a very similar name on the register.”

    So naturally:

    “An Independence from Europe”

    “UK Independence Now”

    And on the London doorstep… “UKEPP”

    And the leaflets in UKIP’s colours at the Eastleigh by election?

    Everything in Juntaland, that controls raw political power, everything, is descretly rigged.

    • Span Ows

      …and all led by a disgruntled ex UKIPper; talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

      • The_Missing_Think

        Probably just another long-term sleeper plant, credit where credit is due, the Juntaist are very slick operators, they run rings ’round most lion bunnies.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Some of us had suspicions about that chap long before he left UKIP.

        • The_Missing_Think

          Raw power GE poll.

          73.5% Ukip
          7.6% Conservatives
          7.6% Labour
          5.3% Undecided
          4.6% Green Party
          1.5% Liberal Democrats


          No ballot boxes ‘secured’ with tie-wraps (selotape), or long overnight storage with that poll Denis.

          • Denis_Cooper

            I’ve just voted three times in that poll; nothing comes up to tell me that I can’t vote more than once, and if I wanted to spend the time doing it I expect I could get the LibDems in the lead. Obviously it would be easier if I sent the link to friends who could also vote repeatedly to boost the LibDems.

            As I happens I know somebody who is a local presiding officer for the elections on Thursday, and on Tuesday when they all meet for a briefing he’s going to ask what arrangements have been made for the secure storage of the ballot boxes from Thursday night until Sunday morning when the count starts.

            • The_Missing_Think

              “I’ve just voted three times in that poll… I expect I could get the LibDems in the lead.”

              Let’s see you do it then… then we’d >>know<>evidence<< rather than presumption, that the software in question, doesn't have IP algorithm safeguards in it. It's called bench-testing, it's a lot, lot harder work, than your casual presumption technique.

              But more imporantly, I also know for a fact, that wire cutters can snip through tie-wraps in one or two seconds… do… you… despute… this.. yes… or… no?

              Come on… YES OR NO?

              And councils aren't stuffed with pe-ce Leftist like Telemachus, that happily stoop to any depths imaginable, and beyond, to win the ‘moral’ high ground?

              Do you, and all other readers, use metal padlock devices on your cars, bicycles and homes, or pieces of f***ing string?

              Right… so why are our ballot boxes secured with bits of string in the first place?

              Huh clever-clogs?

              • Denis_Cooper

                I’ll just say to you again what I said to you before: I am not going to allow you to waste my time.

                • The_Missing_Think

                  The usual, can’t cope with reality sprint then?

                  One or two seconds… yes or no?

              • Penny

                There is a more notable police presence around on polling day. The public may not see them as they only pay a single visit to the polling station, but they patrol each of them over the course of the day to ensure no intimidation is occurring and the political parties are not breaking electoral rules.

                Of course, I don’t know what will happen to these boxes but there’s a chance that there might be some police involvement.

                • The_Missing_Think

                  I’ve not mentioned day-time security, can you deal with the very valid, true life observations, and subsequent questions I make?

                  Q. Why are our ballot boxes – worth 100s of billions over a 5 year cycle – secured with bits of string overnight?

                  Identicle to Zimbabwe ones… but very inferior to Indian ones.

                • Penny

                  No, I can’t. But why don’t you contact your local council to find out what safeguards will be in place?

                • The_Missing_Think

                  You see Penny, laws mean nothing to these savage elites.

            • The_Missing_Think

              “The UKIP Independence Party has soared to 61 percent in the East of England according to the latest ComRes poll for the Independent and Sunday Mirror.”


  • @PhilKean1


    It does rather look like the Liberal-left establishment found a way to nobble UKIP.

    I was concerned this week when I saw a similar sounding name to UKIP’s at the TOP of the ballot paper, with UKIP’s positioned right down at the bottom. It looks as blatant a case of state-sponsored electoral rigging as one is ever likely to see.

    This will surely cost UKIP thousands of votes that will be mistakenly cast. The power of the establishment is wide-ranging and determined.

    • Span Ows
    • Smithersjones2013

      Except the bright spark who decided to create this ‘party of independence, was a deselected UKIP MEP (Mike Nattrass) who failed the UKIP selection criteria. Given his infantile shenanigans it would seem UKIP were right to ditch him.

      That said given the truly amateur nature of the name chosen by Nattrass I suspect far more will see through it than some might hope (I’m not referring to you) There are plenty of things that the establishment can be crucified for but this really isn’t one of them……..

      On the other hand in my part of Kent UKIP were the only party to get their literature out before the postal votes were delivered. Labour and Greens literature was delivered well over a week after postal ballots were sent out (and the general tendency is to return them completed almost immediately after receipt) chances are UKIP will have prospered if that is a widespread .phenomena and given the Euros understandably are centrally controlled there is no reason to believe that wasn’t the case.

      • Penny

        The LibDems tend to be first out of the gate when it comes to getting their campaign literature through the door. This year, however, I’ve not yet had their leaflet but I’ve had every other party;’s (including some I’ve never had before and some I’ve never even heard of). The absence of the LD’s has surprised me.

        Anyhow! Where I think UKIP may prosper is that EU elections create less of an impetus to vote than do locals and GE’s. With regard to the latter two, most local activists work their socks off to get the vote out on the day, but do not do the same for EU elections. These are very much more reliant on voter determination and/or an individual’s view on voting responsibility. I suspect that, due to the muck-raking campaign we’ve seen of late, UKIP supporters may have the edge over the other parties simply because of their anger and determination.

        • Fergus Pickering

          One hopes that even Liberal Democrats do occasionally feel shame.

      • Wessex Man

        He’s backed by big money though from Unison and others and has managed to send out leaflets over the entire country and talks the language of re-nationalisation of every back to good old days as he sees it!

  • Robert_Eve

    ‘Seem to be disenchanted’???

  • Frank

    Someone should do a proper study into the FCO’s wonderful gift for getting on the wrong side of every argument.
    As for Dave’s belief that he can reform the EU, it is possibly touching (his self-belief) but it is misplaced. What he doesn’t seem to understand that the key issue to most people with an interest, is the loss of sovereignty (not getting the right to alter some aspects of how the yoke fits our neck). Yes, we now have a clutch of very un-inspiring people in parliament, but at least we can petition them, or sack them in a general election. The EU is a modern version of arbitary rule – it seems pretty clear that Dave will go down because of his lack of comprehension over this issue.

    • Richard N

      I can’t believe people give even a moment’s credibility to Cameron’s promise of ‘renegotiations’ with his masters in the EU and Germany.

      What else could Cameron say, than to make this claim – which as usual with him, relates to something AFTER the election?

      If he wins, that ‘promise of renegotiations’ will hit the inside of his trash can as fast as did his ‘cast-iron guarantee’ of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

  • Shazza

    I reached my tipping point this morning when on reading the Mail Online’s expose of the EU gravy train and the contempt for taxpayers’ money with which they lavish generously on themselves.

    I was going to vote Conservative on Thursday but it’s Ukip for me now.

    Enough is enough. Even if Cameron can re-negotiate our relationship with the EU, the gravy train will just get bigger and more expensive. That won’t change.

    • Span Ows

      Yes, re your middle sentence, I came to the same conclusion recently. Seeing the MSM and main political parties’ increasingly desperate flapping makes me more convinced.

      • global city

        The money is unimportant, neither is the corruption… the lack of democracy and the central control built into the project are fundamentally evil.

        Why would anybody support our continued in this freedom sapping project?

    • Jonathan Burns

      Unfortunately the Daily Mail still supports the Tories and not UKip.

      • Mike

        The Mail of late has caught the liberal disease of Doublethink by trying to promote two contradictory views at the same time. We’ve had concerted attacks & smears against Farage & UKIP when previously the Mail regularly exposed the EU as an undemocratic costly piece of social engineering. No doubt Tory support trumps a dysfunctional & corrupt EU just as a race card for wet liberals trumps crimes carried out by ethnic groups. However, the Mails history they try to bury is quite revealing as to their morals.

        In the 1930’s the owner of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere, was a friend of Benito & Adolf and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the early 1930s. Rothermere predicted that “The minor misdeeds of individuals would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime was
        already bestowing upon 1930’s Germany”.

        Perhaps the Daily Mail really wants unelected totalitarians to run Europe as they tried to before !

    • telemachus

      Remember that this emotional decision has consequences over and above Europe which even Farage’s most fervent supporters acknowledge he cannot let the UK leave without damaging the economy
      Farage has made some deeply offensive utterances about the Romanians these last 3 days
      These give the lie to protestations that he is not racist
      He is in truth worse than the BNP in that he tries to deny his motives to try to attract the reasonable

      • MirthaTidville

        ooohh worried arn`t we…..Yes Farage is coming after your lot as well, and from what I`m hearing in the North, quite sucessfully too

        • telemachus

          I suspect Labour in the North had a few BNP adherents
          Farage will do Labour a favour if he cleanses the Party of that Cancer

          • Wessex Man

            tele you are not even there in the big league of labour loving propaganda, in all regional papers Saturday 17th, Offficiers of that great democratic organisation UNISON have all sent in standardised letters which are works of of propagand to equal the Nazis and Commies.

            All complete B******* and spite but that’s no more than we expect from Comrade Red Len!

          • Mike

            All parties have had racists in their midst to a greater or lesser extent but statistically, LibLabCon are the parties of sexual perversions and pedophiles especially when they sweep it under the carpet.

      • Mike

        1/ Considering we import more from the EU than we export to the EU it should in theory work in our favour if we left the EU and they put trade barriers up. Its simple arithmetic which you’re obviously lacking in.

        2/ Considering most pick pocketing and feral kids stealing from the public and at cash points are carried out by Romanians, that is an established fact not an offensive utterance.

        3/ If stating the facts is inconvenient, then thats your problem but it doesn’t make Farage a racist. Its those like Gordon Brown who famously called one of his supporters a bigot who are the real bigots and racists, not those telling it as it is like Farage.

        There’s nothing Nigel Farage has done or said that makes him a racist and just because you’re in denial over awkward facts is no excuse to label him a racist.