The End of British Democracy
Rodney Atkinson is one of the most highly praised political economists in Britain, an occasional adviser to ministers, and the author of some 60 articles and policy papers and several books, including The Failure of the State, The Emancipated Society, Europe’s Full Circle and, with Norris McWhirter, Treason at Maastricht.
In a July 1997 debate in the German Parliament, the then-ruling coalition had a motion passed which referred to the final achievement of a post-war peace settlement in Europe. Britons and Americans had assumed this had been achieved in 1945—but this is not the view of that German political class which has constructed today’s European Union on the broken bones of those democratic nations re-established by the Allies after the war.
“German Europe,” in the form of the “European” Union, representing a small minority of European states, is already turning back the clock and re-establishing that economic and political corporatism and collectivism which led to European and worldwide conflict in the 1930s.
Furthermore, the democratic destruction which has taken place has been aided by the United States which, like Churchill, uses the term “a united Europe” in the sense of European nations being united in friendship—not in a single state. But the corporatist, protectionist and authoritarian nature of Continental politics has a different vision, which is as dangerous to the United States and Britain today as it was the 1930s.
It is also unfortunate that U.S. industrial corporations are aiding the bulldozer tactics of the European Union in the name of mere business convenience. General Motors sees the abolition of the pound, the Bank of England and the remains of sovereign government in the United Kingdom as a price worth paying for their factories’ profitability. This is chillingly reminiscent of the critical support for the Nazi economy and war machine by large U.S. multinationals in the 1930s.
It is doubly unfortunate that nato, 80 percent of whose effectiveness is due to American weaponry and funding, is being shamelessly used as a battering ram to extend the power of the European Union further east and south. The recent German-inspired breakup of Yugoslavia is a classic case. From their recognition of Croatia in 1989 to the arming of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army in order to provoke Serbia, the European Union has used nato to achieve Germany’s historical aims.
When Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Rome and took the United Kingdom into the “European Common Market,” his government assured the British people that they were entering a common market of sovereign (i.e. self-governing) nations. “It is this simple economic concept,” as the government said at the time, “that is at the heart of the [European] Community. The impact of Community law is by definition confined to essentially economic matters. There is no question of eroding essential national sovereignty.”
In fact, Heath signed away (in the infamous section 2 of the 1972 European Act) the right of the British people and Parliament to govern themselves. It was not evident at the time, nor indeed for many years to come, since the fundamental rights ceded by Heath to “Europe” were only applied to most areas of policy-making slowly and covertly over many decades. There were big leaps like the Single European Act of 1986 (hardly debated in Parliament and not at all in the media) and, of course, the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. But throughout the 27 years of British membership, the so-called European Court of Justice has daily made law for the people, companies and governments of the United Kingdom.
The signing of treaties by 6, 12 or, as now, 15 governments meant that agreement could only be achieved with vague, ill-defined and ambiguous wording. It therefore falls daily to the European Union’s “court” to arbitrate and, in so doing, make new law which overrides all national jurisdiction.
This makes the use of international treaty law to create the European Union all the more disgraceful. For treaty law has always been used to regulate the relations between sovereign nations. (That is why “Crown prerogative” powers are granted by the queen to ministers to sign such treaties without any prior parliamentary approval.) But the European treaties completely undermined the internal Constitution of the United Kingdom. Once signed they were presented to Parliament as a fait accompli.
It was Douglas Hurd, who signed with Francis Maude the Maastricht Treaty, who said in Parliament, “Parliament has no power to overturn the Maastricht Treaty.” This is hardly what the populations or even the parliamentarians of the EU member states had in mind. But we know what Mr. Heath had in mind, for when asked on bbc’s Question Time on November 1, 1990, “The single currency, a United States of Europe, was all that in your mind when you took Britain in?” Heath replied, “Of course, yes.”
Now that the British Parliament, democracy and 800-year-old Constitution have been largely wiped out, it is not unusual to hear those who, like Edward Heath, planned that destruction, admitting their long-held aims.
But some were more open earlier. Raymond Barre, the former prime minister of France, said, “I never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account.” Claude Cheysson, the former French foreign secretary, said, “We could never have constructed Europe by democratic means.” How true!
Closer to home, Professor Arnold Toynbee, who held sensitive posts in the Foreign Office in both world wars and was for a long time director of studies at the Institute of International Affairs in London, spoke the following disgraceful words at a conference in Denmark in the 1930s: “It is just because we are attacking the principle of national sovereignty that we keep protesting our loyalty so loudly. And all the time we are denying with our lips what we are doing with our hands.”
A group of British parliamentarians formed a so-called Design for Europe Committee in 1947. Their anti-democratic and secret intent was spelled out: “No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifices which any adequate plan must involve. The people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their defenses.” And in the modern era it was Paddy Ashdown (reflecting the praise heaped on the last great “integrator” of Europe, Adolf Hitler, by the Liberals’ Lloyd George and Lord Lothian in the 1930s) who said that “I do not believe that the nation-state is anything other than a recent historical invention. I do not believe it will always remain.”
Thanks to the covert, undemocratic machinations of multinational corporations, the Brussels bureaucracy and a small coterie of Westminster politicians, our nation and its democracy have indeed been largely destroyed. For today our government no longer controls who can enter, reside in or vote in Britain. The British passport has been replaced by a “European Community” passport; our Parliament’s laws are frequently overturned by European institutions; most EU directives are rushed by our British legislators, and some 30,000 regulations have been imposed by bypassing Westminster altogether; so many “common policy” areas have been created that majority voting has completely emasculated the rights of the British government to govern in the UK; the production of our agriculture and fishing industries is entirely controlled by Brussels, whose rulers can even ban our exports to the world in general; historical protections under Magna Carta and habeas corpus have been jeopardized by the rights of other European countries to have British citizens automatically arrested.
This process was well-summarized by the words of a Tory Member of European Parliament, Bill Newton Dunn, who said, “When ministers go to Brussels, they leave their democratic baggage behind them.” The national veto right now is so restricted that no British government has ever used it, in case there is a cost to be paid in areas where there is majority voting. “If Britain wants to be at the heart of Europe, there is a price to be paid. That price comes in the form of [the end of its] budget rebate, and we need new movement on tax. If the British do not give in on these areas there will have to be concessions elsewhere—for instance, with a big cut in EU regional aid to Ulster or Scotland.”
This not-unusual tirade by a mere civil “servant” is made more ludicrous by the fact that there is of course no such thing as European Union “aid.” Britain pays—even with its rebate—billions of pounds more into the EU coffers than we get out. Indeed, in Ulster the true political nature of the European Union “project” was revealed. The European Commission, having financed a company there, pointed out that unless that company flew the EU flag they were unlikely to receive any “help” again.
The Regional Principle
Perhaps the most insidious of all the attempts by the European Union to extinguish the once-free, self-governing nations of Europe is the so-called regional principle. The device was a favorite of European fascism in the 1940s, when national governments were bypassed and regional committees reported directly to Berlin.
In the European Union this system has gone one step further: The very borders of the nation-states have been extinguished. The leader of Kent County Council is now president of a Euroregion comprising Kent, Nord Pas de Calais, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The chairman will be French or Belgian. The EU authorities are attempting the same in Sussex, linking East Sussex to a “partnership” with Seine Maritime and Somme with a French “project manager” (how forensic and managerial these political takeovers sound) installed in Lewes County Hall.
The chief executive of Welwyn Hatfield Council recently described how a small team of self-selected local authority chief executives of Eastern Area (consisting of Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedforshire) now dealt directly with Brussels. This bypasses not only Westminster but the voters and councillors of the over 40 local authorities whose bureaucrats were engaged in this “project.”
One lady writing to me from East Sussex noted that “The Regional Development Agency, Regional Voluntary Chamber, Rural Development Agency, Town Partnerships, Twinning Committees are taking over—none are elected.”
At a recent international conference in Oxford, Jan Myrdal, the distinguished Swedish Social Democrat and intellectual (whose parents, uniquely in the world, were both Nobel Prize winners) noted that “In 1943 the Oberburgermeister of Munich spoke of how strong municipal self-government was in Germany—the municipalities as the cornerstone of society, etc. This is the way they organized it—the only thing was that there were no elections.”
Today in the EU there are scores of new funding bodies for urban development, for academic research, for small businesses, whose main aim is not to help them but to destroy national organizations by promoting Pan-European structures and Brussels control.
The most insidious is the town-twinning program, where a suggested oath of loyalty to the European Union was proposed and caused much anger in Britain. The instruction in the official European Union document was, “Whatever version [of the oath] is eventually used must make clear that European unification is the prime aim of and reason for the twinning.”
This political corruption of all the democratic and parliamentary virtues to which the British people are accustomed has been accompanied (as one might expect) by a massive economic corruption at the very heart of the European institution. The regular annual loss of up to £6 billion (us$9.1 billion) by fraud and mismanagement in the European Commission has produced no change.
The truly obnoxious nature of that corruption can be seen in the treatment of the individuals who have had the courage to expose it. Paul van Buitenen, the European Audit Commission member who leaked the details, was taken by an employee of the European Commission to view some guns—very subtle. Bernard Connolly, who was head of the Commission’s euro department and who wrote The Rotten Heart of Europe, was excluded from the commission buildings, his picture was put up in public corridors, he was ordered—illegally—not to leave the country, his phone was tapped, his wife was followed and received many nuisance calls, and his house was broken into.
The One-Currency Trap
Throughout the slow and debilitating erosion of democratic nationhood by the European Union (representing incidentally a mere 15 of the 42 countries of Europe) the political rhetoric has been characterized by euphemism. We should be part of a “common market” (when in fact our entire Constitution was being fatally undermined). We had to be “at the heart of Europe” (when anyone who glanced at a map and had a passing knowledge of British history would know that we are on the edge of Europe. But we are at the center of the English-speaking world, of the Commonwealth, of the world’s time zones and culturally placed between Europe and America and geographically between the two great superpowers). We needed a “single market” to ensure fair trade (when the secret emphasis was on the word single as a prelude to a single currency, a single tax regime, a single government and hence the final abolition of the nation-states themselves).
The real final slice of this salami is the single European currency, which means the abolition of the pound, the Bank of England and what remains of our right to national self-government. For no country can be truly free without its own currency. The Nazis, when they invaded other countries, fixed their currency rates and set up a European central bank as a prelude to establishing a single European currency. By contrast, the first step of those countries freed from the tyranny of Soviet communism was to create their own currency.
And no state which has its own currency—as the European Union now has—can afford to let its various provinces control their own spending and taxation—no more than Yorkshire or Sussex or Wales can make those decisions independently of London. Should the United Kingdom adopt the euro, the European Union will not just “control our interest rates and economy”: There will be no such thing as British interest rates or the British economy.
The pound sterling—as the distinguished German banker Hans Tietmeyer has admitted—is the star of European currencies. It is the only one to exist in the same form for 250 years. And it has far surpassed the German currency in terms of stability. In 1921 there were 64 Reichsmarks to the U.S. dollar. Two years later there were 4 trillion Reichsmarks to the U.S. dollar. Some currency! Some stability!
Britain flirted with the single European currency when we joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. The result was a total cost of some £60 billion ($90.9 billion), an additional 1.5 million unemployed, 1 million householders plunged into negative equity and a further million losing their homes completely. In preparing for the euro, the European Union has had six years of low or negative economic growth, and unemployment now stands at 17 million. The EU average unemployment rate is 12 percent—more than twice as much as in Britain.
When Britain joined Heath’s “Common Market,” we were the third-richest country in Europe. Today we are the 14th richest. All the countries which remained efta (European Free Trade Association) and did not join the European Economic Community became richer as we became poorer. Today the richest countries in Europe are Norway and Switzerland, which are not, have never been and do not wish to be in the European Union.
In return for a total net budget contribution of £30 billion ($45.4 billion) we have joined a club with which we have accumulated a manufacturing trade deficit of over £150 billion ($227.6 billion) since 1972. For such an economic disaster, the British people—without knowing it—sacrificed their historical rights to self-government and protection under the 800-year-old British Constitution. In the annals of British self-government this association with “Europe” will be seen as by far the most disastrous series of decisions in our 1000-year history.
As a leading Eurocrat said recently, the creation of the euro meant that “It will be the first time we have achieved such a result without arms.”
Democrats who fought two bitter wars to preserve the democratic self-governance of European nations may well ask what has happened. Once they have grasped what they have lost, they will see there is only one solution. We must withdraw from the constitution-destroying structures of the European Union and return to the common market of self-governing nations for which the British people voted in 1975—and in which there are to be found today the richest and the freest nations of Europe.
The threat of the new, undemocratic and assertive power bloc which the U.S. has helped to construct is now becoming evident in Washington: the refusal to obey World Trade Organization judgments, the attempt to fix euro exchange rates against the dollar, the attempts to impose European regulations and values on non-European countries, the dumping of surplus agricultural produce on the Third World and, now, even the courting of Fidel Castro, who is to embrace the euro as a weapon against the dollar. And this is not to mention the carnage wreaked in Yugoslavia by the interventions of Germany and the European Union, into which U.S. troops were inexorably sucked because their politicians did not read their history books.
Is it not time that the American nation awoke to the complete unwinding of the post-war settlement for which so many of the youth of our two countries died?