Frederick Forsyth: Is Europe good for Britain? NO

If the European Union is a train, Britain would do well to miss it. It is heading in the wrong direction and its destination is unclear


How sick and tired I become of the twin phrases "pro-Europe" and "anti-Europe". They are silly, meaningless words, idly reiterated by those unprepared for the effort of reasoned analysis.

How sick and tired I become of the twin phrases "pro-Europe" and "anti-Europe". They are silly, meaningless words, idly reiterated by those unprepared for the effort of reasoned analysis.

One cannot be "against" an entire continent, whether Europe or Asia, nor more or less in favour of Antarctica. But there exists in Europe a quite specific politico-economic and ongoing project about which it is perfectly legitimate to have grave reservations.

Let me briefly digress to say, in an awful American phrase, where I am coming from. I first crossed the Channel as a wide-eyed nine-year-old in 1948 and was at once fascinated.

Over 55 years I must have visited 200 times. Add a decade resident in four of today's EU members and mastery of four languages. Hardly the hallmark of the Europhobe. I know Europe from Bantry Bay to the Oder-Neisse line; from Spitzbergen to Syracuse Bay. And I love the old place. I am at home there, it is my continent.

I love its landscapes, its vistas, mountains, valleys and coasts; its variety and peoples, its heritages and cultures, its architectural gems and its delicious cuisines.

So what have I got against the Brussels-based construct called the European Union? I simply think that it is heading in the wrong direction, and I am a long way from being the only one. It is a view growing steadily right across the territory. Let us be frank. Unlike Antarctica, Europe has for these past 50 years been on a journey; a momentous journey, social, political, economic and above all constitutional. It has been variously likened to a train and a bus, which, if missed, will leave us miserable and abandoned on the sidewalk of history - a truly asinine analogy.

By their nature, all journeys eventually come to an end. Save in space, journeys have destinations. This is my concern, and has been for a decade. I am not fussed about the Europe of our entry in 1972, nor even too much about last year. But what of the Europe of 2010, or even 2020? What kind of Europe will it be? In a phrase, where the hell are we really going?

How sad that such a gently phrased and legitimate question should evoke not a courteous response but either a tissue of evident mendacity or abusive accusations of xenophobia. So let me propose a menu of variant destinations, some feasible, some mercifully impossible, but none that we British seek.

Are there any kinds of final Europes that would be quite unacceptable to the British people? Certainly. A clearly fascist Europe would see the British heading for separation with the Labour Party in the lead. Ditto a national socialist Europe. Or indeed a profoundly communist Europe. Not much argument there. Fortunately there is not a snowball in hell's chance of any such Europe coming to pass. But are there any other variants that the British would find it just about impossible to live with? Alas, yes.

For more than 30 years we have been told our membership is about mutual prosperity to be generated in a wealthy free-market trading block. Back then, we were the sick man of Europe and our mandarins could see no improvement. As usual the pointy-heads were wrong. The direst and gloomiest predictions are teeming out of Europe that sclerosis and recession seem now immutable. Germany constitutes a third of the eurozone economy and Germany is deeply sick. This is not just me talking, the most notable German economists are the source.

What about a Europe so mired in economic stagnation, and with a desperate pension crisis looming, that it would need massive subsidies from prosperous Britain to save it from collapse? The British are generous folk, but are they that generous?

Of course it can be loftily pooh-poohed, and will be. But in a fully integrated union with economic and monetary unification, huge transfers from rich to poor regions are the very hallmark of the command economy. I merely point out that it is grimly feasible. What about a deeply undemocratic Europe? We Brits simply accept our parliamentary democracy as a "given" and take it for granted. Perhaps we should not. People had to fight, bleed and die to secure it and defend it. I believe we should pay it more attention.

Simply using the word is not enough. Every tinpot tyrant has thrown the word "democratic" into the title of his banana republic until the word alone is meaningless. For us there must be certain criteria to be fulfilled, certain conditions to be met, before a parliamentary democracy can honestly be said to match our own. My second concern.

Years ago I covered the German Democratic (that word again!) Republic for Reuters. Among the fig-leaves was their elected (closed list, selected candidates) Volkskammer or People's Chamber. They had debates, they voted, they passed resolutions. Unfortunately they were all foregone, pre-scripted conclusions. The European Parliament is a mirror image of the old East German Volkskammer.

There are criteria of transparency, accountability, electability, separation of powers, integrity in high office that we expect in both Houses of Westminster that Brussels does not even attempt to match. Could End-of-the-Road Europe be an oligarchy with real power kept in the hands of a small elite, masked by a pre-scripted council and a useless parliament? Oh yes. Some say it is half-way there.

But thirdly comes my most important Cassandra-like prophesy. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have for years denounced the very idea of a confederation of voluntary, sovereign nation-states morphing into a single, fully integrated megastate of central government and devolved regional territories with provincial administrations. USA-style. Well, USE actually.

And both parties have regularly denounced any swine prepared to raise the feasibility. Since the Maastricht Treaty my own analysis has consistently been that the European Union's direction simply could not avoid such a metamorphosis. I have said so repeatedly, adding the unavoidable concomitant: a single-state Europe, whether de facto or simply (more likely for a while) de jure, must predicate the End-of-Nation.

Blair, Straw, Mandelson (anyone buying a second-hand car?) continue to shout that all this is still a myth. Yet Brussels teems with post-modernists, now out from behind the arras in that more congenial climate, who happily preach their philosophy that the nation-state is over and the Regional Superpower is the new answer. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's document, if you read it closely, is not a constitution; it is the blueprint.

And there's the rub with ratification. The Giscardian constitution must, according to its text, have permanent irreversible supremacy over our own and thus may in a decade or so lead to the abolition of the nation-state. And that power, in Qualified Majority Voting hands, is for the British people unacceptable. That is why we must reject it.

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