The European Union’s threat to democracy and liberty

By Philip Vander Elst.elst

 “The basic question is whether Britain should remain an independent country or become a province in a United States of ‘Europe’. No criticism is levelled at those who genuinely advocate the latter course; at least it is an honest recognition of the total implication of belonging to the Common Market. But every form of criticism should be made of those who avoid the issue, who wilfully conceal it with honeyed words, or who simply don’t bother to study the reality.”

These accurate and prophetic words were written as long ago as 1974, by Neil Marten MP, one of the first and greatest Tory opponents of British involvement in the European project, in his pamphlet, The Common Market: No Middle Way, published in London by the Common Market Safeguards Campaign. In the ensuing four decades, the British political and media establishment has, with rare exceptions, continued to “avoid the issue” and “wilfully conceal it with honeyed words.”

The anti-democratic and illiberal origins of the European project

To understand the anti-democratic origins and illiberal character of the European project, one needs to appreciate the traumatic psychological impact of the First and Second World Wars on the thinking of a significant section of the European elite. Horrified by the scale of the destruction they witnessed between 1914 and 1945, and by the rise of Fascism and Nazism in the interwar period, the pioneers of European integration drew two erroneous lessons from these events. The first was that ‘nationalism’ was an inherently evil force, which could not be contained and defeated unless the nations of Europe could be induced to sacrifice their national sovereignty in the interests of peace. The second was that democracy could not be relied upon to build a better future, since millions of Germans and Italians had voted for Hitler and Mussolini, and millions of other Europeans had supported authoritarian nationalist movements in other parts of Europe, including Spain, Hungary, Romania, and even France. For these reasons, they concluded, the creation of a new European State was not only a necessary objective of civilized statesmanship; it was also a goal which, in its initial stages, would have to be approached by stealth, so as not to upset the national sensitivities of the unenlightened majority.

ThornicroftTo quote just one of these pioneers of European integration, Peter (later Lord) Thorneycroft, a British Conservative politician who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late 1950s and Conservative Party Chairman in 1975: “…it is as well to state this bluntly at the outset – no government dependent upon a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifices any adequate plan [for European Union] must involve. The people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences…” (Quote from his pamphlet, Design for Europe, May/June 1947).

The long and tortuous process by which this goal of European unification by stealth has been pursued, including a lengthy analysis of its historical and intellectual origins, and its chief protagonists, is described in compelling and scholarly detail by Christopher Booker and Richard North, in their widely acclaimed book, The Great Deception, (Continuum, 2005). great deceptionThey show how the supra-nationalist project of the European Union’s founding fathers has advanced by a gradual and indirect process of economic integration. The most important initial stage was the 1957 Treaty of Rome, establishing a protectionist European customs union (the European Economic Community, or EEC) consisting of West Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Today, 56 years and 5 European treaties later, the European Union has ballooned into a supranational Leviathan comprising 28 countries and 24 official languages. (See:, the official EU website).

The cost so far of in terms of loss of sovereignty

Whether they like it or not, Britons and other European nationals already live in an emergent European State with a common flag, passport, citizenship, anthem, supreme court, executive, parliament, bureaucracy, central bank, and currency (the euro), used by 19 of the member countries, excluding Britain. The foundations have been laid for a future European Army and police force, and the European Union now has its own official diplomatic corps. As a result of all these changes and the development of common European policies in nearly every conceivable field, Britain, for example, has lost control of her agriculture, her fishing grounds, her external trade, decisions about Value Added Tax, aspects of employment law, immigration, and internal trading standards – including weights and measures. Most recently, under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which extended ‘Qualified Majority Voting’ [abolishing national vetoes] into 63 new policy areas, the EU has been given new powers over external border controls and internal security, as well as a role in standardizing civil and criminal laws and procedures. It has, in addition, been allowed to appoint its own EU foreign minister, who will conduct the Union’s common foreign and security policy.

In 1992, the then German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, declared: “The European Union Treaty [referring to the 1991 Maastricht Treaty]…within a few years will lead to the creation of what the founding fathers of modern Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F074398-0021_Kohl_(cropped)Europe dreamed of after the war, the United States of Europe.” (Quoted in Treaty of Maastricht, Civitas, London, November 2005). Readers can judge for themselves how close the rolling bandwagon of European supranationalism has come to reaching this final destination.

A loss of democratic control previously enjoyed by national electorates over the laws and regulations governing their daily lives, has been an inevitable consequence of the centralizing supranationalist process of European unification. For instance, despite being one of the biggest EU member states, Britain’s decision-making power within EU institutions like the Council of the European Union (representing national governments) and the European Parliament, is extremely limited. British representatives only control around 8% of the total votes. As the European Union expands to include more countries, this loss of democratic accountability through the dilution of national representation at European level, only increases, a problem troubling other European nationals as well as many British observers.

To quote the words of Germany’s former President Herzog, written in January 2007: “It is true that we are experiencing an ever greater, inappropriate centralization of powers away from the Member States and towards the EU. The German Ministry of Justice has compared the legal acts adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany between 1998 and 2004 with those adopted by the European Union in the same period. Results: 84% come from Brussels, with only 16% coming originally from Berlin…” (Article on the 2004 EU Constitution, jointly written with Luder Gerken, Welt Am Sonntag, 14 January 2007).

Whilst popular disenchantment with the process of European integration has increased markedly in recent years, most of all in Britain, the latter’s subordination of national institutions to supranational ones has evoked less opposition than might otherwise have been expected, due to its largely hidden nature. As Mark Leonard, of the Centre for European Reform, explained in 2005: “Europe’s power is easy to miss. Like an ‘invisible hand’ it operates through the shell of traditional political structures. The British House of Commons, British law courts and British civil servants are still here, but they have become agents of the European Union, implementing European law. This is no accident. By creating common standards that are implemented through national institutions, Europe can take over countries without necessarily becoming a target for hostility.” (Booker & North, Op. cit, p. 1).

Resistance to the growing power of the European Union is not only undermined by its partially hidden character, but also by a deep-seated conviction, particularly strong in Germany, that the cause of peace is worth almost any sacrifice of national sovereignty, however initially unwelcome. The visitor centre in the European Parliament building in Brussels, for instance, prominently displays the following quote by Philip Kerr (later, Lord Lothian), a former British civil servant and one of the leading advocates of both European unification and world government during the 1930s (see Booker & North, Op. cit, pp. 24 – 26): “National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our time and of the steady march of humanity back to tragic disaster and barbarism…The only final remedy for this supreme and catastrophic evil of our time is a federal union of the peoples..”

The myth about national sovereignty being the cause of war

There is, however, no basis either in history or logic for the belief that national sovereignty is “the root cause” of war and “barbarism”. Religious and ideological divisions, and the dynastic ambitions and family quarrels of emperors and kings, caused plenty of wars in Europe (and elsewhere) long before the advent of the modern nation state. If any one factor can be singled out as the primary cause of war and barbarism down the ages, it has not been national sovereignty, but tyrannical government and the lust for power of rulers and elites, as all the great classical liberals – notably Herbert Spencer, recognized. This has been even truer in the 20th century, the age of totalitarian socialism in all its variants – Communist, Nazi and Fascist. Anyone who doubts this, should not only read R. J. Rummel’s seminal studies, Death by Government and Power Kills (Transaction Publishers, 1996 & 1997), but also The Coming of the Third Reich, (Penguin Books, 2004), by Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History at Cambridge.evans 3rd reich Evans’ book is particularly relevant because it shows that Imperial Germany’s authoritarian, anti-Semitic, and aggressively militaristic political culture was the biggest single cause of the First World War as well as the soil in which the seeds of Nazism were planted long before Hitler came to power in 1933.

Since illiberal political cultures are the real enemies of peace and freedom, rather than national sovereignty, the cause of progress is not advanced by the movement towards supranationalism either at the European or the global level. A Europe of independent self-governing nation states, respecting human rights and engaged in free trade and mutual co-operation on an intergovernmental basis, decentralizes power and offers many opportunities for the free movement of goods, people and ideas. As such, it represents the enduring internationalist vision of the great classical liberals of the 19th century, like Cobden, Bright and Bastiat. The supranationalist alternative of a single European State, by contrast, threatens both liberty and democracy because it creates a new and wholly unnecessary concentration of power which cannot be subject to effective democratic control within a multinational entity comprising 28 different electorates divided by 24 different languages and cultures. As American experience has shown, even the most carefully constructed federal system, buttressed by an originally homogeneous and libertarian political culture, has failed to prevent the growth and abuse of power by the Federal Government in the USA. How likely is it, then, that the European Union will avoid a much worse fate given the authoritarian and collectivist political traditions, and unfortunate history, of so many of its member countries?

The relevance of this question is underlined by what happened after May and June 2005, when the French and Dutch electorates rejected the newly negotiated 2004 European Constitution in their national referendums. The angry and contemptuous response of EU leaders was to re-present the rejected Constitution, minus some cosmetic changes, as the 2008 Lisbon Treaty, and then ram it through their national parliaments without any further referendums. As Czech President Vaclav Klaus noted with disquiet in his speech to the European Parliament on 5 December 2008: “I thought…that we live in a democracy, but it is post-democracy, really, which rules the EU.”

Today, in 2015, post-democracy still “rules the EU” because the continuing process of European unification has created centralized supranational institutions offering increased power and more lucrative careers to the ruling political class. Consequently, as long as it remains in its present form, pursuing its founding goal of “an ever closer union of the peoples of Europe” (Treaty of Rome), the EU will continue to act as a powerful and dangerous magnet, pulling into its orbit, and attracting to its cause, thousands of ambitious politicians, academics, civil servants, and journalists, as well as a host of charities and NGOs whose independence has been compromised by their receipt of EU funding (see: Christopher Snowdon, Euro Puppets, The European Commission’s remaking of civil society, IEA , February 2013).

The liberal internationalist alternative to European unification

These dangers explain why many of us in Britain want to free ourselves from the supranationalist spider’s web of the European Union, and by doing so, contribute to the wider defence of democracy and liberty in Europe. To do this we must rediscover that great old tradition of liberal internationalism mentioned above. We must turn our faces outwards towards what Churchill famously called “the open seas”, conscious of the fact that Britain is a major global trading nation and nuclear power, a ‘Permanent Member’ of the UN Security Council, a key member of NATO, and a significant player in 96 separate international organisations.

We British Euro-sceptics are not afraid of our future outside the European Union. Indeed we should positively embrace it, because in rejecting the supranationalist goal of a European State, we would be defending the pluralism and diversity which has been the true glory of European civilization. As Wilhelm Ropke, one of Germany’s greatest liberal economists put it in the 1950s:humane economy “In antiquity Strabo spoke of the ‘many shapes’ of Europe; Montesquieu would speak of Europe as a ‘nation des nations’; Decentrism is of the essence of the spirit of Europe. To try to organise Europe centrally…and to weld it into a bloc, would be nothing less than a betrayal of Europe and the European patrimony.” (Wilhelm Ropke, A Humane Economy, Henry Regnery, 1st English edition, USA, 1960).



Philip Vander Elst is a British freelance writer and lecturer whose many publications include Power Against People: a Christian critique of the State (IEA, 2008) and Vindicated by history: Statism’s 19th century critics (Cobden Centre, 2012, & Edmund Burke Institute, Dublin, 2015). This article is an expanded and amended version of one that first appeared in the March 2014 issue of the American libertarian magazine, Future of Freedom.

The Easter Rising, the Somme and the Politics of Memory in Ireland.

Remembering 1916- The Easter Rising, the Somme, and the Politics of Memory in Ireland, Edited by Richard S. Grayson and Fearghal McGarry. 288 pages, $26.28

Cambridge University Press

By Eamon Delaney

bank of irelandThe recent controversy about the 1916 banner hanging on the old Bank of Ireland building on Dublin’s College Green shows the real sensitivity and division around the commemoration of the Easter Rising, a subject richly explored in this fascinating book of essays. The book also contrasts this ongoing challenge with a similar debate and sensitivity around the Ulster commemoration of World War 1 and that other sacrificial event of the Somme, also in 1916.
The banner in College Green depicts four figures from Irish history – Home Rule leaders Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stuart Parnell and John Redmond, as well as Henry Grattan, who also favoured Home Rule, but in a much limited way, with continuing Protestant dominance. But then Grattan was from a much earlier era, in the 18th century, just as John Redmond came a long time after O’Connell.John-Redmond
But they are all major figures in Irish nationalism, and its different approaches, and so germane to the overall sense of what 1916 represents.
However, critics see this as an attempt to supplant the revolutionary and violent tradition of Republicanism with the constitutional tradition with which the establishment and the State is more comfortable. One can see the criticism – the reality is that the 1916 leaders wholly rejected the Home Rule tradition and there are, by contrast, no Fenians depicted on this banner. Indeed, it is interesting just how much the Fenians (the Irish Republican Brotherhood) are downgraded from the official, and even non-official, version of Irish history. The 1916 Rising was an IRB event after all. But is it inconvenient to highlight the ‘dynamiters’ of the 19th century?
However, given that we are also supposed to have moved on to more inclusive approach to political history, the critics of this banner are taking a somewhat narrow and pedantic view of the 1916 Rising, as being wholly about the executed leaders– personalities who are anyway well commemorated elsewhere. The fact that Grattan is shown indicates a laudable attempt to create a broader nationalist narrative.
But also the division between the two traditions of Irish nationalism, peaceful and violent, was not always as clear as it appears now. Parnell was well able to exploit the threat of Fenian violence and nationalists (and Home Rulers) could support parliamentary means and physical force, at different times, or even in tandem, as they sought desperately to achieve even limited Irish independence.Portrait_of_Henry_Grattan
However, in the modern era, an understandable revulsion towards bloodshed has ignored this overlap, and scorned non-violent means. And this is what present day Republicans fear, and they would be right. The establishment is trying to control the 1916 commemoration as part of its own Statist narrative. But then Sinn Fein is doing the same, by focusing on the 1916 tradition as something pure, exclusive and related to itself.
This is something of which I have some personal experience. The unveiling of my father’s statue of Wolfe Tone in Dublin in 1967 was criticised by those who believed the Irish Government was not worthy of commemorating such a Republican icon. In the previous year, a similar unease hung over the unveiling of my father’s Thomas Davis memorial in College Green, done in Easter Week for the 50th anniversary of 1916. The increasingly affluent State was basking in its 1960s prosperity but also anxious not to raise nationalist sentiment in a way that could be counter-productive and dangerous, especially with the Northern Ireland issue unresolved.
I wrote about this in my book ‘Breaking the Mould – A Story of Art and Ireland’ (2009) and quoted from a fascinating essay by the historian Roisin Higgins about the further paradox of the Davis Memorial in lauding in a modernistic way a nationalist figure who actually rejected Anglicisation and modernisation and wanted Ireland to return to an older agrarian way of life. The accompanying fountain to Davis contains bronze panels that chart the progress of Ireland’s national story, but it is done in a way Davis might have rejected and which he may well have felt was unfulfilled. It was as if the State was seeking to solidify and virtually ‘imprison’ in a safe commemorative mode an otherwise radical revolutionary impulse.
Higgins and other historians echo all of this further in this book, and focus on the effects and direction of successive commemorations of both of these momentous 1916 events. It has been said that the 1966 celebrations of each created the atmosphere in which old political rivalries erupted again in 1969. This is an exaggeration, given the deeper and more pressing causes, but there is no doubt that the commemorations contributed to the
Margaret O’Callaghan thus explores the official ‘reframing’ of 1916, after 1969 and it is interesting to see old former colleagues of mine from the Department of Foreign Affairs described as swopping anxious notes about how the 60th anniversary celebrations should be handled in 1976, with the Northern conflict then well underway. The impulse was to do nothing that might offer legitimacy and succour to then resurgent IRA.
Really, it is the ongoing political division between Unionism and Republicanism and the legacy of the violence, which makes these commemorations sensitive. Now that we have hopefully moved on to a more mature and peaceful era in British-Irish relations and on the island, we can celebrate the heroism and idealism of these events.
However, there is a still a huge gap between North and South in terms of understanding. How many Southerners really understand the huge sacrifice that Ulster Protestants feel they made in just a few days in the Somme in July 1916 or the feeling among many of them that their sacrifice was not rewarded and they were used as cannon fodder. We have only just begun to understand the sacrifice made by southern Irish soldiers (many of them Home Rulers) in World War 1. And so appreciating ‘the other 1916’, north of the border is still a long way off.

Eamon Delaney is a writing and broadcaster who lives in North Dublin. This article previously appeared in the “Sunday Independent”


….that is self-made is in the last analysis no meaning. Meaning, that is, the ground on which our existence as a totality can stand and live, cannot be made but only received.

Joseph Ratzinger ( a.k.a. Pope Benedict xvi ) Pope Benedict XVI “Introduction to Christianity” ( English translation, San Francisco, 2,000 ) p. 73

The Dutch vote.

dutch lionIn one way the Dutch vote against the E.U.’s treaty with Ukraine is not important; since free trade with the Ukraine’s in the E.U. is not that significant an issue, except as gesture against ill judged Russian ambitions. But in another way it the result of the referendum in Holland is very important. It is important not for itself, but because of what the response to it in Brussels will tell us about the attitude of the E.U.’s elite towards democracy. If the elite accepts that they have lost the vote, and that therefore the treaty will have at very least to be reconsidered, then all be well. But if the decision taken by Dutch voters is ignored, or worse treated with contempt, then voters elsewhere in Europe, and not just in the U.K, will know what their masters think of them, and what to think of their masters.

Update 8/4/16: Mrs Merkel is reported as saying: We’re going to manage this as we have managed other difficult issues before.”