No, the EU did not “keep the peace” in Europe. And Britain should not be expected to sacrifice our own democracy in the name of Franco-German reconciliation
Continuing the apocalyptic hysteria now emanating from the intellectually bankrupt pro-EU Remainers, Jonathan Freedland has a particularly offensive piece in the Guardian, comparing Brexit to the election of Donald Trump as potential calamities on a similar scale before declaring that he would sooner see a President Trump than a newly independent Britain.
Freedland phrases his question:
What if the devil came to visit you in the dead of night? What if, dressed in a fine suit, his tail and pitchfork artfully concealed, Lucifer himself offered you a deal? Knowing the anxiety that was keeping you – a good, progressive type – up at night, he promised that he would grant you one, but only one, of your two deepest current wishes: you could either be sure that Donald Trump would lose the US presidential election or you could be guaranteed that Britain would vote to stay in the European Union. You could have one or the other, but not both. Which would you choose?
Because, of course, Guardian readers are saintly and virtuous while anybody with conservative instincts is intrinsically disordered in some way.
Freedland goes on to explain why he chooses President Trump over Brexit:
But the future viability of the UK is not the reason I’d be tempted to use up my one devilish wish to prevent Brexit. Nor is it the near-certain economic gloom that will befall this country, an outcome so obvious when you take a step back and consider any country voluntarily giving up its right to trade on advantageous terms with a market of 500 million customers.
No, the spectre that would haunt me as Satan drummed his fingers, waiting for my decision, would be much more elemental. It is the fear that the European Union, already battered by the eurozone crisis, simply could not withstand the departure of one of its “big three” members. We would not be tugging at a mere thread but yanking out a guy rope: the EU would collapse – maybe not straightaway, but eventually.
[..] Why should that bother us? We’d be well out of it by then. But remember the history of this continent. The story of Europe is the story of near-constant war and bloodshed. The 100 years war, the 30 years war, the Spanish wars, the Franco-Prussian wars, the two world wars of the last century: this is what the nations of Europe do to one another – unless they are held together in an arrangement that obliges them to settle their differences around a Brussels conference table, where the most mortal danger is tedium and late-night halitosis.
This is what the European project is about. Not just goods and services and trade and jobs, important as all those things are, and crazy as we would be to jeopardise them. But about life and limb. And make no mistake: if the EU’s 27 member states become Europe’s 27 warring nations, we will not be safely detached, serenely distant across the Channel. We will be drawn in, as we always have been.
In other words, Jonathan Freedland seriously believes – or at least is willingly to publicly say – that peace in Europe has nothing to do with economic growth, nothing to do with the atomic age and Mutual Assured Destruction, nothing to do with NATO or the Marshall Plan and nothing to do with the fact that economically advanced, liberal democracies just don’t tend to declare war on one another. No, in Freedland World, the only thing preventing Europe from instantly reverting back to 1914 is the grand projet by which our troublesome nation states are slowly being dissolved once and for all.
It takes an extraordinary confidence to look at the last millennium of European history and gamble that the 70 years of peace that have held since 1945 – an exceptional, aberrational interlude – have had nothing to do with the existence of the European project. Do we really think it’s a coincidence that no two EU member states have ever fought each other? Do we want to roll the dice to find out? Do we feel that lucky?
What piffle. Don’t seek the restoration of nation state democracy and the repatriation of powers gradually frittered away to a largely unaccountable supranational government of Europe, because to do so might unleash a time warp taking us all back to 1914. Is this really what the pro-EU die-hards are now reduced to?
Pete North is having none of it:
Oh really? You don’t think that the peace came from the desire of the peoples to create the peace? Instead it had to be enforced by a sovereignty-confiscating artificial entity? Or could it be that the second world war era was not really concluded until the fall of the Berlin Wall?
Up to that point the peace was held in place by fear of mutually assured destruction. Nobody wanted to break the uneasy stalemate because of the lethal consequences it would unleash. I think it safe to say the EEC had precisely zero influence in maintaining or building the peace.
He says “let Britain remain, to prevent the 21st century being as drenched in blood and sorrow” but this really rather ignores the reality that peaceful democracies as a rule do not go to war with each other, and it is unlikely we will be fighting over those resources which the EU pooled. I don’t see a war over coal and steel, do you?
Moreover, if the peoples of Europe are prevented from influencing the laws they must live by without the possibility of reform or repeal, what do you suppose is going to happen? Are you saying that a strong supranational authority will maintain the peace by enforcing it? How is it going to do that exactly? And what sort of peace is that when it is an authority stifling a democratic correction? Tyranny that’s what it is. Peace at the barrel of a gun.
Everywhere we look in Europe we see stresses and strains with ever more resentment as the EU is caught up in its own institutional paralysis, failing to adequately respond to the many emergencies it has a hand in creating. This leads to increasingly unilateral action and the rise of the far right everywhere. That doesn’t end well in Europe does it? And there are of course two other supranational projects in Europe in the last century. Yugoslavia and the USSR. Remind me how well that worked out.
I agree wholeheartedly.
Jonathan Freedland seems to be suggesting that regardless of the economic question, Britain should willingly sacrifice her own democracy and right to self-determination in order to help preserve an apparently fractious peace in Europe. He is arguing that the inability of the British people to exercise meaningful control over those who lead us is a small price worth paying in this effort. He is, effectively, saying that democracy has little value.
In Freedland World, Britain should sacrifice her democracy happily and willingly to reduce even by a minuscule fraction the future possibility of France and Germany going at each other again. It’s self evident, apparently.
I’m sorry, but no. Any petty grudges or historic rivalries remaining in Europe are not a sufficiently good reason for me to throw away my right to live in a democracy. I’m glad that Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel shared that special moment together at the Verdun centenary memorial where they held hands, gazed into each other’s eyes and “forgave” each other for past national sins. Good for them. Still doesn’t trump our right to help elect the people who make the key domestic, trade and foreign policy decisions impacting our lives, and to kick them out of office if we disapprove of the job they are doing.
Every day that passes reveals in a new light the sheer disdain in which the pro-EU British Left hold the very idea of democracy. If they are not warning us portentously that returning power to Westminster might result in an elected British government doing things that it was elected to do (pass the smelling salts!) they are now suggesting that democracy is a mere trifle, something with which we should be happy to part in order to prevent other third parties from behaving in a self-destructive way.
I’m not having it. And the turning opinion polls suggest that the British people as a whole aren’t having it either – that in actual fact we like the idea of democracy, value it rather more highly than our “moral superiors” in the Guardian and resent the establishment’s coordinated attempt at scaring us into dropping our demands for self-determination.
And at some point after the EU referendum, whichever way it goes, the Jonathan Freedlands of this world (and the pro-EU British Left in general) will need to explain, account and hopefully atone for coming down so unapologetically on the wrong side of democracy.
Top Image: Liberation
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