Thursday, September 27, 2012

A liberal case for scepticism of the EU

by Samuel Brittan

Financial Times
September 27, 2012

Since anything that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood, I must start with some disclaimers. I am not urging the EU should end. Like the Holy Roman Empire, it may spend many years in gentle decline doing little good and little harm. Nor am I urging that the UK or any other member state should leave the EU. What I am saying is that the EU no longer deserves the devotion of practical idealists. When voices in Paris or Berlin say the answer to any problem is “more Europe”, by which they mean more centralised power to EU institutions, we should turn a deaf ear. And when some leaders say that “without the euro there is no Europe” we should shrug our shoulders and look at an atlas to reassure ourselves.

Although there was always a strong federalist element in the background, the post-1945 European movement began in earnest with the Schuman Plan, designed to integrate German and French coal and steel industries so that war between the two countries would be impossible. There followed the common market, designed to free up trade in western Europe; and I can remember urging Harold Macmillan, the British prime minister, to get on with his application to join. But as time went on, the EU, as it became, acquired more and more ambitions and a whole cadre of eurocrats developed, concerned with increasing EU power and influence for its own sake. At this point they lost me.

In recent economic policy it has achieved the worst of both worlds. It has constructed a network of regulation and red tape, of which business rightly complains. But it has combined this with highly restrictive macroeconomic policies, suggesting that the Bourbons in charge have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from the catastrophic experiences of the 1930s.


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