On Tuesday, a letter was published in The Times outlining my views on the need for deeper integration in the European Union in areas relating to foreign, security and defence policy. Criticising a previous leader in The Times, I argued that the debate in Britain on the proposed ‘Reform Treaty’ had become narrow-minded and insular, getting increasingly bogged-down in squalid debates on the so-called surrender of sovereignty to Brussels. Rather, I suggested that we—Britons, and other Europeans—needed to look beyond our own shores for once, and note the alarming changes underway in other parts of the world. Some of these, like the re-emergence of a wild and truculent Russia and an expansive China, have the potential to weaken our global power and authority, perhaps also undermining our economic dynamism and social cohesion.
The response in some quarters only proved my point. A commentary by Richard North on ‘EU Referendum’ suggested that my arguments represented the ‘fifth column’, and that my aim was to undermine the British state. According to Mr. North, the ‘Reform Treaty’ meant that Britain would lose its sovereignty, which is apparently ‘like virginity—you either have it or you don’t.’ This is profoundly mistaken. Sovereignty is not absolute. After all, does Mexico have the same sovereignty as the United States? Is not China more sovereign than Mongolia? Isn’t Brazil more sovereign than Suriname? The answer is clear: While most states recognise others as formally ‘sovereign’, in reality sovereignty is relative. Weak countries are always subjected to stronger ones. The economic, cultural and political power of a great power permeates surrounding societies, shaping their political processes and policies, on both a domestic and international level. Imperial power—that is, the control or influence over other countries’ domestic politics and development—did not fade after the end of the European empires, it simply took a number of new forms.
Mr. North then accused me of ‘the “Run to mother Europe” ploy.’ Had he taken greater notice of contemporary European history, he might have realised that Britain joined the European project in 1973, and thus ran to Europe a long time ago. After successfully remaining part of Europe for more than thirty years, British trade in goods and services with the rest of continent has grown to almost sixty percent of Britain’s total. With between a third and a quarter of the world’s wealth, Europe represents a rich, prosperous and stable market, which can only expand even further as economic growth continues in the new Member States. And given that the European Union has been a principal contributor to the peace and security of the continent—along, of course with the security umbrella provided by the United States and NATO—we, in his own words, really were ‘able to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.’ War and conflict on European soil are now unthinkable, and probably impossible. The task now is to defend what we have achieved in Europe from the dangerous world beyond our borders.
Therefore, my argument still holds: As China, Russia, India and a number of other regional powers rise in the coming years, Britain’s international power and authority will continue to decline. The United States, with increasing trade and interests in Asia and the Pacific Rim, is unlikely to maintain large military forces in defence of the European Union; and it would be very wrong for Europeans to expect it to do so. Indeed, many American forces have already been redeployed from Britain and Germany to Central Asia and the Middle East. The future will hold only more of the same. And why should Americans defend Europe? Are we not rich enough to defend ourselves? Do we not have the political will to browbeat our enemies into doing our will? Are we unable to stand up for our values and interests with the use of armed force? Europe’s future is bleak if the answer to all of these questions is not a firm ‘yes’. A strong European Union will have the military and political cohesion to work with the United States in order to sustain Western primacy. A weak Europe will distract American concerns, and empower forces hostile to Western civilisation.
So the Europhobes are in no position to lecture pro-Europeans on issues relating to the European Union. Whereas we have the energy and vision necessary to mobilise the European Union’s enormous potential, the Europhobes only want to bring it, and everything it represents—an area of freedom, economic prosperity, human rights, democratic values and a durable peace—crashing down. The Europhobes are the real ‘fifth column’ on our continent; pro-Europeans must prevent anti-Europeans from moving from the margins of politics into the mainstream of political debate.