This is a revision of some material I posted about two years ago.
From the beginning of the One Hundred Years War to the conclusion of the Second World in 1945, a period more than six hundred years, European nations were at war. The issues were sometimes religious, The Thirty Years War in what is now mostly modern day Germany between 1618 and 1648 for example, but more often than not, territorial aggrandisement, or, in other words, grabbing land that doesn’t belong to you. Such greed, which involved most of the countries which we now call Europe, reached its peak in 1945 with the bloody conclusion of the Second World War.
In the summer of 1945, Germany lay in ruins. Millions were dead, either on the battlefield, in prisons, concentration and slave labour camps or beneath the rubble created by Allied bombing raids. The transport infrastructure had been almost totally destroyed, there was a desperate shortage of food and such power that existed was intermittent and unreliable. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners-of-war were languishing,mostly in the open air, in hastily erected barbed wire compounds where the death rates climbed day-by-day.
The almost total collapse of Germany left the victors with a mighty difficult problem: what to do with a country that had been responsible for a European war in which more than thirty five million people had died. There were some, like the US Treasury Secretary Morgenthau, who proposed that Germany’s industrial capacity be completely destroyed and that country be downgraded to a purely agricultural state. Fortunately wiser councils prevailed and the more astute politicians, political scientists and economists recognised the importance of a revitalised German economy to the long-term health of Western Europe. The rest of Europe was, by 1948, languishing under Communist rule directed from Moscow by Stalin.
Once the immediate post-war blood-letting and initial denazification had passed and some semblance of modest self-government had been established, the problem of how to re-integrate Germany into West European economic, political and social life remained. Ironically it was a Frenchman, Robert Schuman who proposed a solution to this dilemma. Schuman was a former French Prime Minister who had been, since 1948, Foreign Minister. He had no love for the Germans, having been imprisoned by them in the early part of the war before escaping to join the resistance in 1942. On May 9th. 1950, the Schuman plan was announced. This lead to the formal establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in April 1951. The aim of the Community was two-fold (1) to end the frequent and bloody European conflicts and (2) to create a Common Market for coal and steel amongst its member states.
The original six members, France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries signed The Treaty of Rome in 1957, thus creating the European Economic Community. The original six became nine (including theUK) in 1973, twelve in 1986 and fifteen in 1995 until today membership of the re-titled European Union has reached twenty seven. Amongst the ten members admitted in 2004 were Central and Eastern European nations who had, until 1989, been behind the Iron Curtain. Europe, divided at Yalta in February 1945, was close to being totally re-united.
The European Union has given the continent seventy-one years of peace. I wouldn’t go so far as David Cameron who suggested that leaving the EU might lead to war but it could lead to the threat of increased conflict. We need our partners to help us overcome the threat of terrorism and face up to the ever-increasing menace of Russia. The UK Border would no longer be in Calais, Ostend, Brussels and so on but in Dover and St Pancras for example where political refugees will claim asylum and, quite frankly, remain. The camps at Calais will be replaced by similar eyesores at Dover. The battle against the s0-called Islamic State will take years to win. Britain needs the EU and Europol to tackle this enormous threat.
I will only briefly touch on the economic dangers of leaving the EU. The leave campaigners tell us that we shall seek and find new trading partners when we lose those in the EU. I’m not sure who those are; China? (economy on the slide), USA ?(‘you’ll have to go to the back of the queue’), Russia? (you must be joking) Saudi Arabia? (more weapons – ‘man cannot living by creating machines of death alone’) Professional economists and businessmen (Governor of the Bank of England for example) warn up of the dangers of ‘leaving’. Amateur politicians from the leave campaign refute these claims despite the fact that they have little or no experience of the world of high finance and economics. If someone like Christine Lagard, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, says that there will be damaging economic consequences if Britain leaves the EU, I’d rather believe her than Nigel Farage!
Worryingly, the main issue appears to be immigration and the nauseating campaign poster from UKIP says it all. It’s quite simply outrageously racist and, in any case, appears to feature middle eastern refugees, the flow of which will not be stemmed by brexit. I simply don’t trust the politicians, especially those like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove, political opportunists all. I’d rather listen to professionals who have the brains to analyse the effects of leaving the EU and warn of its dangers. Of course there are issues with immigration that have to be tackled but this is the 21st. century. The world has changed since the days of empire. Everybody wants, and should have, their share of the global cake. And as for that word sovereignty ugh! It’s a dirty word along with nationalism. Hitler led his the Fatherland and Stalin the Motherland. Collectively they were responsible for probably fifty million deaths of men, women and children (including those killed in World War Two). In 2012 the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” Some things are more important that nationalistic flag-waving.