GERMANY'S RELATIONS WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION – 18 November 2014
Dr Julian Lewis: In 1997 it was an act of rebellion for a Conservative candidate in the General Election to campaign against the UK joining the single currency. Indeed, I had to resign my post at Conservative Central Office in order to do so. In the lifetime of this Parliament it was also an act of rebellion for a Conservative Member to vote for an in/out referendum. Both those rebellions are now seen as core Conservative commitments, and even the Labour Party and many others, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) said in his outstanding speech, would not dream of going to the electorate pledging themselves to trying to join the single European currency. That shows that, over time, progress can be made in opening people’s eyes to what is at stake with Britain’s troubled relationship with the European Union.
On two grounds in particular, no-one could be better qualified to introduce such a debate than my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). First, as we have heard, his father won the Military Cross but also lost his life fighting to liberate France from German occupation in 1944. Secondly, although of course I knew that he is Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, I did not learn until today that he has served on that Committee scrutinising Euro-legislation for the last 30 years, which is an exercise in self-flagellation bordering on the heroic.
There seem to be two strands to the idea of Germany in Europe, and the first strand appears to have something in common with what used to be said in the early years of NATO, which, as we all know, was once described as being designed
"to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".
In other words the idea was that, because Germany had twice brought world war to the European continent, the best way of preventing it happening again was to tie Germany into multinational alliances and institutions. That is one point of view; the other point of view is that it is not only about trying to prevent war in Europe. The question is whether it is an alternative way for Germany to exercise the sort of power and control in Europe that she failed to get by other means in those two terrible conflicts. I do not know which of those two strands is the primary motivation among German democratic politicians. Some of them may indeed be afraid of their country’s past being repeated; others may actually covet ways of gaining, through peaceful methods involving the slow absorption of other countries that are gradually drawn into the EU net, the sort of influence that they failed to gain in the past.
In the 1970s I studied the theory of international relations under the great Professor Sir Michael Howard, as he now is. One of the topics I studied was Integration Theory. The idea was that countries could be made to merge with each other not by telling them directly what the end product would be, but by drawing them through imperceptible degrees and through the exercise and creation of new common functions into an ever-closer relationship, so that they did not realise where they were going until they had already arrived at their destination.
I must admit that I was sceptical. I thought that countries might start on that path but that at some point they would wake up, realise the destination, decide that they did not want it and turn back. I admit that I have had to qualify my scepticism over the subsequent decades because, time and again, I have seen our country being drawn down that route. I wish I had £5 for every time somebody involved with the European project has said, "The high point" – or the high-water mark, or something else of that sort – "of European integration has now been reached". Funnily enough, there is always one high-water mark after another. Frankly, I am getting fed up with it.
John Redwood: Has my hon. Friend also noticed that each successive federalising treaty has been explained to us as representing no serious transfer of power of any kind? How is it that we have so little power left?
Dr Lewis: Indeed. The process has become such a habit that the mask slips very rarely; but there was one notable occasion when the mask did slip. On New Year’s Eve just over a decade ago, when the European single currency was about to come into force, I saw the then President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, being interviewed at midnight, and he was asked the following question:
"This is a political project, isn’t it?"
For once he let the mask slip, and he smiled beatifically and said:
"It is an entirely political project."
Sir Richard Shepherd: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me a brief intervention. In the 1980s the mantra of Conservative Governments and Ministers was "No essential loss of sovereignty". That was haunted right through and dragged across the nation as if there was a truth in it. Any time anyone suggested that sovereignty is a perfect construction in itself, they immediately wanted to tell us why sovereignty was no longer sovereignty, having said there would be no loss of sovereignty.
Dr Lewis: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, has done so much over the years to try to arrest the slide to a destination that nobody in this country actually wants. The reality is that if there is a single currency, it will only work if there is a single economy. And if there is a single economy, it will only work if there is a single Government. And if there is a single Government, it will only work if there is a single country – which is what the architects of this scheme want us to have. Although they admit to each other that it is political, what they say to us is that it is economic and that it all depends on our economic and trading relationship with Europe.
I conclude by saying that just because one has a strong trading relationship with other states, it does not mean that one has to merge one’s currency, one’s economy, one’s population, one’s foreign policy or one’s country with those other states. We want a good relationship with Europe, but we are our own country, which is how we intend to stay.