Monday, 13 February 2006

The Great Deception: Can the European Union survive?

This is the most important book ever to be written on the European Union. It is a detailed 600-page account of the European integration project from the first mooting of the idea in the 1920s to the rejection of the proposed EU Constitution by the voters of France and the Netherlands in summer 2005. This paperback edition contains substantial revisions of the widely acclaimed hardback that was first published in 2003, as well as much new material on the EU Constitution debate.

Europhiles as well as EU-critics will find the book illuminating. Its production by leading British political analyst Christopher Booker and economist Richard North is likely to be seen in time as itself a significant event in the history of the integration project, for anyone who reads it will never be able to look at the EU in the same way again.

The book’s authors have forged a powerful weapon for the EU-critical armoury. Everyone who cherishes their country’s national democracy and independence and who is opposed to the institutional monster that has grown up in Brussels should spread the word about this book, ask for it in their bookshops, urge newspapers to review it and try to get it translated into their own languages if these are other than English. It is relevant to the people of every European country.

Meticulously researched and packed with revealing quotations, “The Great Deception” not only gives new insights into EC/EU history, it analyses critically the EU’s administrative structures and such key policies as the monetary union, the farm and fisheries policy and the EU’s foreign and military ambitions. It gives fact and instance on the corruption and scams of Brussels.

The authors show that it was the US Government’s insistence on German rearmament in 1950 to meet the needs of the Cold War that precipitated the European Coal and Steel Community, the foundation of European integration. The pooling of coal and steel under a supranational High Authority, the precursor of the Brussels Commission, was crucial in overcoming French hostility to this step. Jean Monnet,America’s man in the affair, saw it as a way of pursuing the project for a supranational Europe that he had been nurturing since World War 1.

There followed the scheme for a European Army and Defence Community in 1952. At the time Monnet and Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak wanted the Coal and Steel Community and the proposed Defence Community to be over-arched by a European Political Community and a European Constitution. The rejection of the Defence Community scheme by France’s National Assembly in 1954 forced Monnet and the European Movement, still well funded by CIA money, to change their tactics. Thereafter they dropped their open espousal of federalism and an EU Government and concentrated on economic integration by a series of gradual steps during the following decades. Now that that has been achieved a half century later, the European Constitution has appeared again as the political dome to top the edifice.

The “Great Deception” of the book’s title has been the pretence to the citizens of the European countries involved that successive treaties embodying economic integration were needed to give more jobs and economic growth, when the real agenda throughout has remained political integration, the construction of a Federal European Superstate under the joint hegemony of France and Germany. The extra jobs have been a chimera also for most of the EU countries.

The book shows that the fundamental reason why Fance’s President De Gaulle kept Britain out of the EEC during the 1960s was his concern to have the financial arrangement for the Common Agricultural Policy established first, whereby the EEC as a whole underwrote high subsidies for French farmers, who in 1961 still accounted for a quarter of France’s employment as against only four percent in Britain. Britain would never have agreed to the CAP if she were already an EEC member. Once the CAP funding was settled, British membership of the EEC became a matter of French interest, and De Gaulle’s veto was abandoned. As a condition of her membership Britain cut her imports of cheap food from around the world and replaced them with more expensive French and continental products. At the same time the levies she paid on what foodstuffs she imported from outside the EEC were automatically paid to Brussels to subsidise French and other EEC farmers. The recent agreement on the EU budget up to 2013 shows that continued subsidies for her farmers remain central to France’s EU policy.

Britain took on this burden in the hope of preventing France and Germany dominating the EC/EU together, or hopeful that they would co-opt Britain to run it as a triumvirate. The book shows how these hopes turned to ashes. The authors describe sardonically how successive British governments and the supposedly “Rolls Royce minds” of Britain’s Foreign Office continually deceived the British people, in the process often deceiving themselves, as to what the EU was really all about.

The authors conclude: “Behind the lofty ideals of supranationalism in short, evoking an image of Commissoners sitting like Plato’s Guardians, guiding the affairs of Europe on some rarefied plane far above the petty egotisms and rivalries of mere nation states, the project Monnet had set on its way was a vast, ramshackle, self-deluding monster: partly suffocating in its own bureaucracy; partly a corrupt racket, providing endless opportunities for individuals and collectives to outwit and exploit their fellow men; partly a mighty engine for promoting the national interests of those countries who knew how to ‘work the system’, among whom the Irish and the Spanish had done better than most, but of whom France was the unrivalled master. The one thing above all the project could never be, because by definition it had never been intended to be, was in the remotest sense democratic.”

They believe that fatal weakness is why the project is historically doomed and why it will in time “leave a terrible devastation behind it, a wasteland from which it would take many years for the peoples of Europe to emerge.” Their book shows convincingly why this judgement looks like being fulfilled.

Review by Anthony Coughlan

Christopher Booker and Richard North, “THE GREAT DECEPTION: CAN THE EUROPEAN UNION SURVIVE?”; revised paperback edition, 2005; Continuum Publishers, London and New York;ISBN 0-8264-8014-4; £10 sterling or E14.60 euros.


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