A lot is made of Winston Churchill’s 1946 speech in Zurich when he called for a united Europe. EU federalists claim him as one of their own and consider him a “founding father” but it is clear, as I discussed in a previous post, that the Churchill model of a united Europe was very different to the one that has developed.
He called for an intergovernmental association, a European assembly acting as a regional council of the United Nations. For obvious reasons, Europhiles make much less of his speech at The Hague on 7 May 1948, when he chaired the Congress of Europe which led to the creation of the Council of Europe:
In that speech, he reminded the Congress that:
“Nothing that we do or plan here conflicts with the paramount authority of a world organisation of the United Nations. On the contrary I have always believed, as I dared in the war, that a Council of Europe was a subordinate but necessary part of the world organisation. I thought at that time, when I had great responsibility, that there should be several regional councils, august but subordinate, that these should form the massive pillars upon which the world organisation would be founded in majesty and calm. This was the direction in which my hopes and thought lay three or four years ago.”
On 17 June, a month after the Congress, Churchill led a 19-strong delegation to meet the Prime Minister Clement Attlee. Its purpose was to present to the Government the Resolutions passed at The Hague. Churchill told the Prime Minister that the delegation “had no desire to trespass on the functions of executive Governments” and that unity and lasting peace “was the foremost object of European union”. The European Union he envisioned was “fully consistent with the objectives of the United Nations; for any European Union would be a subordinate and regional element in the United Nations organisation”.
In reference to the European assembly which would the Council of Europe, he “stressed the fact that those whom the Deputation represented had no desire to usurp the functions of His Majesty’s Government”. The assembly would act as “a forum for the ventilation of ideas and a means of mobilising public opinion throughout Europe in support of the conception of European Union”.
Churchill did not contemplate any elaborate political machinery but rather envisaged an Assembly which would meet once or twice a year to review the progress made, cooperate on common issues and to enlist public support for the policy of the national Governments. He never suggested that resolutions passed in the Assembly should bind democratically elected national governments nor that it was desirable for nation states to surrender their sovereign rights.
Despite constant claims to the contrary Churchill never advocated the type of organisation the EU has become. I don’t actually feel it is of particular importance in this referendum what Churchill said (aside from for historical accuracy) or which side he would endorse were he alive. However, what I do find of interest is his advocacy of a European Union that would be “a subordinate and regional element in the United Nations organisation”.
With the rise of global governance we are seeing a move to a more organised world with regional blocs and nations outsourcing elements of law and policy making process to an international level. Even the EU is adopting international standards and the quasi-legislation of global bodies into its regulations.
Since we joined the EEC in 1972 a vast network of global bodies have emerged that facilitate economic and political cooperation between nations on an intergovernmental basis. The nation state has flourished under this system but we made the mistake of opting for a political organisation designed in the 1930’s with the express intention of turning European nation states into provincial agents of a supranational entity. This means subordination, not cooperation. We made the wrong choice. It was a historic error.
In 1947, the year before Churchill’s speech at The Hague, an organisation called the United Nations Economic Commission Europe (UNECE) was formed. UNECE’s major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration and facilitate cooperation between nations on standards and conventions across a variety of areas. This organisation was exactly the kind of body to which Churchill was referring; intergovernmental, enhancing the voices of nation states and allowing them to interact on an equitable basis. UNECE is based in Geneva where it still resides in the former League of Nations building.
Its first Executive Secretary, Gunnar Myrdal, formerly the Minister of Trade of Sweden, explained the principles of UNECE, which are the antithesis of EU supranationalism and Jean Monnet’s desire to remove the national veto and impose majority voting on sovereign nations:
… no economic problem, indeed no important problem whatsoever, concerning sovereign governments can be solved by a majority decision in an intergovernmental organisation, but only by agreements between as many governments as are willing to consent.
Since its creation UNECE has been steadily building up a body of standards which is now so extensive that via the 1994 WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, it is beginning to set the regulatory agenda in an increasing number of areas for the whole of Europe.
UNECE, with its “determination not encroach on the executive responsibility of Governments” and its low-profile shows us the successful intergovernmental approach that Britain should’ve opted for in 1975 and must opt for on June 23rd. Let’s not pursue any further the idea of “special status” (second class status) outside the core of the EU and instead interact with the EU on an intergovernmental basis, representing ourselves in international organisations where the EU currently holds our voting rights.
In the modern globalised world there is no reason why we cannot be a democratic nation and thrive. Being out of the EU does not in any way mean isolation, turning inwards or shrinking from the global stage. Quite the opposite. We should be championing the global trading system and leading in the construction of the global marketplace.
As for UNECE, we should look to expand its role and scope as a regulator. Gradually the rules of the Single Market are being outsourced; this is happening already and the direction of travel in the process is one way. If we leave the EU we are in a better position to encourage that process and oversee the creation of a genuine European marketplace. The rest of the EU can focus on completing its political union and making the eurozone function better.
For Britain, leaving the EU cul de sac is necessary for our economic, cultural and political prosperity. We used to be keen advocates of intergovernmentalism; on June 23rd we must take this long abandoned route and reject supranational governance.
This post was originally published by the author 12 June 2016 https://thescepticisle.com/2016/06/12/brexit-will-be-a-victory-for-intergovernmentalism-over-supranationalism/