by Christopher Booker
1 January 2013
How our politicians have lied and lied
the true purpose of the European
Fateful: Forty years
Edward Heath took us into
what was then called the 'Common Market'
Forty years ago today, in what was arguably the most fateful political move
ever made by a British Prime Minister, Edward Heath took us into what
was then called the ‘Common Market’.
Such a step had scarcely been mentioned at the previous General Election,
and the British people had very little idea of what they were letting
themselves in for, other than a trading arrangement that might make it
easier for us to sell our goods to our Continental neighbors.
Four decades later, the picture could scarcely look more different. We have
seen that supposedly cozy club we joined transformed, step by step,
into a vast, bloated bureaucratic empire, imposing its suffocating rule over
We have also seen it plunged into the most destructive crisis in its history
- one it has brought entirely on itself by its reckless dream of locking the
countries of Europe together into the straitjacket of the euro.
During those 40 years the British have never been happy members of this
club. Too often we have been out of step, and even bitterly at odds, with
the rest - as in our refusal to join that single currency.
But today, as the EU’s inner core of countries drive towards ‘full political
union’ in a desperate bid to save their doomed euro, the British now look at
this swollen political monster with fearful bemusement.
Politicians of every party talk plaintively about the need for us to
negotiate a ‘looser relationship’ with the EU, while opinion polls
consistently show a growing majority wanting to leave it altogether - an
option that even David Cameron no longer rules out.
Even on the Continent, influential voices are now recognizing that something
very significant is happening in Britain, as they suggest we should perhaps
be allowed something never seen before - a mere ‘associate membership’ of
the EU, allowing us to continue trading with it but without all its
How did we come to such a pass? Are we today looking at another historic
crossroads, in its own way just as fateful as the one we faced back in 1973?
The real problem the British people have had with the ‘European project’, as
its insiders call it, is that they have never really begun to understand its
real nature, and what was always intended to be its ultimate goal.
The chief reason for this is that our politicians have never properly
explained it to us.
What makes this so much worse is that those who were most enthused by it,
such as Heath, knew full well what ‘the project’ was really about - the
plan to weld all Europe together under an unprecedented form of
They deliberately decided to conceal it from us, for fear that our
anxieties about our loss of sovereignty might prevent them from being
allowed to join.
Movement: Opinion polls consistently show
a growing majority wanting to
leave the EU altogether - an option
that even David Cameron no
longer rules out
Ten years ago, with my co-author Richard North, I wrote a
comprehensively researched history of the ‘European
I had already been reporting for years on the incredible damage membership
of the EU was doing to British life, through thousands of crazy directives
and regulations, through the destruction of our proud fishing industry and
the undermining of our agriculture, which was until 1973 the most efficient
The real story, surprisingly, goes back to the 1920s, when a senior
League of Nations official, Frenchman Jean Monnet, first began to
dream of building a ‘United States of Europe’, very much on the lines that
decades later would shape the European Union as it is today.
After World War II, Monnet, by then the second most powerful man in France,
finally set the project on its way.
He knew there was no chance of bringing such an
astonishingly ambitious vision into being all at once. So his plan was that
it should gradually be constructed, piece by stealthy piece, without ever
declaring too openly what was intended to be its ultimate goal.
At first it should be presented as just a trading arrangement, the ‘Common
Market’ set up in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. But the essence of that treaty
was to create the core institutions of what Monnet always intended should
one day be the ‘Government of Europe’.
Frenchman Jean Monnet
first began to dream of
building a 'United States of Europe'
The idea was to work for ‘ever closer union’.
Treaty by treaty, it would take over more powers from national governments,
based on the sacred principle that once power to make laws was handed over
to Brussels it could never be given back.
Ever more countries would be brought into the net, until the project reached
its ultimate goal as a super-government, with its own president and
parliament, its own currency and armed forces, its own flag and anthem - all
the attributes of a fully-fledged nation state.
Thus, stealthily assembled over decades, would this new ‘country called
Europe’ finally take its place on the world stage. What we found most
shocking in researching this story was that, when Britain’s leaders first
considered joining the project, they were made fully aware of this hidden
As we see from Cabinet papers and other documents of the early Sixties,
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his ‘Europe Minister’ Edward
Heath were put completely in the picture about the secret ‘grand plan’.
But in June 1961 the Cabinet formally agreed
that it must not be revealed to the British people.
In Macmillan’s words, to admit ‘the political objectives’ of
the Rome Treaty would raise ‘problems of
public relations’ so ‘considerable’ that they should be kept under wraps. It
was vital to emphasize only the economic advantages of British entry.
Thus did Macmillan and Heath become drawn into complicity with that same web
of deceit which was driving the ‘project’ itself (which is why we called our
book The Great Deception).
Twice in the Sixties Britain made failed attempts to join the project - but
within weeks of Heath entering Downing Street in 1970, he applied to
Brussels a third time.
Scarcely had negotiations begun than he learned
that his future partners were already discussing the next steps along their
path to full integration:
a single currency
European defence forces
a common foreign policy
Heath immediately sent word to Brussels pleading
for all this to be kept quiet, because it might blow the gaffe with British
For two years the negotiations continued, with Heath handing over all he was
asked for, from giving away Britain’s fishing waters, the richest in the
world, to become ‘a common European resource’, to the betrayal of our
Commonwealth partners by excluding their goods from what had been for many
their main export market.
Finally, Heath got what he was after: entry to the club - although he still
pretended that the Common Market was little more than a trading arrangement.
On the day we entered, he told the British people on television that any
fears that ‘we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty’
were ‘completely unjustified’.
Deliberate lie: On the day we entered the club,
Heath told the British people
on television that any fears that
'we shall in some way
sacrifice independence and sovereignty'
were 'completely unjustified'
This was a deliberate lie, as no one knew better than him and
the senior Foreign Office official who two years earlier had written a
secret paper on ‘Sovereignty’.
The paper chillingly spelled out how it would be the end of the century
before the British people woke up to how much of their power to govern
themselves and make their own laws had been given away - by which time it
would be too late.
So began the dismal story which has been unfolding ever since. Already by
the late Seventies, as the Common Market morphed into ‘the European
Community’, we were becoming known in Brussels as ‘the awkward partner’.
Then came Mrs Thatcher’s five-year battle to win that rebate on our
payments into the EU budget which, thanks to the ludicrously lop-sided
conditions accepted by Heath, would have made us the largest single
contributor by 1985.
In 1986 came the treaty called the
Single European Act, which not only set up
the Single Market but handed over to Brussels all sorts of other powers,
including environmental laws which were to lead to everything from the
shambles of our rubbish collections to building thousands of hated and
useless wind turbines.
Mrs Thatcher had a five-year battle to win the rebate
on our payments into the EU
budget which would have made us
the largest single
contributor by 1985
In 1990, nothing did more to inspire hostility to Mrs Thatcher among her
European colleagues, led by Jacques Delors, than her defiant
the Maastricht Treaty, designed to create
the European Union, introduce the ‘social chapter’ and, above all, to launch
the single currency.
As soon as he replaced her, John Major proclaimed his wish for
Britain to be ‘at the heart of Europe’ and signed the Maastricht Treaty
(admittedly with those vital opt-outs for Britain on the single currency and
the social chapter).
But seven years later he ended up more at odds with his partners than ever,
as they imposed their worldwide ban on the export of all British beef
products over ‘mad cow disease’, tried to sneak us into the social chapter
under ‘health and safety’ rules and laid their plans for yet another
integrationist treaty in Amsterdam.
Tony Blair, too, wanted to be ‘at the heart of Europe’, as the single
currency approached (which he would love to have joined), signing us up to
the social chapter with its damaging working-time rules, and two more
treaties, at Amsterdam and Nice.
But he too found it hard to keep up with that relentless drive for ever
closer union, as it led to seven years of tortuous negotiation to create ‘A
Constitution for Europe’, eventually sabotaged by the voters of France and
Holland, so that it had to be smuggled in by deceit as the Lisbon Treaty
(which, among much else, incorporated the Court of Human Rights into the
Scarcely was the ink dry on Prime Minister
Gordon Brown’s signature on that treaty than the EU was plunged into its
worst-ever crisis over the euro, which today is spreading misery across
As always, the response of the EU’s leaders has been to call for yet ‘more
Europe’, and a new treaty to force the Eurozone members into ‘full political
This is now leaving Britain more obviously marginalized than ever, condemned
to remain in the outer ring of a club, many members of which would now be
only too pleased to see the back of us.
This humiliating prospect has seen our politicians running around like
bewildered sheep, bleating about the need for Britain to negotiate a ‘looser
relationship’ with the EU, to get back to that trading arrangement we
thought we were entering 40 years ago.
Marginalized: Our politicians have been running around like bewildered
bleating about the need for
Britain to negotiate a 'looser relationship' with the EU
Astonishingly, this is now even being echoed as a possibility by those
influential voices in Europe itself - even though the most fundamental rule
of the club we joined back then was that, once powers are passed to
Brussels, they can never be given back.
As David Cameron prepares to give that ‘very important speech on
Europe’ he has promised us very soon, he could not do better than to
meditate on the shrewdest words ever uttered by a Prime Minister about
Britain and Europe.
In 1973, as a junior member of Heath’s Cabinet,
Margaret Thatcher made all the approved noises about how wonderful it was
for Britain to join this club.
Once in office, however, she went on a painful learning curve, as she saw
from the inside just what the real game was and how ruthlessly it was
played. She was brought down in 1990 by an alliance of Europhiles in her
party and their Brussels allies, because she was the last real obstacle to
their Maastricht Treaty.
What really riled them was that she had seen through their true agenda and
the disastrous course on which they were set.
With even Jacques Delors, the chief architect of Maastricht, suggesting it
might be best for Britain to leave the EU, Mr Cameron should dwell on a
passage from her last book, Statecraft.
‘That such an unnecessary and irrational
project as building a European super-state was ever embarked on,’ wrote
Lady Thatcher, ‘will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest
folly of the modern era.
And that Britain... should ever have become
part of it will appear a political error of the first magnitude.’
If Mr Cameron truly wishes to speak for the
British people and our country’s future, he should bear those prophetic
thoughts in mind.