Four decades ago, Britain joined the European Community. The British people – those inconvenient voters whom politicians periodically have to win over in order to enact their grand schemes – were told this was merely a “Common Market” that would boost jobs and trade. What they were not told is that this was the cover for the creation of a federal European state.
Why were they not told? All the key players knew the truth. Prime Minister Edward Heath certainly knew. The Cabinet had been briefed to downplay the supranational ambitions of EC leaders for “presentational reasons”.
This is the story of how unelected officials hatched and executed a bold plan to end the independence of Europe’s nation states. Guided by the vision of an enigmatic Frenchman, the plan rolled ahead slowly but inexorably. By the time the people of Europe started to notice something was wrong, it was almost too late to stop it.
The Great Deception is the best single-volume history of the EU and Britain’s relationship with it currently on the market. Authors Christopher Booker and Richard North obliterate euro-myths on almost every page as they bring to light the whole sordid history of the European project.
For instance, the EU did not start with Churchill. Britain’s wartime Prime Minister may have called for a “United States of Europe” but his vision of an ‘intergovernmental’ agreement between nation states – like the Council of Europe, whose creation Churchill presided over – could not have been more at odds with the ‘supranational’ approach favoured by the founders of the European Union. And it was always clear he intended Britain to be a friend and ally rather than a member. Britain’s place, in Churchill’s mind, was with its Empire and Commonwealth.
The story of the European Union originates with in 1920s from two senior officials of the League of Nations – Jean Monnet and Arthur Salter, a British civil servant. They had seen first hand the failure of the League of Nations between the two world wars, and believed that the only way to avoid another war was to mould Europe’s previously-independent nation states into an entirely new construction: a supranational government.
The infant EU was never about co-operation between sovereign states, as so many British Prime Ministers have assured us. It was designed from birth to rule over them. The authors are particularly good at laying out when and how it all began.
The official history of the European Union begins with the Schumann Declaration: French foreign minister Robert Schumann’s radio broadcast in 1950. Schumann proposed merging France and Germany’s traditional war industries – coal and steel – in order to prevent a new war ever breaking out between the two former enemies. He made it clear that this was only “the first concrete step towards a European federation”.
What the official history leaves out is that whilst the Schumann was the speaker, the words of the Declaration were Monnet’s. The entire speech had been drafted by the shady architect of the European project. Booker and North do us a great service by bringing this to light. The EU was always an elite project: contempt for the masses, with their petty “nationalism”, was built into it from the very beginning.
The Declaration served its purpose. Soon six nations – France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – had joined a European “Coal and Steel Community” with Monnet at its head.
Europe lay in ruins at the end of the Second World War, faced with the very real threat of Soviet invasion or Communist revolution. This was a time when the impossible seemed possible. A number of initiatives – the Marshall Plan, NATO, the UN, GATT – were only just coming to life.
Monnet and his allies saw the prevailing sense of crisis as an opportunity to create the federal Europe they wanted. First they tried to create it all at once, but an attempt to turn the ECSC into a political union in 1954 failed. Stung by failure, Monnet changed tactics. Europe was to be constructed piece-by-piece, one unthreatening, deceptive and boring-sounding measure at a time.
At first it was to be presented as a trading arrangement, the “Common Market” created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. But the new European Economic Community was never intended to remain a mere customs union forever.
The Treaty promised to kickstart the drive towards “ever-closer union” between the peoples of Europe. It set up all the core institutions of what Monnet intended to become the “Government of Europe”: what we recognise today as the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council.
In the early 1960s, Harold MacMillan decided to join the Community. The militantly pro-EEC Edward Heath was to be his chief negotiator. Both men knew what they were doing: MacMillan spoke of the “problems of public relations” arising from the “political objectives” of the Treaty of Rome. The British people were not to be told of the real objectives behind the “Common Market”.
So why were they not told?
The truth then – and now – is that the British people have always been reluctant ‘Europeans’. We like the idea of free trade with Europe. We don’t mind co-operating with European governments for mutual security, defence and prosperity, but we’ve never been all that keen on being dictated to.
A thousand years of British history has left us with a strong national identity, parliamentary democracy, a preference for freedom over grand bureaucratic plans, and an almost-visceral aversion to being bossed around.
Our governing class has never really shared this outlook. They knew better than the rabble that membership of an evolving European state would be good for us. But first they had to sell it to the people in a language that wouldn’t simply be rejected out of hand. So they lied. And lied again. They haven’t stopped lying since.
After repeated rebuffs by Charles de Gaulle – which conveniently allowed the creation of a Common Agricultural policy that overwhelmingly benefited French farmers (at the expense of practically everyone else) before Britain got its seat at the voting table – Britain was finally allowed to join in 1970.
The terms Heath had negotiated on Britain’s behalf represented – to put it mildly – an unconditional surrender. Heath’s team gave away everything they were asked for. Britain’s rich fisheries were to become a “common European resource”. Our Commonwealth trading partners were to be cut off behind a European tariff wall.
So controversial was the deal that Labour under Harold Wilson promised a referendum in 1973. The better-organised Yes campaign – supported by the government, big business, and most of the press – won easily.
But the oft-repeated mantra that membership involved no loss of sovereignty was soon proved wrong. Booker and North do a great job of pointing out how, whilst other countries (notably France) could milk membership for all it was worth, any complaint by British representatives saw the UK labelled the “awkward partner”.
Mrs Thatcher was able to win a rebate on British payments into the EU budget, but in 1986 was forced to swallow the Single European Act – which further extended the powers of the European institutions at the expense of the nation states – in order to create the European Single Market she wanted.
The early 1990s saw Thatcher locked in a battle to the death with Commission President Jacques Delors, the ideological heir to Monnet. Already isolated by her increasingly eurosceptic stance, Thatcher was soon booted out of office and replaced by the more compliant John Major.
Britain was soon signed up to the Maastricht Treaty – which created the European Union as we know it today – but secured a temporary reprieve from the most contentious parts of the treaty: the proposed social chapter and the single currency.
Tony Blair was much more enthusiastic. Swept into power with a landslide majority in 1997, he declared that Britain was to be “at the heart of Europe”, signed the social chapter, and would have taken us into the single currency if he hadn’t signed over economic decision-making to Gordon Brown.
For many of us, the scandalous handling of the “Constitution for Europe” is what clued us into the moral degeneracy of the European project. Rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, the provisions of the Constitution were brought back under the much-less-threatening-sounding Lisbon Treaty. Rejection at the ballot box was seen as a mere inconvenience.
The book ends here: but the same observation can be made of the EU’s handling of the eurozone debt crisis. When the governments of Greece and Italy opposed the bailouts, they were toppled and replaced by pliable technocrats. Once again, the project was considered far more important than the wishes of voters. Once again, the EU elites contempt for democracy was plain to see.
Far from the trading relationship we thought we were getting in the 1970s, the European project has morphed into an oversized bureaucratic monster. As Booker and North highlight again and again, this is no accident. It was always intended to be this way.
The central principle of the European project is that once power has been given up to the EU institutions, it cannot be passed back. That is why David Cameron was unable to get European leaders to agree to his already-weak list of demands earlier this year.
With British politics once again convulsed by a European referendum there has never been a better time to read this book, or to encourage someone else to read it.
Chris has been a member of the Conservative Party since 2010. He believes strongly in individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the power of free markets to eliminate poverty by encouraging wealth creation. Follow him on Twitter: @
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty.