Our EU exit spares us an ever-closer union

The Daily Telegraph - - Letters to the editor - Es­tab­lished 1855

Amid the con­fu­sion and con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Bri­tain’s fu­ture relationship with the EU, one cru­cial fac­tor is too eas­ily for­got­ten. Down the years, it is not trade that has been the prob­lem with our mem­ber­ship, but the EU’S po­lit­i­cal ag­gran­dis­e­ment. We joined the old Com­mon Mar­ket imag­in­ing that the UK would be part of a trad­ing bloc with har­monised rules and no in­ter­nal tar­iffs. Had it stayed that way, there would be no part­ing of the ways to­day.

But other EU coun­tries have been keen to pur­sue the concept of ever-closer union en­shrined in the Treaty of Rome, some­thing we had hoped would not be taken se­ri­ously. In­deed, we were con­sis­tently told by Europhiles in Bri­tain that it was not go­ing to hap­pen; and yet, bit by bit, their as­sur­ances crum­bled with the cre­ation of EU cit­i­zen­ship un­der the Maas­tricht treaty and the es­tab­lish­ment of a sin­gle cur­rency. Many of the trap­pings of a fed­eral Europe are now in place.

At some point, the UK would have had to con­front this drive to­wards a su­per-state. That much be­came clear with the speech of Jean-claude Juncker to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Septem­ber. Again, this was dis­missed by those seek­ing to re­verse Brexit as the uni­lat­eral maun­der­ings of a Euro­crat. Not for the first time, this was un­true. The prospec­tus that Mr Juncker out­lined is gain­ing trac­tion in the main­stream of Euro­pean pol­i­tics.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Ger­man So­cial Demo­cratic Party, yes­ter­day called for EU mem­ber states to com­mit to a “United States of Europe” by 2025 – and he made it a con­di­tion that Angela Merkel should change her EU policy if his party is to con­sider form­ing a new “grand coali­tion” to end the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in Ger­many.

Mr Schulz said EU mem­ber states should agree a new “con­sti­tu­tional treaty” to es­tab­lish a fed­eral union, and coun­tries that did not sign up would have to leave the bloc. Mrs Merkel is also be­ing pressed by Pres­i­dent Macron of France to em­bark on an am­bi­tious pro­gramme of EU re­form, and the Chan­cel­lor’s po­lit­i­cal weak­ness makes it hard for her to re­sist.

This has long been the di­rec­tion of travel in the EU and is the in­evitable corol­lary of mon­e­tary union. Had the UK voted to stay in the EU, the pres­sure to sign up would have been enor­mous, not least from those now try­ing to undo Brexit. Since we could never have agreed to that, it is bet­ter that we get out now.

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