Although he has now been vindicated by the fallout of the euro’s deep troubles, still the old European establishment goes on praising the crumbling edifice; not least the Nobel Peace Prize committee. In his new book, A Doomed Marriage, Hannan outlines why the European project was doomed from the beginning. As he puts it, the EU is a symptom of European peace since the Second World War, not its cause.
Yet that is the great argument of EU defenders – that a supranational state saved its constituent nations from disaster and economic breakdown. In fact, as Hannan explains, Europe’s rise to global hegemony over the last millennium was due to the independence of its nation states. Countries fought to outdo each other; new ideas could be tested in one nation and, if successful, tried elsewhere. It goes without saying that the reason Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland have all been brought to their knees is because of a supranational lock-in; if they could have manoeuvred their economies independently of European central policy, they would not be in this state.
It isn’t just the principle of supranationalism that Hannan expertly demolishes. The way that supranationalism was constructed was extremely undemocratic. The EU is run by a body that combines executive and legislative power. The European Commission, as well as being the EU’s government, is also the only body that can propose legislation in practically all areas. On top of that, the 27 commissioners are unelected. As a result, it moves ahead at its own whim, irrespective of the wishes of its constituents.
It’s true that the first generation of post-war euro-leaders were idealists who believed in the glorious dream of bringing stability and recovery to a war-scarred continent. Now they have been succeeded by those who have discovered a marvellous, unaccountable way to make a living.
Because the EU is run on such a tyrannical infrastructure, it’s extremely easy to bat away objections. If a European employee criticises the euro – as the British official Bernard Connolly did – well, just sack him. And, if a country votes against any lurching increase in EU power, the answer is simple enough: get them to vote again, until they realise the foolish error of their ways.
Hannan is no mere critic of the system. He also provides alternatives – notably Switzerland and Norway. Switzerland still shares in the freedoms of the single market and can sign trade accords with third party countries. Norway got no further towards EU membership than the European Economic Area. Both countries are prospering. Why can’t we just go ahead and join them?
Harry Mount is the author of How England made the English. Daniel Hannan’s book A Doomed Marriage – Britain and Europe (Notting Hill Editions) is out now.