EU ReferendumI don’t generally write about events outside of Africa, but today I think it is worth a few words in support of British membership of the European Union.

War and peace

In my view there is really only one reason to support the EU: it has halted war.

It is easy to forget that in a period of just 74 years more than 48 million Europeans were killed in the slaughter of the Franco-Prussian War and two World Wars.

As the historian Mark Mazower observed: “in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War the death-toll was 184,000; in the First World War, it was above 8 million, and more than 40 million Europeans – half of them civilians – died in the Second World War.” [1]

Nothing is more destructive. But since its inception, no EU member has ever gone to war with another.[2]

In the end the European Union is a plot to stop this happening again.

Winston Churchill, who saw more than his fair share of wars, was Chairman and Founder of the United Europe Movement. He argued that Britain and France should be the, “founder-partners in this movement” and concluded, “Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.”

European countries now meet around the conference table to thrash out their differences: not on the battlefield. As Churchill put it so memorably: “It is ‘better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.’”[3]

A rump Britain

In my view the ‘war and peace’ argument is sufficient. But just think for a moment what would take place if Britain left the EU. There would almost certainly be three major consequences.

  1. Scotland looks certain to vote to remain in the EU, with 60% support for EU membership. If the rest of Britain voted to leave Scotland would then demand a second referendum on remainin part of Britain. And Scots would be very likely to vote in favour of independence within Europe. So David Cameron could go down in history as the man who lost Europe and Scotland.
  2. The loss of Britain (coming on top of the migrant crisis and the problems with the Euro) would be a devastating blow to the EU. Who knows how Europe would react and whether others might head for the exit. The movement which has done so much for Europe since the Second World War would be in danger of disintegrating.
  3. Our enemies would be emboldened. Whether they were Vladimir Putin or Daesh, they would welcome a weakened European entity. Britain would have to negotiate its place in the world outside of the wider EU, facing the Chinese and USA in everything from trade deals to territorial disputes as an isolated, minor player.

The EU may not be perfect, but in an uncertain world this is a terrible prospect.

 

[1] Mazower, Mark: Dark Continent, New York 1999, p. 397.

[2] This is confirmed by Professor Iain Begg, of Chatham House [phone call] He makes the point that Croatia and Slovenia went to war in the 1990’s but before they were EU members.

[3] Remarks at a White House luncheon, June 26, 1954