The decision of the United Kingdom to part from European Union sent waves of shocks throughout the international political scene. The nightmare of futurists became a reality. In one day of referendum, without war British voters if not dismantled then seriously weakened modern political order.
The same commentators, theoreticians and politicians, who spoke with certainty about British willingness to stay inside the EU could not explain this decision. Embarrassed they used the same narratives, which led them previously to the wrong conclusion. It was difficult for them to acknowledge a simple fact. Britain committed Brerror.
The winners of the referendum were not influenced primarily by the economic argument neither by so-called religious radicalism. It appears they were deceived and manipulated with tactics used by the deception of an inadvertent disinformation apparatus, which consisted mostly of gullible conservative media and confused politicians. This propaganda effort used false symbols and myths which were deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of British electorate. It was a result of a long process of leaving unchallenged distorted statistics, exaggerated conclusions and pseudo-facts. That is rather some hyper-exaggerated facts.
It is very difficult to tell when exactly this process began, but certainly it influenced at least one generation of Great Britain. It is easier to point at its roots, which were of course polemics and semi-reports in the Conservative magazines such as Spectator and less popular titles, but probably more influential ones, like Salisbury Review.
In the winter issue of Salisbury Review from 2009 the European Union was presented in utterly dishonest manner and its idea was mocked.
The typical cynical commentary filled with half-truths on EU opens issue of the magazine: “Corruption explains the attraction of the European Union to politicians of all parties.” Authors alleged that the politicians, who intend to work in EU structures “prey” on its pension fund and guarantee of further employment. In the following article: “Led in chains to Brussels” another dis-informing conclusion (“democratic deficit in Europe is getting wider” ) was drawn by the author, who twisted facts to fit them to the British conservative cliche: European Union is a hegemony.
It was not enough to present its own complexes as an objective analysis for the author. The article also said: “the essential dynamic of the EU: it behaves like a giant interest group whose main interest is itself.” In almost every article explicitly or implicitly EU was portrayed not only as unnecessary burden but almost as an obstacle for British prosperity. The cynicism, mockery and viciousness reached its zenith when yet another author ridiculed the foundational idea of EU. This idea was emphasised in a speech by then Foreign Minister of United Kingdom, whom author of the Salisbury Review ridiculed:
“David Miliband used the occasion to talk up the European Union which he said was founded in 1951 ‘to make war unthinkable’. He told Blair that, if Britain did not agree to further outrageous concessions of power to a centralised EU, his baby son Leo would live to experience a new war between the quarrelsome European nation states… It is disgraceful that our Foreign Secretary should have used this historic meeting to make these cheap points.”
All of these distortions can be found in one issue of what is regarded as a magazine for intellectuals and elites of Conservative Great Britain.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who contributed greatly to President Ronald Reagan and his Administrations diplomatic, political and economic strategies orchestrated with diplomatic effort of Pope John Paul II’s Vatican, was also a staunch enemy of an idea of united Germany and originator of the myth about European Union. In her speech in 1988 Lady Thatcher between the lines compared European Union governance to the Soviet Union planned economy: ” it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction.”
Famous Soviet dissident and a great human rights defender later would built his opinion on this comparison trying to demonstrate that certain elements of united Europe were negotiated by the European socialists with the Communist Party of Soviet Union. He would admit that although the collapse of Soviet Union, and the regimes of its satellite states, was planned for a long time in Kremlin it became uncontrollable during Perestroika. Unfortunately he would not make similar observation in the context of the European Union, which seem to be indispensable.
British Conservative writer John Laughland adding to that remarks called European Union a “Marxist utopia” and accused its proponents for using of communist symbolism and ideas.
This rhetoric was hijacked by invisible hand, which in the last few years multiplied efforts in the British media to facilitate distorted view of the European Union in the minds of British passing generation of retirees and pensioners, who en masse casted “leave” votes.
Was Russia, its ruling KGB regime, a part of this disinformation machine? At first glance this question may look ridiculous but after short reflection it becomes more real than it seems, said another veteran Russian human rights advocate Mr. Sergei Grigoryants. So let us ask: cui bono? Who benefits from fact that in a one day British pound lost more value than in 20 years combined? Who may exploit the fact that UK, as Financial Times newspaper revealed, has not even one trade negotiation opened while trade channel through EU was closed? Who, last but not least, benefits from the economic and political chaos in Europe?
It does not take a genius to think that the mechanism oriented on a cutoff of membership in EU had an engine inside the British political elite. Perhaps, as observed Mr.Grigoryants, who organised several scientific conferences on the history and activities infamous Soviet KGB, a model for such a mechanism can be ill-famed network of the Cambridge Spy Ring.
Indeed otherwise it is very difficult, if not impossible, to explain a very strange flow of public debate on EU before the referendum. It took much effort to not to remind and present basic facts on the origins of Europe. The basic and the most important questions remained unaswered. Why the organisation of EU was created? How the vision of EU was born? What were the immediate political and economic results after the vision was implemented? Why modern European Union structures are needed for safety and prosperity not only European free market of goods and ideas, but also the rest of the world.
Mr. Grigoryants’ remarks may seem to be too radical for some readers, but one should emphasise that it is historically true that the idea of Europe as a community has frightened its rivals and enemies from the beginning. Union of states made Europe stronger and more competitive, not susceptible to internal quarrels and outside manipulation.
Britain was never an enemy of the united Europe but it never understood its founding concepts. British population had difficulty to understand the essence of the idea of the European Steel and Coal Community in 1952 and the European Economic Community in 1957 that turned into European Union in 1983. London proud of its Citi, a global financial centre, with a distrust perceived the European Monetary System established in 1979, which was foundation for the European Monetary Union and the new currency in the participating countries in 2002.
The main reason for founding of the European Union, the EU Fathers explained, was to prevent another catastrophic war in Europe and to facilitate sustainable economic growth in all of the regions of the continent.
The intentions and plans of the EU Founding Fathers were not appreciated by the United Kingdom partly because it did not experience loss and destruction in such a scale like the continental Europe during World War II. The Nazis did not built any concentration and death camps near London, Bath or Stoke-on-Trent. British people were saved from being witness of horror of the Shoah of Jews and the extermination of other nations.
After the war British State generously opened its door to the post-war immigrants including the veteran soldiers who revealed details of Europe’s tragedy. However the majority of British people learnt about the material and spiritual destruction of the Continent from its press.
The other factor, which influenced Brexit may be even less appreciated, especially in our hyper-secularised culture but as Furman University professors Brent F. Nelsen and James L. Guth argued it may have played important role in consciousness of voters and politicians. According to the authors of new hypothesis, the religious composition of national societies influences parliamentary elites toward integration or disunity. The strongest support had politicians backed by Catholic societies; Orthodox voters provided slightly smaller encouragement and Protestant constituencies showed the discouragement.
“The impact of confessional culture may sometimes be difficult to detect in the attitudes of contemporary European elites, but this culture continues to shape the functioning of important European institutions” — concluded Professors. “If Protestant political parties are members of coalition governments when their national parliaments create European oversight committees, these committees are much more likely to scrutinise Brussels closely than are oversight bodies established by governments that include Catholic or mixed confessional Christian Democratic parties” — they added.
Protestant Christianity of some Conservative critics who do not hide their church membership allowed them however to be conveniently silent on the fact that that the Community founding fathers were professing Christians, including Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet or Johan Willem Beyen.
German Chancellor Adenauer, French Minister of Finance Schuman and Italian De Gasperi were Chairmen of Christian-Democratic parties in their countries.
During the World War II, then young professionals, thought how to prevent such tragedy in Europe. When guns finally were silent and the Continent strengthened by the American economic aid from Marshall Plan, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Beyen, economist and strategists laid ground for European common market. Although his idea was built on Jean Monnet’s and Robert’s Schuman’s plan for integration of the European steal and coal markets. It was not only new political-economic framework to avoid Franco-German conflicts, but to prevent any of them throughout Europe from the Western side of Iron Curtain.
Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman were convinced that the only way to share their life-experience with next generation of Europe and the world are new-type legal institutions that transcend notion of nationalism and sovereignty. Monnet presented this view during his speech to General Assembly European Coal and Steel Community in Strasburg in 1952:
“The tragic event through which we have lived, and those which we are still see going on, have perhaps made us wiser. But men disappear and others will come to take our places. What we can bequeath them is not our own personal experience, for that will vanish along with us: what we can bequeath them is Institutions. Institutions have a longer life than men, and thus if they are properly constructed, they can accumulate and transmit the wisdom of successive generations.”
Institutions, constructed by Founding Fathers of European Union, that shared sovereignty in carefully selected areas of economic, defence and political spheres were a fundamental invention of the European visionaries. Monnet called this reform a “great European revolution” aimed to replace national rivalries by “the union of people in freedom and diversity”.
In four decades the European institutions evolved and transformed according to the plans designed and agreed by the European Parliament and other third-party political bodies. People of Europe were integrated to the European political and economic system through democratically elected representatives, which have had influence on the policies and decision-making process. The international bodies were governed by the rules and standards that created new economic and social culture in Europe.
These institutions were safeguard for peace in once divided Europe. These economic, financial and social solutions provided supra-national governance for nations, which many of whom were once enmity amongst themselves. These institutions together with United States Army presence provided European allies mutual trusts, lowered the business transaction costs and allowed states to participate, reasonably equally, in the economic growth of post-war Europe. It is more important that these institutions facilitated economic growth through rule-based decision making mechanism rather than imperial dictates.
The reforms that Institutions initiated resulted in political and economic gains for Europe and the United States in late 1980s and early 1990s. American military strategist and thinker General William E. Odom called these gains “the largest strategic realignment without a major war in modern history of Europe highlighted its diplomatic achievement”. General Odom told about the history of origins of modern European Union through prism of the German unification. This should serve as a blueprint for explaining of the foundations of EU.
President George H. W. Bush backed German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in cutting a deal with Moscow. It involved skillful diplomatic effort backed by overwhelming U.S. military and economic power. Bush then split Prime Minister of United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher from President of France Francois Mitterrand to push through NATO approval. Britain was “the most adamant” opponent of German unification but France was “far less”. After successful isolation of Thatcher Bush made possible for Kohl to appease Mitterrand by promising to push through the Maastricht Treaty. Germany was reunified within NATO and the European was soon born from the Maastricht Treaty. Afterwards Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union collapsed.
The creation of the European Union was triggered by the American diplomacy thanks to successful unification of Germany within NATO. The alternative, according to General Odom, would be Germany outside of NATO and the European continent in the political and economic turmoil.
The European Union with its supra-national institutions to the same degree as NATO, although in different spheres, facilitates economic growth, security and well being of nations.
This is correct narrative, which British conservatives with its last breathe of passing generation managed to suppress in their consciousness. Young British people understand it very well.
The economic benefit of the European Union was emphasised by Nobel Laureate economist Douglas North, who demonstrated, that governance by rule-based, third party enforcement actually lowers transaction costs for business and makes long-term economic growth possible.
The day after Brexit president of European Council Donald Tusk encapsulated in one sentence historic and contemporary idea of European Union: “I felt as if someone very close to me had left our home, and in the same second I felt also how dear and precious this home was to me.” In later interview he made clear why from geopolitical perspective leaving the European Union creates a danger for the United Kingdom: “in the long-term they [consequences] are completely unpredictable.”
Predictable are short-term difficulties for Britain to stabilise its political and economic situation. It will survive under the hostile, inside and outside, pressures alone but the price for its independence may be very high unless the European Union will not find a solution for parting in the original atmosphere of solidarity. This is an occasion for EU to demonstrate last time for now its fundamental values toward its former member.
Will Brexit weaken European Union itself? If, using words of one of the Europe’s Founding Fathers Jean Monnet, each country once again renew its commitment to not to follow its destiny, or what it believes is its own destiny, by applying its own rules, then Europe will not return to the age of wars in the name of national sovereignty, which can only lead once again to total destruction. The course of past 100 years that preceded establishment of European Community of Steel and Coal will probably suffice to be a warning sign. But such a path exist because it has always existed, but preceding generations of Europe wisely decided to not to follow it.
Thus everything depends on the approach of members of states toward this problem. If they will try to address fears and uncertainties in the spirit of common cooperation for common good, which is shared by all of members, Europe not only will regain strength but may become a political solution for other types of difficult problems in more troubling places of the globe.
Members of European Union can turn Brerror into its Brenrichment, that is enrichment of the Continent in a new experience, which will strengthen the union of peoples in its freedom and diversity. If that happens then it will be a continuation of revolution that seeks to bring about a new flowering of our civilisation and opens up a new Renaissance because, as Jean Monnet said, the establishment of first supra-national institutions in Europe was only the beginning.