Back in 1971 the late Enoch Powell toured the capitals of Europe warning the people of France, Germany and Italy of the dangers of excessive European integration.
Speaking fluently in their respective languages, Powell highlighted that ‘a common currency means common government; the one is meaningless and impossible without the other.’
More than forty years later, the prolonged euro zone crisis has shown us all the wisdom of Powell’s words. It is folly to believe, as continental European politicians persist in doing, that a single currency can be made to work over the long-term without a strong central bank and single euro-wide fiscal policy. Yet, as Powell understood, such centralised government is impossible because there is no single European identity by which it might be legitimised. European unity can only come about, as Powell said in 1969, ‘though a settled, deep and instinctive conviction felt by those concerned that they below first and foremost to the whole and that its interests override those of the parts.’
Given that Powell was an eminent scholar with an expert knowledge of Ancient Greece (he was a Professor of Classics) it is ironic that it should be the Greek debt crisis which has clearly demonstrated that such a common European wide identity simply does not exist and is never likely to come into being.
Within a nation state, such as the UK, financial support to counter disadvantage is taken as part and parcel of nationhood. Yet, during negotiations over Greek debt each member state sought to protect its own interests; there was no evidence that the pain felt in Athens was felt in Berlin.
I have always opposed British membership of the Euro and will continue to do so. In the pages of this newspaper, when others enthused about its prospects, I warned of its likely consequences.
In 1973 Britain joined what was essentially a trading organisation, indeed we were told it was a ‘common market’; we have never signed up to a United States of Europe. As the Chancellor George Osborne said in an interview in July, what Britain wants from the EU is ‘a single market of free trade.’ Trading with our European neighbours is in our national interest, being subsumed into a European super state is not.
It must never happen.