Bernard Ingham: A chance to escape grip of the EU’s collapsing edifice

WHATEVER happens to David Cameron tomorrow in the nitty-gritty of re-negotiating British membership of the EU, or whatever befalls the Greeks, no one should rejoice at the European Union’s travails. They are untimely, dangerous and, frankly, damaging.

Instead, we need to apply a cool head and cold eye to the pantomime now occupying the European stage.

Surely, some say, the EU is a singularly successful concept since it has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. It would indeed be a signal achievement if it were true. But it grossly exaggerates the EU’s contribution.

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Whatever the CND and fellow travellers may say, it is Nato’s nuclear weapons – the threat of mutual destruction – that has kept Europe free of world as distinct from local wars since 1945

But it has not stopped the Soviet Union and now Vladimir Putin’s Russia from probing and testing our defences and resolve. We are still vulnerable.

Others claim that the EU must surely be counted an economic success after the steady advance until recently of prosperity. That is surely what newly democratised former Communist satellites coveted along with perhaps a feeling of greater security.

And thanks to the federalists’ free movement of labour, the north-western corner of Europe certainly offers a better living for Eastern Europeans and the unemployed in the southern belt who are prepared to do jobs beneath, for example, the British and, backed by human rights judges, to cash in on welfare systems.

The problem created by the federalists’ free movement of labour is all the more acute because of the thousands from Africa and the Middle East who are risking everything to reach nations whose streets, they think, are paved with gold.

Europe is under siege. Its social stability is all the more exposed because of the predictable failure of the Eurozone, which should never have admitted debt-ridden, improvident Greece. Far from being an engine of growth, this crumbling edifice of 19 nations is a drag on the 
world economy.

In fact, the euro can never be a success since it is a political rather than an economic concept. It lacks central
control over widely differing economies and will be a festering sore until either Europe admits its error or the zone 
blows up.

Longer term, the EU is trapped in a politically-correct mindset that worships human rights that even elevate the criminal at the expense of his victim and society generally.

Worse still, its utterly daft pre-occupation with renewable sources of energy and its irrational fears of nuclear power are steadily undermining its ability to compete in the world’s markets. Economically, Europe is on its way down, not up.

This brings me to two other problems – Europe’s lack of democratic legitimacy and its palsied leadership.

The entire edifice is rotten. It makes its unelected civil service – the Commission – its cabinet and its courts are a sure source of judgements that increase the central undemocratic power of the Brussels bureaucracy.

The result is that the EU has no democratically legitimate central authority. It cannot provide a sure lead to member states. It leaves David Cameron to speak reasonably and bluntly – far too bluntly for some delicate European and British stomachs – on the Muslims’ own responsibility for condemning and starving out Islamic terrorism.

The wonder is that tomorrow
Cameron is not trying to negotiate a loosening of ties with this failing – if initially noble – experiment in international co-operation but that he has been landed with the need to do so. For that, blame Ted Heath and a defeatist British establishment.

But while we are at it, let us praise Gordon Brown for keeping us out of the euro. Brown does not get many plaudits these days but he deserves this.

Life would be much more difficult for all of us if Cameron were trying to negotiate our release from that straitjacket. Let us be thankful for 
large mercies.

But let us never rejoice over the failure and deficiencies of the EU. It is not the decisive player it should be in this dangerous world. This is because it has tried to gallop before it can walk.

If it had heeded Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech of 1988 for a looser, wider EU, we would be in a much stronger position to cope. But instead of slowly – over a century, say – integrating 
sovereign nation states into a European view of things it went crash, bang, 
wallop into the pretence of a single currency state.

We are all – and not just Greeks – paying for this monumental mistake.