Bernard Ingham: My open letter to European leaders - it is time to save the EU from itself

With British politics in a febrile, mutinous state over Brexit, I have written this open letter to the governments of most '“ but not all '“ of the EU's 27 member states. It is only copied to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Luxembourg and Dublin since, in my judgment, they are beyond redemption.

Migrants gather in front of the reception centre for refugees and asylum seekers as they wait for registration in Berlin in 2015

Fellow Europeans:

As Brexit comes to the crunch I invite you to consider the EU’s standing in the world and, by extension, that of your own governments because of the EU’s handling of the negotiations.

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I shall be blunt. Your stance has reminded me of East Germany which was so desperate about its citizens making a dash for freedom that they built the Berlin Wall. Those who tried to escape were shot.

I am not, of course, suggesting that you would prefer to see the UK dead.

But you and your colleagues should ask yourselves not merely why you have placed every obstacle in the way of our departure – you are now even demanding the right to fish our waters when we leave – and what your negotiating stance has looked like to the world.

While cabinet members may finally be meeting to discuss a draft agreement today, progress has been much delayed with your imagined problems over the border with Ireland and threats to break up the UK that imperil a deal being reached. Who the hell do you think you are?

I write as one who has every sympathy with those who see the EU as a guarantee that war in Europe is a thing of the awful past.

But Brexit will in no way weaken Britain’s commitment to the collective defence of Europe through Nato. We are not isolationist.

In fact, our commitment to Europe’s defence is much stronger than yours because of the proportion of GDP we routinely devote to defence through Nato.

All that French President Emmanuel Macron does in calling for a European army to defend the continent from Russia, China and – wait for it – the USA is to invite contempt. How pathetic can you get? He also demonstrates that he is hell-bent on destroying the EU by his fervent – and I suspect wholly hypocritical – attachment to greater European integration.

He attacks nationalism as a dangerous disease, but do you honestly think that France will ever sink itself in a European superstate? And when did your voters elect you to eliminate your nationality?

There is no excuse for this pretentiousness when you were all warned by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago you were going down the wrong route.

Instead, you have persisted – or allowed the pretentious to persist – in introducing a single currency which has severely damaged the southern states which would clearly have been wiser not to join.

The euro operates principally to the benefit of Germany whose Chancellor, Angela Merkel, arrogantly went far too far in welcoming migrants by the million. Politically, that has done her no good but it has also strained EU member states. It is not going too far to say that it is time France and Germany stopped leading the EU up dangerous creeks.

But they will only be persuaded to do so if the rest of the EU rein them in, make clear they cannot presume to speak for Europe as a whole and must become team players.

It should be obvious to anyone capable of rational thought that unless and until the EU ditches the ridiculous pretence implied by a single currency, single foreign policy and single army and works to become a co-operative alliance of democratic self-governing nations it is facing disintegration.

I sometimes wonder whether Europhiles ever watch international football matches. How, pray, are they going to suppress the national pride on display?

It should also be obvious to all and sundry that the EU is in a very fragile state.

That suits no one more than Vladimir Putin who was posturing in Paris at Macron’s glorification – namely Remembrance Sunday. The EU’s fragility rather than its strength is advertised by its treatment of the UK in the Brexit negotiations.

It stems from its fears that some of you will be encouraged to leave unless Britain is punished for its temerity in leaving.

You have a choice: say nowt and remain ever more subservient to the Franco-German axis and the unelected Brussels bureaucrats; or demand that the EU lets Britain go forthwith to trade freely with Europe and the world, to help defend the West and be master in her own house.

It is time you examined this charade called negotiations and recognise it does not redound to your global credit.

The EU needs saving from itself. Over to you...

Yours sadly but sincerely...