Why the EU will always fail to free itself of the “awkward member”

Parliament Street’s Tom Hunt argues that unless the EU elites give ground and recognise their inability to transcend ingrained political cultures, the European project in destined for failure.

The European elite have tried and failed in their attempts at trying to get different European nation states to conform to particular ways of behaving and expressing themselves economically. This has been in part due to deep rooted political cultures being resistant to the aims of those who promoted the Euro, and what was in essence the attempted homogenisation of Europe.  It’s a no-brainer that the ideologues who have promoted such a daft politically motivated project would ever admit to failure. They have no vision and no sense of reality. If the facts do not fit their theories, then the facts must be changed.

The media have suggested that the main way in which differing political cultures have damaged the euro-federalists’ aims and ambitions is through the North-South divide, and the inability of the Greeks and Spaniards to behave like German’s economically and of course, they are correct.

The answer as to why the wider European Project question continues to fail and why there has been so little progress towards a set of pan-European institutional arrangements–which genuinely promote cooperation between European Nation States — is due to the arrogance of the Europhile elite. In believing that within one generation, they can transcend deep-rooted national cultures which drive the way in which countries express themselves economically, act politically and feel emotionally. These political cultures have evolved organically over centuries, driven and inspired by ground-breaking individuals, yet now bureaucrats devoid of vision somehow think they are uniquely qualified to go against all of this. The old Burkean notion that man can’t stand alone in time is clearly lost on such deluded guardians of the European project.

I want to turn my attention to a very important question: why is it that the UK is always seen as the awkward partner politically? Why is it, when chatting away pleasantly with peers from other European countries about European politics, does it always come down to the question, “why are you guys always ruining the party?”

The answer lies with the fact that the European Union is driven by fanatical federalists and is always going to be held back by an ‘awkward partner’; whether politically, or economically. There will inevitably be a scape-goat ruining the European party as long as the project continues to be driven by such a flawed understanding of mankind.

As Burke pointed out at the end of the eighteenth century, it was a time when a group of “uniquely enlightened” Jacobins thought they could radically reconstruct a society from scratch. Burke fought against those who sought to force people to conform to a model of an “ideal society”, believing that real people were not “abstract men “, but “Englishmen”, “Frenchmen”, and yes indeed “Greeks”, all possessing their own unique identities. It is this cultural diversity which is at the root of the European Union’s difficulties. Instead of embracing such cultural and national diversity, as I believe a true pro-European should, the Euro elite sees such cultural roots as encumbrances to be overcome; the obsession with instigating a breakage is Rawlsian in the extreme.

What the liberal elite in Brussels does not realise though is that nation’s are more likely to cling to nationalism when they feel insecure in the completeness of their identity.

Hence the appearance of “Golden Dawn” in Greece, and the re-emergence of popular national movements in the late 1980’s that resulted in the break-up of the Soviet Union.

A key theme of the Burkean analysis highlighted earlier is the belief that we derive our identities from different sources; that, although there can be an element of variance within a nation, the nation state is still a key component in framing the way in which we understand our sense of shared identity.

For example, can you explain why someone as right wing and seemingly patriotic as Sarkozy is a EU fedralist? During the majority of the time he was President, Sarkozy pursued a federalist European agenda. Some will argue this was because the French were so instrumental in framing the EU early on, perhaps this plays a part, but I think the answer lies deeper.

In Britain, we have for centuries had a relatively stable political culture; our institutions have stood the test of time and grown organically. In fact, we have had a far more stable political culture than any of the principal continental countries. Therefore, our history as a nation is far more strongly linked to a specific set of institutions than for example in France. In the words of David Willets,

France gets through republics more quickly than Hollywood stars get through marriages“.

However, many French people are deeply patriotic, overtly at least; one could be mistaken for feeling that the French centre-right tends to make more patriotic noises than the British centre-right. The key difference is that the French pride is not institutional. In many ways, French National pride is more linked to the non-political culture, arts, literature, music, cuisine etc. I believe that this is one of the key reasons that the French centre-right are able to be both passionately patriotic about all things French; whilst appearing to be largely at ease with the rhetoric surrounding Euro federalism.

Clearly the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, shows that robust euroscepticism can rear its head and influence political proceedings in France, however this tends to be a feature of the far right, not the centre right as seen here in the UK. Moreover, euroscepticism in France appears to be less to do with national parliamentary sovereignty and more concerned with the cultural consequences of uncontrolled immigration linked to EU membership.

Centre-right British euroscepticism tends to be linked to an institutional understanding of British national identity, construing it through such things as the sovereignty of Parliament, and the Monarchy.

For a British Conservative the sovereignty of our parliament and our legal processes are vitally important to our sense of identity, that’s why we are always likely to be the awkward partners politically, in the same way that the Greeks have been the awkward partners economically. It is not that the Greeks and British are inherently awkward and unreasonable; it’s just that they happen to be “Brits” and “Greeks”.

The European Union as it stands today, is as much a political and cultural failure as much as it is an economic failure. To be eurosceptic is to be sceptical of the European Union, not to be anti-European. We can leave that job to the enlightened liberals who seek to destroy the rich, diverse patch-work quilt of cultures that once comprised the nation-states of Europe.

At 24 years old, Cllr. Tom Hunt was was selected  as one of the youngest Conservative MEP candidates in the country.

One Comment

  1. Tom, when chatting away pleasantly with peers from other European countries, you might point out that it was not the UK that voted against the Maastricht treaty (Denmark), the Nice treaty (Ireland), the Constitution (France and the Netherlands) or the Lisbon Treaty (Ireland again). Far from being the “awkward partner”, we have been compliant to the point of never having given the British people a vote on these treaties.