The Great Deception

The Secret History of the European Union


A Briefing

Richard North

October 2002



1.  Introduction


In 1952, an obscure Frenchman became president of a unique organisation, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).  His name was Jean Monnet, a man with a physical appearance reminiscent of Hercule Poirot.[1]  Nevertheless, this diminutive man had huge ambitions.  He called his organisation “the first government of Europe”.  To him, its creation was the first step in what he called a “silent revolution in men’s minds”,[2] the final objective of which was a United States of Europe.


His “government” led to the creation five years later of the European Economic Community (EEC).  Its title was deliberately misleading, actively designed to conceal from an unenthusiastic public – at the time, the French people – the true nature of the “project”, as it is so often called.  This “Community” heralded the political experiment that became the European Union.  Its founders and their successors have never wavered from their objective transforming it into the government of a United States of Europe.  This is disputed only by those who are either ignorant of their intentions, or seek to conceal an agenda which has on countless occasions been openly declared. 


The EEC formally became the European Union in 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty, and has in the process partially fulfilled its founders’ ambitions.  It has become a government of Europe and is well on its way to becoming the government.  And even if political leaders now deny their ambitions to create a United States of Europe, mocking claims that it is to become a “super-state”, the original agenda remains unchanged.  It is closer than ever to completion as the Union seeks to equip itself with a formal constitution, the ultimate fashion accessory for an emerging state.


In its march towards creating a new state, this government has acquired very substantial powers, which are having increasing effects on our lives.  However, because those powers are exercised mainly indirectly through the national governments that it seeks to replace, their provenance is rarely obvious and often denied by the very people who act as agents for the new government.


All of this has given rise to an extraordinary situation whereby many of the people engaged in the construction of the “project” have very little idea of how it actually works, or of its underlying ethos.  Perhaps more disturbingly, many of those who actively take part in the new government, from Members of the European Parliament, their assistants, officials of the European Commission, to officials in national governments and their respective parliaments, share that ignorance.


For the ordinary “citizen”, the process is incomprehensible.  That, itself, is remarkable, if not more than a little worrying.  In earlier days, even the less educated tended to have some understanding of how law was made, how the country was governed, and where responsibility lay.  The respective roles of the Monarch, Parliament, and local authorities, were relatively clear.  But traditional structures have been augmented by remote, little understood bodies – the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Council, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice, all with powers and responsibilities which are far from transparent.  In addition to UK law, we now have to deal with EU directives, regulations, decisions, and recommend­ations, bringing a whole new vocabulary and level of complexity to the process of government.


The fact is that one of the largest and most sophisticated population blocs in the world is increasingly governed by a system about which their peoples have very little knowledge.  What they are less aware of is that this state of affairs has been actively cultivated by politicians of all parties, as advocates of political integration continue to deny (or misunderstand) the original agenda.


Partly as a result of this, differences in domestic politics, and between political parties, have blurred.  Where there were once distinctive ideologies, and passionate advocates of each, modern politics has become a fight for the “middle ground”.  People are unsure of what their politicians actually stand for.  As a result, many of the passions that were once focused on domestic policies have refocused on a new issue – “Europe”.  If there is a clear ideological divide in British politics, it is between those who are styled as “pro-” and “anti-” Europe, and it is on this issue that the most passionate debates can be heard.


And despite the conventional wisdom espoused by the political ilites of all parties, that British membership of the European Union is a “done deal”, there remains a growing minority of people – entirely unrepresented by any mainstream political party – who seek British withdrawal.


Perversely, many of those who – sometimes viscerally – oppose the European Union may be as misinformed as its supporters.  This is another consequence of the inherent deceit that characterises the project.  Many fail to realise that the real issue is not actually about “Europe”.  It is about the new form of government that has emerged under the cloak of European unity, which purports to act in the name of Europe and its peoples.  It is a measure of the success of the European Union propagandists that they have captured the title “Europe”, and used it as their own, and it is equally a measure of confusion that has arisen that “Eurosceptics” have allowed themselves to be so labelled. 


The problem is that, in the manner of history being written by the victors, most of the definitive histories of the European Union have been written by its supporters.  These are so partisan that they present a completely false picture of what is going on, what happened, and why.  At the heart of the falsehoods is the myth that the European Union (which only came formally into being in 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty) has “kept the peace in Europe”.  This relies on the propagation of a history that dwells on the period since the post-Second World War, projecting the EU as arising from that war’s aftermath. 


There is also a pernicious myth propagated by a small but vocal element, mainly in the Eurosceptic movement, that portrays the genesis of the EU as arising during the Nazi regime of 1933-45.  From this stems the Business for Sterling cinema advertisement with Rik Mayall caricaturing Adolf Hitler and proclaiming “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Euro”.  While the advertisement should not be taken literally, it nevertheless betrays the mindset of a group that regards the EU as a fascist organisation, a perspective that does not assist in trying to understand it and the deceits which have been perpetrated in its name.  Furthermore, it serves the self-styled “pro-Europeans”.  It allows them to marginalise their opponents as being extreme “little Englanders”, forever re-fighting the last world war.


What has been concealed by the propagandists is that the intellectual basis of the European unity movement arose in the aftermath of the First World War.  People from across the political spectrum, appalled at the slaughter, believed that European unity was the way to prevent further wars between Germany and France. 


But, in the debate that followed, two opposing schools of thought emerged, as to what type of unity should sought.  The first group believed that a loose federation of states, based on inter­governmental co-operation - with the sovereignty of nation states respected - would be sufficient.  Even during the First World War, a tiny minority believed that a mere federation of sovereign states did not go far enough.  It believed in supranationalism, in “ever closer union” - that nation states should transfer their powers, and eventually their sovereignty, to a “high authority” acting as an independent, superior government.  Both camps were “pro-European”.  The debate was not only about whether there should be unity.  It was also about how that unity should be achieved. 


That debate was submerged by the rising tide of Nazism, which adopted the more traditional route to European union – conquest by force of arms.  With the crushing defeat of the Nazis at the hands of the Allies, however, their ideology was consigned to the dustbin of history.  The advocates of peaceful European unity then set about bringing their ideas to fruition.


In the immediate aftermath of the war, Britain was an active participant in this process.  As Peter Shore put it:


No one seriously considering this early post-war history can doubt the contribution Britain made to the revival, indeed survival, of her continental neighbours; its magnanimity in victory to the defeated enemy; its generous vision for the future; its stoical endurance of continued austerity at home, nevermore vividly illustrated than in the UK government decision in the winter of 1946 to introduce bread rationing for its own people to help avoid near-starvation in the British zone of occupied Germany.[3]


Equally no one can deny the commitment of the British, at enormous expense, in keeping up the airlift to Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948-1949, or in keeping a standing army in Germany to protect it from the Soviet threat.


However, despite Britain’s willingness to assist and co-operate in European affair, there were others with their own agenda – political union on the supranational model.  The first real attempt to achieve this was through the Marshall Plan of 1948, the conditions of which were designed to encourage European integration.  This was followed by the Council of Europe, through which several attempts were made to pursue integration.  When those failed, a small but highly influential clique of “little Europeans” made other arrangements. 


In 1950, led by Jean Monnet, they launched the first of a series of plans, which they hoped would eventually lead to full political integration.  The result was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), joined by six members.  Britain did not join but the record shows that her government had been deliberately manoeuvred into rejecting it by its principal founder, Jean Monnet, for fear that she would interfere with the bid for political integration, in favour of looser, co-operative arrangements.


A number of failed initiatives then nearly derailed the supranational agenda, but the fortunes of its advocates were restored with proposals for treaties on nuclear energy and a common market, aimed at creating two new organisations.  Exploiting the political chaos of France’s Fourth Republic, and the reaction to the Suez crisis, a small clique drove their agenda through, largely on the basis of concealing their real intentions, and formed the European Economic Community and Euratom.


Britain did not become a member of these organisations.  As with the ECSC, she had again been manoeuvred into a position where she had had no choice, for perfectly valid reasons, but to remain detached.  Britain’s response was a generous offer to extend co-operation into the civil nuclear field and to set up a truly European free trade area, first as a rival to and then to complement and include the “little Europe” of the Six.  Both initiatives were rejected, the latter peremptorily by the French, who were more interested in dominating the Six and restoring their own international influence than they were in co-operation.  Measures were then taken by the supranationalist clique to sabotage any further attempts at structured intergovernmental co-operation.


Despite this, the myth continues that somehow Britain was a reluctant player, and that her relationship with what has now been styled as “Europe” has been dogged by a series of missed opportunities.  Had we been in “on the ground floor”, so this myth goes, we would have been able to shape the institutions and policies of what has become the European Union in a fashion more acceptable to us, and many of the defects of the system would have been avoided. 


This is embodied in the contribution made by Douglas Hurd, formerly Conservative foreign minister, to the BBC series on the history of the European Union, The Poison Chalice.  The first programme opened in Messina, the voice-over intoning: “Messina in Sicily was where the Common Market began in 1955.  It was a moment in history that Britain missed”.  To camera, Hurd then said:


We made a mistake forty years ago.  We corrected that mistake, and by the time we entered the European Community, it had already framed a number of policies in a way that doesn’t suit us particularly well.  So we must learn from that…”.


From this stems the rationale that we should seek to be more “positively engaged” at “the heart of Europe”, a mantra that is repeated endlessly by a succession of British politicians.


This simplistic mantra completely misrepresents the situation.  In framing it, its authors completely ignore three important facts.  Firstly, on an intergovern­ment­al as well as a practical level, Britain was fully engaged in Europe.   Secondly, and as importantly, there was a conflict between different philosophies.  On the one hand, there was intergovernmentalism, espoused by all the major European powers, and, on the other, supranationalism, initially (and still) supported only by a small but influential clique, initially led by the man who was later to be acclaimed as “Mr Europe” – Jean Monnet.  Thirdly, the major players in the plans which led to the EEC had no intention that Britain should join in the early stages of the project, and deliberately manipulated the negotiations so that she could not interfere until the systems and institutions had been established.


What is also ignored is the fact that the intellectual genesis of Monnet’s supranationalism arose not from the Second World War, but the First.  In that he was attempting to solve the very specific problems arising out of that war, Monnet was seeking to apply a solution, devised for one situation, to another.  By then, European geopolitics had changed beyond all recognition, and sound democracies were evolving which were then more capable of organising their relations on an intergovernmental basis.  Supranationalism was the wrong solution, and one that Britain wisely rejected.


In this context, the drive for the European Union, and British involvement in it, takes on a completely different perspective.  Years before Messina – as early as 1950 - the clash of ideologies had come to a head when the supranationalists had tried and failed – largely as a result of British manoeuvres - to turn first the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation and then the Council of Europe into supranational organisations.  As a result of their failures, they sought to create rival organisations, from which the European Union emerged.


On this basis, the European Union should be seen for what it is – the fruit of an ideology which embodies the fundamentals of supranationalism.  That ideology has never been popular.  It did not command popular support when it took shape in the form of the ECSC, and fails to do so today in its form as the European Union.  That such an unpopular ideology took root owes much to the perseverance of Jean Monnet, but it also relied on an elision of the term “Europe” with Monnet’s ambitions, a deception so successful that supranationalism has come to be generally associated with European unity.  The European Union is taken to mean “Europe”.


The greatest deception of all, however, is the mechanism by which this “unity” was and is being progressed.  Instead of opting for an open approach, which, without widespread support would have been sure to fail, Monnet chose the gradual process of political integration through merging economic interests on a sector-by-sector basis.  His plan was that member state economies would become so fully integrated that a de facto United States of Europe would emerge without the people noticing, upon which could be superimposed the political structures that would turn it into a fully-fledged state. 


Thus, his European Coal and Steel Community was to be a precursor to a series of schemes planned to lead Europe surreptitiously into full-blown supranationalism.  But when Monnet attempted more ambitious schemes, he was brought down by the French National Assembly, which was as concerned as Britain about loss of sovereignty.  From then on, his agenda went “under­ground”, concealed by lies and half-truths as a matter of deliberate policy.


This has included studied attempts, Soviet-style, to re-write history.  Not least is the maintenance of the myth that Messina was the birthplace of the common market.  It was in fact the venue to which key parties of the Six went with the objective of burying forever the idea of a Common Market.  They very nearly succeeded.  Only at the eleventh hour was the project saved and then, only through a unique combination of historic accidents, did the project ever get off the ground.  The British were far from being the only ones who had their doubts.


Post-Messina, however, Britain did join in the discussions but later withdrew.  But she did not walk out of the common market negotiations, as is so often claimed.  There were parallel discussions going on, with a view to framing two different treaties, one on nuclear energy and the other on the common market. 


The proposals for the nuclear energy treaty sought to prevent military use of fissionable material, a restriction which Britain, as the only nuclear power in Europe, could not possibly have accepted as her military and civilian nuclear programmes were inextricably bound together.  Thus, Britain pulled out of the talks on nuclear energy.  Since these discussions were linked with those on the common market, perforce this meant an end to British involvement in the common market.  There was no opportunity, therefore, to change structures “at the ground floor”.


The idea that Britain made a mistake at Messina, therefore, is a fiction.  There was no way at all that Britain could have been involved in the early stages of the EEC.  And, with its commitment to intergovernmentalism, the British government was not disposed to embrace supranationalism.


Thus, the common market came into existence without Britain, adopting the institutions and structures that had been devised for the European Coal and Steel Community.  Then, as the momentum of the EEC increased, its propaganda concentrated on convincing people that this supranational entity was the only way by which European unity could be achieved and that it alone had kept the peace in Europe.  Those who opposed the supra­national ethos were branded as anti-Europeans, Eurosceptics, or worse.


Britain, however, persevered with trying to create a “big Europe”, structured on an intergovernmental basis.  In retaliation, Monnet and his “little Europeans”, with the active assistance of the United States, launched a covert and ultimately highly successful campaign against the institutions on which Britain relied, leading to their eventual destruction. 


Exploiting American concern about Communist influence in Europe, and the threat of a take-over in France, the “little Europeans” then convinced the new president Kennedy that Britain should join the EEC.  The issue became linked with the provision by America of nuclear weapons delivery systems, which was of vital interest to the UK, in circumstances that made it very difficult for Britain to pursue an independent path.  With alternatives for European co-operation closed down, Britain was left with very little option but to make an application.


However, Britain initial application was blocked by France’s de Gaulle, not because it was inadequate but because it was likely to succeed.  De Gaulle needed to ensure that EEC systems were in place, and particularly the system for financing the CAP, before Britain’s entry, to forestall the possibility of her blocking arrangements which were essential to France.  Thus, the idea that Britain could have influenced the way the EEC developed in the early stages is another myth.  She was excluded until arrangements were in place and safe from alteration, only to be allowed in so that she could help pay the subsidy bill from which France was the major beneficiary.


After Britain had joined, nothing of this was conveyed to the British public.  Thus, the deception continued.  Debates were deliberately rigged, and the “yes” campaign referendum to stay in what was then styled as the “Common Market” evaded the central issues.  Advocates of continued membership concealed entirely from the peoples the nature of the organisation and its ambitions – which were well known to the British government.  Had they been more fully known, it is highly unlikely that the referendum would have been in favour of continued membership. 


Predictably, none of this emerges from the official histories of the European Union, and no single account tells the whole story.  To fully understand what went on, therefore, it is necessary to go back to the roots of the European project, to penetrate the great deception, debunk the myths and re-write the history.  That is one purpose of this briefing.  The other is more prosaic.  It is simply to put down in a single volume a concise history of the European Union, in an accessible form.


With better knowledge of that history, one can then appreciate the motivations and plans of the founders of the European Union and, more importantly, understand the nature of the current structures and institutions, how they work, and why they behave in the way they do.  Contemporary events – which are capable of diverse interpretations – can then be viewed in their proper historical context, and understood for what they are.  In other words, to understand the present, one must understand the past.


Only then can the true nature of the European Union be appreciated for what it is, a supranational organisation that is so much undemocratic as anti-democratic – and intentionally so - built on a foundation of lies and half-truths.  That same history also reveals that, in its existing form, the European Union can never be democratic.  It was specifically designed as an anti-democratic organisation. 


This has important implications for any reform of the system – particularly in terms of addressing what has come to be called the “democratic deficit”.  I find that, structured as it is, with its in-built characteristics, reform - in terms of improving the democracy of the system - is not possible without changing its fundamental nature.  In the unlikely event that that happened, it would no longer be the European Union.


This draws into focus the very nature of democracy, and also tells us a great deal about our own form of government, which is by no means perfect.  By accident or design, it shares some of the characteristics of the EU system.  Therefore, I make some observations on the British system, noting how this, in part, is due to the corrosive effect of our membership of the EU.  I then suggest how the debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union should be re-framed.


[1] This was a description offered by Anthony Sampson, in his book, The New Europeans (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1968), p.7.

[2] Monnet, Jean, A Ferment of Change.  In: The European Union: Readings of the Theory and Practice of European Integration (second edition), eds: Nelsen B F & Stubb, A C G (Macmillan Press, London, 1998), p.22.

[3] Shore, Peter, Separate Ways – The Heart of Europe (Duckworth, London, 2000), pp. 37-38.