In an article in the Mail on Sunday, political editor Simon Walters previews a new biography of David Cameron, Cameron at 10 by Anthony Seldon and peter Snowdon. they quote Cameron as telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that "The European project was mis-sold here".
This is, I believe, the first time since Margaret Thatcher's time that a British Prime Minister has been so candid on Europe. The European integration project, as I explain in a free extract from a forthcoming book, has been mis-represented since they first heard of it in 1950.
In 1950, Prime Minister Clement Attlee first heard of the Schuman plan to form the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which would see France and Germany share sovereignty in the matters of coal and steel production and movements, so that neither could produce war materiel without the other knowing. This would become the European Coal and Steel Community, an ancestor of the European Union.
It's said in both blogs and textbooks that Attlee thundered across the Commons "We refuse to accept the principle that the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority that is utterly undemocratic and is responsible to nobody!" I've combed Hansard for this statement and have come up empty-handed. But what I have found is a statement of Harold Macmillan, then leader of the Conservative opposition, supporting Attlee by promising that as far as his party was concerned there was "no question of supporting the supra-national organisation under M. Monnet's proposals to implement the Schuman Plan".
The importance of this statement cannot be understated. Although the Schuman Plan and the ECSC ostensibly concerned Germany and France, it was known as early as 1950 that there was a supra-national element to it that was envisaged to stretch to the United Kingdom. Yet this didn't stop MacMillan, once Prime Minister, sending Edward Heath in 1961 to start negotiations for British Membership of what was by then known as the European Economic Community or EEC.
Although Britain didn't join what was trumpeted as a trading partnership that would mean cheaper holidays until 1972, already by 1970 The Werner Report envisaged, in a chapter with the sinister heading The Final Objective, "the existence of a complete economic and monetary union". Then in 1971, an obscure European Court of Justice ruling determined the following:
each time the Community, with a view to implementing a common policy envisaged by the Treaty, adopts provisions laying down common rules, whatever form they may take, the Member States no longer have the right, acting individually or even collectively, to undertake obligations with third countries which affect those rules or alter their scope.
Before we'd even joined our sovereignty was being curtailed.
Will David Cameron be able to win back concessions from the EU? It's difficult to say. The ongoing migrant crisis shows that Merkel is willing to flood her own country with people who may include combatants in a civil war or worse to prevent a newer entrant to the EU (Hungary) from deciding membership may not be a great idea. Personally, I think that the demands Cameron will make have already been decided as have the concessions Merkel will make to give the impression of Cameron securing a victory. It's choreography worthy of Strictly Come Dancing. Meanwhile, money that should be bolstering our healthcare systems, other public services and pensions bleeds off to Brussels.
On the other hand, now that Cameron's ruled out standing for a third term he may now be looking to his place in the history books and considering his legacy if he is seen to be dancing round the prologue to our incorporation into a superstate as a region of that state: effectively the end of British history.
Which will he choose? I hope he concentrates on the mis-selling of the European integration project and sees that we are overdue a democratic refund.
Read The Federalist Derivation, a free sample from a forthcoming book on academia.edu - log in with Facebook, Google or create a free account with your email address.