by Rod D. Martin
October 8, 1998
When I was a student at Cambridge some years ago, a close friend of mine, who happened to be an important official in the Tory Party, used to bemoan the fact that Britain was being swallowed up by the socialist beast that is the European Union. He was (and is) a romantic sort, and we spent many cold afternoons along the Cam, drinking tea and fondly remembering the days of Empire and glory, with no small admixture of sadness.
One day it came to him. “You know, Rod,” he said, in that most regal of accents, “what we really need to do is get together a sort of club, a partnership of all the English-speaking peoples. That’s it! We can call it the English-Speaking Union; and we can trade together and keep our own governments and we’ll never have to put up with the Frogs again!”
It was not a bad thought, and we have wistfully remembered it all these years.
Now, perhaps, the time has come. Late this summer, the publisher Conrad Black delivered an extraordinary lecture to the London Center for Policy Studies. His thesis: that Britain should pull away from the developing European superstate — with its penchant for socialism, bureaucratic regulation and anti-Americanism — and join the North American Free Trade Agreement instead. It was not quite the English-Speaking Union, but it was enough to make my friend beam with pride in Queen and country.
The problem from the English perspective is simple: Britain must be part of a free-trade zone, but many of Her Majesty’s subjects are increasingly dubious about trading their democratic institutions for the unelected bureaucracy of Brussels. They are unhappy that the Queen’s profile will no longer grace their currency, they are alarmed that they are increasingly a tiny minority in a superstate that shares neither their history nor their values nor their common law tradition nor their worldview. But they are thoroughly non-plused at the prospect of following Hong Kong into submission to a socialist, largely-hostile foreign government. And yet that submission increases every day.
A North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement makes far more sense for all concerned. Besides sharing America and Canada’s core political and economic culture, the UK is the largest foreign investor in the US. Britain’s economic ties to other potential NAFTA members such as Chile and Argentina run long and deep, and keeping Sterling viable not only maintains British sovereignty but blunts the challenge to the dollar of the nascent ECU and Yen blocs as well. British NAFTA membership also reinforces NATO at a time when the Old World Order is reasserting itself, encourages the accession of other non-American members (thus curtailing the rise of regionalism), and helps ensure that NAFTA never has the sort of supranational institutions that many Americans fear and which the Europeans have embraced. It’s a good deal all around.
Unfortunately, few have seen this until recently. Despite the fact that until the last 50 years the most prominent enthusiasts for a single European state were Napoleon and Hitler, contemporary American policy makers have generally tended to support the pan-European project without looking too closely at its implications. But keeping Germany from running amok, and keeping Russia from running through Germany, does not require the EU. America not only has no strategic need to encourage the construction of a European confederation, but in fact such a development actually harms American interests.
A profound anti-Americanism lies at the heart of most European federalist thinking. The French in particular have pushed the pan-European project as a means of “resisting” America politically and culturally. The late President Mitterand actually said he supported Euro-integration because “we are at war with America.” Nor is this anti-Americanism merely jealousy of America’s superpower status. Continental Europe, dominated for a quarter-millennium by left-wing Enlightenment thought, holds a deep hostility to the so-called “Anglo-Saxon” democratic capitalist values of concern for individual freedom, suspicion of the state and devotion to ancient constitutions.
Because Great Britain — unlike most of the Continent — lives and breathes these values, it will always be at the periphery of a new European order; forever outvoted, outnumbered and outgunned. Yet Britain is at the center, geographically, culturally and politically, of an Atlantic community, just as it has always been. The choice should not be hard to make.
A league of trading nations, united only by their economic interest and their common defense needs, yet in every way separate and sovereign, is an excellent and indeed revolutionary idea in the cause of liberty. It is appropriate that it should spring from the Anglo-American axis, the cradle of freedom in our world; and it is time. America and Britain owe a debt to Conrad Black; and both nations should move forward as rapidly as possible to once again stand against the “freedom” which is not free that forever spews forth from the Continent.