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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

The Founding and Future of the European Union: The importance for America

Sally McNamara



    The Founding of the EU
    A Political Monster
    The Common Agricultural Project
    The Common Fisheries Policy
    European Constitution & the threat to the Transatlantic relationship
    The Euro
    The American effect

The Founding of the EU

What we know of as the modern European Union, was originally founded in 1951 as the European Coal & Steel Community, with just six members.

Perhaps the best way to describe its founding, is to say that the EU was a formal well meaning, but misguided, effort at institutionalizing peace in Europe by taking away key areas of economic control from national democracies.

Some of the main enemies during the previous two World Wars were now formally sharing production of coal and steel, the very resources which had previously been so central to the war effort.

It was seen as an amazing example of the victory of peace, of diplomacy following the horrors of war, to consider that countries which had previously been engaged in the most devastating War in Europe's history just half a decade earlier, were now sharing control of resources in a diplomatic effort at maintaining the peace.

It is little wonder therefore that successive American administrations have supported the concept of European supra-nationality, of further political integration; it had spilt much blood & treasure, twice in the past 30 years, to achieve peace & democracy in Europe, and certainly didn't want to do it again.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, and several name-changes later, we now have a modern European Union, with 25 Member States stretching from the UK in the West, to Poland in the East, to Sweden in the North, and to Italy in the South.

Indeed, it is a sight to behold the 20 translation booths operating at any one time in the European Parliament, with its vast array of nationalities of obscure languages.

Of course, translation isn't without its problems, its costly, and During a voting session in Brussels, the Chairman offered the floor to Mr. Goerring MEP......". The only problem being that the MEPs name was actually Mr. Goebbels. He corrected himself to prolonged mirth and desk banging!

However, I feel that this isn't the only mistaken interpretation of events.

It would be a mistake to believe that the European Union brought peace in Europe and brought down the Berlin Wall; I believe the credit has to go to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who worked under the auspices of NATO to face down the Soviet threat.

Indeed, who can forget President Reagan's now famous speech at the very edge of the Wall - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"?

The transatlantic alliance represents not just market access or holiday destinations; it is a matter of international security, which can not afford to be undermined by the political grandstanding of some European elites.

A political monster

The EU of today is a bigger, broader, more political entity than many in Britain and America originally envisioned. Let's contrast the original founding Treaty of Rome with the current acquis communitaire. We've gone from 75 pages of basic prose, to deeply prescriptive legislative provisions in almost every policy area imaginable.

In the world of public policy, the EU is doing more and doing it worse. Or as Ronald Reagan so ably said, "there is no problem that government can't make worse."

The Common Agricultural Policy

The Common Agricultural Policy is a perfect example of how the EU has gobe too far. The CAP is nothing more than a centrally planned system that tells farmers what they can produce, how much of it they can produce and how much they will get paid to do it.

It swallows more than half of the EU's entire budget and its European subsidies alone, equal to the GDP of Spain. Economic studies place the average European farmer subsidy at US$17,000/year. This alone points to a massive economic disaster of the CAP. But it gets much worse.

The CAP has disadvantaged involved almost everyone in some shape or form:

We have artificially high food prices for the consumer; Europeans pay about 25% higher prices for food than they would without the CAP. The Timbro research institute has counted figures reaching over 80%.

We have an oversupply of foods, which are then sold in the third-world. This prevents those countries from fairly competing, greatly adding to third world poverty. According to a study by the Brussels-based think tank Centre for New Europe, the CAP indirectly kills 6,600 people in developing countries every day.

And farm incomes across Europe have been steadily dropping for decades - except in the one or two countries that do actually benefit from the CAP - to the chagrin of the other dozen or so countries who are funding it.

The Common Fisheries Policy

The Common Fisheries Policy sets quotas for which member states are allowed to catch what amounts of each type of fish. Unfortunately, the weather and the fish haven't read the CFP and it too has comprehensively failed. We have dangerously dwindling fish stocks & dwindling numbers of fishermen.

Both CAP & CFP show the folly of the EU's prescriptive central planning systems and highlight the fundamental policy problems that this quasi-government now has.

Moreover, it suffers from a severe inability to do anything about it. Reform of either the CAP or the CFP has merely tinkered at the edges. Less concentration of power is the answer to these policy problems, not more. But the EU proposes the exact opposite.

European Constitution & the threat to the Transatlantic relationship

In fact, if ratified, the EU Constitution will legally enshrine fisheries policy as one of the 'exclusive competences' reserved for the EU, to be wholly excluded from the jurisdiction of individual nation states.

The European Constitution is supposedly the EU's answers to its economic and political problems. Supporters of the text tell us that we need institutional changes to accommodate decision-making among 25 member states; that powers need to be clearly divided in such a big governmental structure; And that Europe needs a constitution to uphold its shared values.

But as with the CAP & the CFP, these policies are so far beyond the supranational management of the EU, that they should simply be put out of their misery & repatriated to member states. And neither can Europeans nor Americans afford to underestimate the radical nature of the European Constitution and what it will mean for international relations.

The EU Constitution proposes the most fundamental change to the EU since its inception in the '50s. And it is my proposition that this change is not for the better, especially the threat it poses to Transatlantic co-operation.

For a start, the implication of creating new military structures outside of NATO, together with a European satellite navigation system that will be available to strategic American antagonists such as China, poses a very real threat to the alliance which has underpinned peace for the past half century.

Decision-making in the face of a threat to NATO member must intuitively be swift and untied; we cannot afford for it to be disparate or to speak with more than one voice; the very existence of another structure runs counter to this.

Add to this a common European foreign policy, independent of individual Member States, we can almost see the cracks emerging in the Transatlantic alliance. The Constitution itself says, "Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's action in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness."

This clause would severely impede the ability of key American allies - like the UK and Poland - to gather support for joint military action with the United States as we have done most recently in Iraq. Whatever I might feel about the War in Iraq, it is surely my decision as a voter to cast my judgment on my government; not the EU to decide.

On the economic side, the Constitution formalizes and extends the failing European social model, which has seen structurally high unemployment and low growth across Europe. It has clauses for paid leave, for restricted working hours and for all sorts of elaborately detailed rights. While these "fundamental" rights might sound like a good thing, such lengthy and intricate prescriptions have no place in a Constitution and will invariably translate into complex legal challenges.

influential think-tank Global Britain claims that the EU Single Market has been even more beneficial for America than it has been for European Member States. With a billion-dollar-a-day trading relationship, it is certainly in America's interest to preserve economic dynamism in Europe.

Euro-realist MEPs often call the EU, the most over-regulated, over-governed, over-taxed, over-borrowed economic bloc in the world. The EU Constitution is a blueprint to continue an inward looking, rigid Europe to try to rival the United States, not partner it.

The euro

This theme of rivaling America, rather than partnering it, is a dangerous one. But one that the EU seems intent on regardless. Let's take the case of the Single European Currency.

There can be no doubt that the Euro was intended as a rival to the mighty dollar. The language of Europe's elites was enough to evidence this. But the very reasons why a single currency works in America are exactly the reasons why it isn't working in Europe.

The EU doesn't have the federal fund transfers that America has. Neither is there the labour mobility that the USA- and indeed, it's a bit difficult to go and work in Estonia, even if you speak fluent French, Spanish & German!

But most importantly, Europe lacks a political consensus; 'Europeans' are actually British, French, German, Swedish; We are not Europeans in the sense that Americans identify themselves as American.

In the absence of all these factors therefore, a single uniform interest rate means that it's the wrong rate for most countries, most of the time. In simple terms, the effect is highly damaging cycles of boom & bust. It seems that the mighty dollar isn't ruffled yet!

The American effect

But there is one area where the EU has been successful at exporting to the US - in the area of environmental regulation.

The Precautionary principle:
The precautionary principle advises that new products or technologies should be prohibited or regulated until science has proven the new products to be absolutely safe. Following this logic, Fleming would never have developed Penicillin; or indeed most vaccinations wouldn't have been developed at all.

The fatal flaw with the precautionary principle - it discourages all risk taking - even the risk taking that makes the world safer through the creation of safer technologies. The precautionary principle is increasingly finding its way into international agreements - not least of all the European Constitution. Legislators across the world are being told that caution should come first, and science should come second. But risk is a fact of life. As the Chairman of the European Parliament's Environment Committee said, "if we seriously wanted to eliminate the risk of household accidents, then we better only build houses without any stairs!" It would be impossible to live in a world without any risk whatsoever.

Such extremities of the environmental movement are being freely exported to American states; Europe's prescriptive environmental attitude has successfully bypassed federal government, only to be introduced at the State level. Kyoto is another example.

Legislators should have the tools they need to properly evaluate the reliability and credibility of the environmental health information presented to them. For legislative leaders to determine whether a proposed policy initiative is based on sound scientific concerns or is fueled by special interested-based junk science.


We should promote our common values - of limited government, free trade, free markets and individual liberty. The EU is going in completely the opposite direction to this - which is damaging for Europe and damaging for the transatlantic alliance.

Europe shoukld be a club of trading partners; the EU has taken its eye off the economic ball and suffered for it. Co-operation isn't necessarily a bad thing - indeed, we need more diplomatic more in this global village that we live in. But that can not at the expense of a country's democracy, sovereignty, independence, instincts and natural alliances.

That is why being British, not European, matters - Europe is not a country and it attempts to create one are as shallow as they are dangerous. I would like to conclude with a quote from Roger Helmer MEP, a British MEP who has been a loyal friend to ALEC and was recently awarded our Adam Smith Scholarship. He says, "In a world where globalization is accelerating, and where we all face the common threat of terrorism, I believe that the transatlantic relationship, which has underpinned our security for all of my life-time, is becoming more, not less, important. I very much regret the apparent lack of commitment to this relationship from Brussels."

This is based on a speech by Sally McNamara to the Ball State University, May 18, 2005
Part of the International Affairs Lecture Series

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