Twenty four years ago today the European Union came into being. To its supporters, the EU represented a triumph of rational, orderly government over the provincial and archaic concept of the nation state. Jean Monnet, the President of one EU’s early iterations, made this clear as early as 1943: “there will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty . . . the countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development.”
In accepting the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the EU, President Jose Barrasso amplified the point, stating that “the genius of the founding fathers was precisely in understanding that to guarantee peace in the 20th century nations needed to think beyond the nation-state.” President Barrasso went on to praise the EU’s “Supranational institutions” and their “quest for a cosmopolitan order.”
Unfortunately for the EU Supranational bureaucrats, many ordinary people have never really supported the idea that their nation is dead. The Danes rejected EU membership in 1992 in the first popular vote on ratification. After concessions to sovereignty by the EU, Denmark narrowly joined the EU. Later that same year, the French people approved EU membership with only 50.8% of the vote. The almost victorious “no” vote was based on a fear that the EU would strip the French people of their sovereignty and undermine their distinctive French culture.
The EU went on to live up to its supporters hopes and its opponents fears. Unelected bureaucrats in Brussels passed rule after rule, burrowing deep into the fabric of European life. In 2009, for example, the EU enacted a regulation “laying down the quality standards for bananas” in which the Eurocrats sought to protect the people of Europe from misshapen or blemished fruit. In 2011, the EU addressed another issue of our time — restricting the ability of children under 8 to blow up balloons. After a public outcry, the EU issued an indignant press release clarifying that they were not banning the blowing up of balloons, but only requiring that adults be present if a 7 year-old wished to inflate one.
Not quite reassured by the EU’s benevolence, 52% of the British people voted to “Brexit” the EU in a 2016 vote. We at the Shire are wholly sympathetic to their decisive rejection of Brussels Supracrats and their attempt to fully reclaim their sovereignty. After all, Britian fought bravely in two World Wars and was a staunch ally in the Cold War to ensure that their nation and culture would survive. As Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest leader of the 20th Century, said in a 1940 speech during the dark days of Nazism in Europe:
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!
The British people determined that their small Island’s unique and special heritage was worth protecting against an EU determined to chip away at their sovereignty one meeting and regulation at a time.
Today, the fate of Brexit and Britain’s membership in the EU remains unknown, and there are many pressing and important issues to be resolved. The Shire believes that leaders in Britain and in the EU should carefully negotiate an exit that minimizes disruption and preserves the free market system that is the chief virtue of the EU. Or, perhaps Britain should negotiate a way to stay in the union but use their leverage to create an EU that allows Britain to more fully realize its heritage as a free and sovereign nation. In the best case scenario, these negotiations would led to a careful re-examination of the entire EU project.
While we wait for that happy eventuality, we acknowledge the EU’s 24th Birthday on this November 1, 2017. We hope that there won’t be many more to follow, at least as the Union is currently constructed and administered.