Here is a sane Eurosceptic argument that tries to prove its case - and uses my work to do so. But it misinterprets its source materialby Andrew Moravcsik / August 22, 2004 / Leave a comment
According to the widely accepted “new historiography” of the EU – found in the work of Hugo Young, Alan Milward and others – British policy towards the EU has long been poisoned by ideology. Nationalistic opposition to practical schemes for economic co-operation – the customs union in 1957, agricultural policy in the 1960s, monetary co-operation from the 1970s, and environmental and social co-operation from the 1980s – meant that British prime ministers were forever “missing the bus.” From Anthony Eden to Tony Blair, they engaged in a self-defeating series of defensive manoeuvres, simultaneously seeking to block further integration and promote specific British interests.
According to the Daily Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker, and Richard North, a former researcher at the European parliament, this is bunk. The problem was not that British leaders were slow and sceptical, but that they were gullible enough to go along with European integration at all. In their view, the EU’s “central purpose… is not and never has been… to promote co-operation,” and it provides no net economic benefits for Britain. Instead it is a deliberate, “slow-motion coup d’?tat” inspired by the ideas of Jean Monnet. It imposes an “agenda of subordination” to invasive centralised regulation – regulation pursued for its own sake, but particularly inimical to Britain. All along, the real pragmatists were those British leaders who proposed practical, workable intergovernmental proposals without weighty constitutional commitments. Booker and North are particularly hard on Tory prime ministers, whom they portray as either having secretly betrayed British interests (Edward Heath) or having been betrayed by their own officials into believing Europe was good for Britain (Margaret Thatcher).
To Booker and North’s credit, and in contrast to the ravings of many Eurosceptics, they do seek to prove their case. Their weighty monograph contains a detailed history of European integration dating back to the 1920s, fine-print footnotes engaging the historiography of European integration, and some interesting new archival documents. Yet one is immediately sceptical of books peddling a “secret history” historians have missed, and sure enough, Booker and North advance their case only on the basis of severe historical and statistical distortion.
Years ago, Milward rightly derided the interpretation of the EU as an idealistic enterprise propelled by the ideas of Monnet and his friends as a “hagiography of the European saints.” Booker and North sling epithets at the new historiography, but they evade or misunderstand the decisive facts…