Although it was intended by European and American leaders that the creation of the European economic and political post-war settlement would contain Germany, the containment did not ever happen. My new book, From Brussels with Love, which I have co-authored, demonstrates precisely how since the end of World War Two, Britain’s leaders except for Margaret Thatcher have consistently acquiesced in, even appeased our German partner’s quest for European integration. In so doing, Britain has locked herself into the second tier of a two-tier EU, effectively dominated by Germany.
We have locked ourselves into an EU dominated by a peaceful but assertive Germany based on a framework which has led to instability throughout Europe and vitally affect our own economy, our national interest and Westminster democratic accountability. As Churchill said of our EU relationship, we must be “associated, but not absorbed.” Yet, by acquiescence, we have been absorbed. A survey by Allensbach on 15th June 2016 showed most Germans believed that EU integration could only happen so long as German culture remained the dominant culture.
The Maastricht Treaty, signed over 25 years ago, handed political power to Germany on a plate. That Treaty was at the centre of my book Against a Federal Europe in the 1990s and was published at the time of my leading the Maastricht rebellion, in which I predicted (I think with fair accuracy), that this German Europe would culminate in massive protests and riots all over Europe, massive unemployment and waves of immigration from central and Eastern Europe.
France believed the post-war European Community could contain Germany but the opposite occurred. The deeper the political integration, the more power Germany acquired. In the 1990s, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl made it a specific imperative objective of German foreign policy to enhance German ambitions within the camouflage of EU policy.
Even, as late as 1994, Wolfang Schaüble – now German Finance minister – and Karl Lamers submitted a report to Helmut Kohl to ensure that Eastern and Central Europe were integrated and did their bidding, otherwise “Without this further development of (west) European integration, Germany might be challenged or tempted … to bring about stabilisation in eastern Europe alone and in the traditional manner.” The threat of the ‘traditional manner’ remained. A study published in June by Oliver Decker, Johannes Kiess, Elmar Brähler at the University of Leipzig showed that one in every ten Germans wants their country to be led by a ‘Führer’. It should be read.
Just before the UK’s EU Referendum was held, Schäuble threatened Britain and effectively closed the door on the UK retaining access to the single market after voting to leave the EU when he told Der Spiegel, “If the majority in Britain opts for Brexit that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out.”
The voting system inside the Council of Ministers has been consistently rigged to enhance the power of Germany at the expense of other countries, including the UK, on the basis of population. Recent voting system changes since 2014 have given vastly more power to Germany to have their way, because of the ‘65% of population’ criterion. Germany’s 81 million people means it has a weight in the Council which has almost doubled, from 8.2% to 15.9%. In any case, we know what the outcome will be when a vote is called because the deals have already been struck in unsmoked-filled rooms by unelected officials.
For example, German politicians have wreaked havoc on UK ports and jobs through protecting the German port city of Hamburg in the impending EU Ports Services Regulation. The regulation protects state subsidies and will inflict severe pain on British ports. The ports regulation is opposed in this country by the British Government itself, the Official Opposition, all 47 port employers, all trade unions, but it cannot be stopped. Unless, of course, we now vote to leave. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s recent suggestion that Brexit “would be a poison to the economy in the UK” seems to overlook their injecting the very EU poison which is destroying our economy.
Germany wants the single market that works for them, but not for us. Look at our colossal trading deficit in goods and services with the other 27 EU member states that last year stood at £67.8 billion. Compare that with the UK trade surplus in goods and services with non-EU countries at £31 billion. Germany, however, runs a trade surplus in goods and services with the other 27 EU member states, including the UK, of £81.8 billion. So, while Germany sees the immense benefit, what kind of single market advantage is that to us?
Germany has enjoyed the compassion and debt relief she would not dare exercise for others. The London Debt Agreement of 1953 provided for massive debt relief to Germany, when around 50% of Germany’s debt was forgiven which amounts to £86bn in present money. The German refusal, then, to acknowledge Greek demands for debt relief is bare-faced hypocrisy in the face of the help they themselves received from the international community in their time of hardship, and which Wolfgang Schauble has continuously resisted. As the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said, the German option was to put the bailing out of German banks exposed to Greek public debt above Greece’s socioeconomic viability.
Similarly, Germany has allowed the European system of rules to be a moveable feast at their own whim – they broke with impunity the Stability and Growth Pact in 2003 when it suited them and complained when Mediterranean states broke the Pact. Germany continued to break the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure, running trade surpluses of more than 6% without penalties. EU law, it seems, is only enforced when consistent with German national interests.
The German Chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee,Elmar Brok has said that if were to leave the EU, “the Americans would increasingly rely on Berlin and Paris”, adding “Britain would then only be a strategically insignificant island in the Atlantic.”
When, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I challenged Elmar Brok at meeting in The Hague last week, I asked on what authority the German Chancellor had opened the doors to 1.1 million refugees and torn up the Dublin Agreement and entered into a one-to-one deal with the Turkish President, he declaimed from the platform it was a “bloody lie”.
Again, in January 2013, when the Chairman of the Bundestag’s EU Affairs committee Gunther Krichbaum had said that any attempt by Britain to renegotiate its position to reach a “new settlement” for continued membership would be resisted by its European partners, I defended Britain’s wish to debate the issue “on our own terms”. I said we had every right to have our own referendum and our own right to determine what kind of country we will be. At a conference only four months ago, again Gunther Krichbaum warned me at a European conference that the UK ‘cannot survive’ on its own and raised the spectre of crippling trade tariffs on British exports should we vote to leave, which of course, I did not accept. “Who made the Germans the judges of nations?” said John of Salisbury in 1160AD. We are still pondering the same question now.
The answer sits with a review by Wolfgang Streeck, director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, who in The London Review of Books recently referred to Germany’s “hegemonic self-righteousness” when observing that the country has come to consider the EU as an extension of itself, where what is right for Germany is by definition right for all others. Their national interest that is mistakenly seen as identical to the interest of all reasonable human beings, in Europe and beyond, is necessarily shaped by the political interest of the government and its dominant social bloc in preserving their power. Peripheral countries are simply at the mercy of its national power games.