Thursday, December 3, 2009


Believe it or not, I am posting these notes, which I wrote in honor of the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's speech at Bruges, by popular demand. Yes, you're reading that right, a reader has actually written to request my opinions on this subject. I just happened to have my opinion in my files.

They're a little out of date, Jonathan, the anniversary having come and gone, but I think they'll meet your emotional needs.

To all my other readers: Hey, just let me know if you need anything else! I've got all sorts of weird stuff lying around that I never managed to get published: a proposal for a novel called Refugee Status, a comic book about stray cats in Istanbul called Catstantinople, a terrific three-page description of Ruby's, which is a nightclub near my old neighborhood in Paris frequented by some amazing Senegalese hookers -- whatever you need, just ask. If I've got it on hand, you're welcome to it.

I. The Bruges Speech:

*NB: Thatcher was originally a passionate Europhile. She supported the common market and integration into the European Economic Community. She campaigned against members of her own party who opposed it. (Most people are totally unaware of this.)

*It was not until midway through her tenure in office that she became persuaded that the original goals of the EEC had been supplanted by the goals of the EC: to wit, forming a European superstate that would a) inaugurate government by bureaucracy; b) promote socialism through the back door; c) erode national sovereignty.

*The Bruges speech: It was, as her foreign secretary said to me, "like Martin Luther nailing his theses to the wall." And it was received with about as much enthusiasm by faithful believers in the European project.

*This was the cause of her downfall: Her reluctance to bring Britain further into to Europe divided her Cabinet and prompted Geoffrey Howe to resign in protest. His resignation speech set in motion the train of events that led to the revolt of the Conservative Party and her resignation.

II. Twenty years on: Was Thatcher right?

A: Government by bureaucracy:

*Every year, the European Commission produces more than 11,000 new regulations. According to the Commission’s own findings, these regulations cost European businesses 600 billion Euros per annum. The trade benefits of the single market amount to about €160 billion per annum—in other words, the costs of EU membership now vastly exceed the benefits.

*The acquis communautaire is now 170,000 pages long. Over 100,000 have been produced in the last 10 years.

*77 percent of the total cost of regulation on U.K. business since 1998 has been driven by the EU.

*The European constitution: 265 handsome pages, forty times the length of the American Constitution, unreadable, uninspiring, and an absolute tour de force of bureaucratic jargon.

*Thatcher, 2002, In Statecraft: "You only have to wade through a metric measure or two of European prose, culled from its directives, circulars, reports, communiqués or what pass as debates in its ‘parliament,’ and you will quickly understand that Europe is, in truth, synonymous with bureaucracy. It is government by bureaucracy for bureaucracy ... The structures, plans, and programs of the European Union are to be understood as existing simply for their own sake ... It is time for the world to wake up to it; if it is still possible, to stop it ... "

B: Socialism through the back door:

*European countries continue dogmatically to defend the "European social model" against global competition. A group of nine EU member states issued an open declaration in February 2007 calling for "stronger social, environmental, and work protections" to further sap economic growth.

*Continual introduction of anti-competitive, price-controlling legislation in critical industries such as pharmaceuticals has led to huge capital flight.

*Massive resources redistributed to the agricultural sector. The CAP's highly protectionist system of agricultural subsidies (more than 40 percent of the entire EU budget) is the greatest obstacle to free trade in the modern world: It prevents the world's poorest farmers from competing fairly in the marketplace and is a direct cause of starvation.

*cf. Heritage Foundation's 2007 Index of Economic Freedom: "Europe suffers from the second-worst regional score in labor freedom and is dead last in fiscal freedom from government… [S]trong state sectors and rigid labor markets have already prompted significant social turmoil, not least in France."

*Levels of corruption and fraud are staggering. European Court of Auditors has rejected the EU's accounts for 13 straight years.

*French finance minister proposing to equalize tax rates throughout Europe, thus destroying "unfair competition." High tax rates of France, not low rates of Ireland, would become the new standard.

C: Erosion of national sovereignty:

*The Commission’s rulings are intended to supersede those made by the elected officials of the member states. Although the European parliament is elected directly by the citizens of member countries, the vastly more powerful Commission is not elected at all.

*Drafter of the constitution, Valery Giscard d'Estaing: "Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly."

*When the constitution was rejected by popular vote, it was replaced by Lisbon treaty, which is basically the same thing, reconstituted. (Zapatero: "We have not let a single substantial point of the constitutional treaty go.") Its provisions: member citizens would not be able to vote for the EU president, who would speak for them. Would create an EU diplomatic corps collected under a new EU foreign affairs minister. Would significantly shift power from member states to Brussels in areas such as immigration, defense, security, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, space, climate change, tourism, investment and energy. (Implications for NATO and Anglo-American alliance are massive.) Would significantly reduce the number of policy areas that require unanimity from member states. Would entrench a pan-European magistracy, a European Public Prosecutor, a federal EU police force and an EU criminal code. Would establish a single legal personality. Brussels would sign international agreements on behalf of all member states. Article III-294 prohibits dissent: "Member States shall support the common foreign and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity."

*When the Irish rejected it at the ballot box, Eurocrats' first response was to try to figure out a way to force it down their throats without a popular vote by reintroducing the constitution as a treaty to be ratified by parliaments, rather than by direct referendum.

III. The popular revolt against Europe: recent events:

*In France and the Netherlands, draft constitution contemptuously rejected. Rejection of Lisbon treaty in Ireland. Gordon Brown refused to hold a referendum on the treaty in Britain—having previously promised one—when he realized voters would reject it.

*The single European currency is now suffering from a severe lack of public support. Polls show that people in Austria, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain would all prefer to use their previous national currency instead of the euro.

*Growing resentment among ordinary Europeans about the tsunami of petty directives issuing from Brussels.

*Initial response to global financial crisis shows how quickly national interest asserted itself over the European ideal. Britain, Italy, France, Austria and Spain draw up individual plans to prop up their banking systems. New York Times describes reaction as an “ugly disarray” of “self-interested policies to protect their citizens and banks first.” Ugly, maybe, but not unanticipated -- not by Thatcher, not by me. (Good old NYT is very conflicted about this, editorially; they really like the recent socialization of European banks, see Week in Review.)

*Single currency may well disintegrate as global recession/depression unfolds. Financial markets are already pricing this possibility in. With an ECB headed by someone so incompetent as to hike rates three months ago, national self-preservation instincts are apt to override unity. Countries may begin to reassert their independence.

IV: Conclusion: Almost everything Thatcher warned would come to pass in the Bruges speech has come to pass. She was right, as so often she was.

1 comment:

  1. Cool. I started reading her biography, but have put it on hold while reading Churchill's The Gathering Storm. It's sad just how appropriate both books are to current events.