Because of the stunning success of the Act of Union, 1801, British people have had 213 years of relative national stability. Britain has been stable whilst the rest of Europe has been a cauldron of fluid national identities. This stability has created a depth of belief in UK uniqueness that flies in the face of history. Consequently many British people believe that the EU is detrimental to the best national interests of the UK. In reply to this I give a quick- fire summary of the fluidity of national identities in Europe explaining why the idea of The United States of Europe is welcomed by many European nations. Secondly I consider the UK’s dramatic, virtually invisible, loss of independence from December 1943.
The Treaty of Versailles, 1919, dismantled four major empires*. Many new countries were created, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia were the principal new countries; there were also three tiny countries in the Baltic and reformed countries like Austria and Hungary. Other countries changed shape. For example France gained territory on the Rhine; Belgium, Denmark and Holland gained fragments of territory whilst the UK gained territory elsewhere in the world. Focussing on our idea of national identity we can now trace what happened over the next 95 years.
Czechoslovakia was born in 1919, occupied by the Germans, 1938- 45, controlled by the Soviets 1947- 91. They split into two republics (Czech and Slovakia) in 1993. 2004 brought Czech entry in to the EU. So in 95 years, without moving house, an elderly person would have lived in six different regimes. Poland followed the now familiar pattern: independence, German control, Soviet control, independence and now a passionate member of the EU. Yugoslavia is even more extreme. Formed in 1919, German control 1940- 45, Communist control 1946- 91 and a ferocious civil war in the early 1990s. This led to the creation of six new countries**. (Apart from southern Ireland becoming Eire in 1948 the UK, in Europe, remained unaffected.)
December 1943 marked the UK’s nemesis. Eisenhower was appointed, by President Roosevelt, to be supreme commander of Allied Forces. Why? Because by December 1943 US military forces outnumbered the UK military in the UK. This invasion was by invitation. Nonetheless the net outcome was that we were invaded and the ‘conquerors’ imposed their will on the UK. Uniquely the UK lost sovereignty by collusion, as it were.
Mainland Europe has suffered centuries of invasion, conquest, and horrendous civilian losses***. Having a federal United States of Europe is most attractive given the historical and economic background. The UK was once, sneeringly, described as the 51st State of the United States of America and this had more than a hint of truth in it. If a clear- headed decision is made about the UK’s future it is futile to believe that our near neighbours and principal trading partners aren’t preferable to a flakey ‘Special Relationship.’
*Austria- Hungary, Germany, Ottoman and Russia.
** Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro (pop. 750,000), Serbia and Slovenia. The Soviet Union disappeared in 1991 creating 15 new countries only some of which are in Europe.
*** Germany invaded France in 1870, 1914 and 1940; France invaded Germany in 1923 and again (plus UK, USA and Soviet Union) 1944-5. Germany was sub- divided into four occupied territories until 1990.