It was Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday when I saw a tweet by Guy Verhofstadt (Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament) that did not sit well with me.
It said: ‘Today we remember the victims of the Holocaust. This tragedy was the worst example of what extreme nationalism can lead to. The European Union was created to ensure this will never happen again #WeAreEurope?? #HolocaustMemorialDay’.
My first reaction was that this was a distasteful tweet on an important day of remembrance and he was playing politics with it. So I said so, tweeting: ‘This is pretty shameless. Not even for one day can they rest from the politics and remember.’
Boy, oh boy, did I upset a lot of people. The barrage of tweets did not stop all weekend. Many were denouncing me as shameless, stating that Guy Verhofstadt was ‘telling the truth’, and that the European Union is the one thing – more or less – that can stop not only the rise of the far Right, but another war and an unthinkable event such as the Holocaust once again.
I’d had enough. I understand many are upset about Brexit but that is no excuse to wilfully misrepresent facts. I could have given Guy Verhofstadt the benefit of the doubt but given his past form I felt that he was playing politics, as the backers of the EU project have always done.
Yes, the EU developed from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) established in 1951 and the European Economic Community (EEC) established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome.
And yes, the trading union is presented as a necessary way to avoid future conflict in a Europe ravaged by two world wars and ‘the pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe’.
But this, as Peter Jay’s forward to this pamphlet makes clear, is a ‘retro-fitted’ version of history and part and parcel of the propaganda:
‘ . . . the whole, “never again” imperative of post-war policy was already fully expressed in the political and economic institutions of the UN, IMF, World Bank, GATT and then Marshall Aid, the OEEC and, in the face of the post-war Soviet threat, NATO. “Europe”, in the guise of the Coal and Steel Community, Euratom and the Common Market, had a quite different inspiration, conceived and propagated by the great French diplomat and technocrat, Jean Monnet.’
The myth continues that the EU political union is necessary to avoid future conflict and the mass slaughter of peoples on the grounds of religion, race or ethnicity – developed and propounded during and since the 1980s – and of the natural and laudable desire to make any repetition of Europe’s pre-1945 history impossible and so on.
It is what people like Guy Verhofstadt want you to think and it is a political game he is trying to play. That’s fine – he can play those games as much as he wants, but to do so on Holocaust Memorial Day is, to me, pretty shameless.
This is what many of the European elites are arguing, namely that anyone who favours the nation state, and borders over and above the political union that is the European Union, is willing to risk another war. I deeply resent this. I believe it is emotional blackmail and a form of bullying. It is from the same playbook that says that any person who opposes uncontrolled mass immigration is a racist and a xenophobe.
Yet one (although not the only) reason why we have seen a dangerous rise in the far-Right across continental Europe is because the ruling elite have been chipping away at representative democracy and the nation state for decades.
If people believe major changes have occurred to their countries and societies without them being even consulted, let alone securing their consent, then some will look to others who are willing to listen to their concerns over these changes.
So, no, the choice is not a supra-national political union or war. The choice is not a supra-national political union or genocide. To argue this, to imply this, is grotesque and insulting to millions of people who are loyal to their nation state while looking fondly to their European neighbours, and seek free trade with them at the same time.