The Telegraph, May 4, Professor Robert Tombs
Iused to think, in the years before Brexit, that what might conceivably bring the quarrelsome nations of the EU together in genuine unity would be a grave external threat. The most dramatic I could imagine (however unlikely) was a Russian invasion. And then, with luck, might come the fulfilment of the “European ideal” – as the creator and guarantor of peace and stability in Europe.
Not an original thought, I admit. It had happened during the Hundred Years War, when mutual enmity catalysed French and English nationhood. It happened to the 13 rebel colonies in 1776, so that in time “these United States” (plural) became “the United States” (singular). Same in Germany, when war against France in 1870 made Saxons, Bavarians and Prussians into Germans.
And now the external threat has come. For optimistic federalists, it does mark the start of the final push towards what President Macron calls a “sovereign Europe”, a post-national state with its own financial and fiscal system, control over the fundamental issues of politics, and above all its own military. In Britain, our unwearied Remainers have assured us that the crisis will pull us back into the EU’s slipstream, as we realise our terrible error of 2016. Perhaps like the Bavarians in 1914, we would keep our own army uniforms and our own monarch – symbols of illusory independence.
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