Daily Telegraph, March 23rd, Professor Robert Tombs
Were we always destined to leave the EU because “ever closer union” was incompatible with our long history? Brexiteers may like to think so, but the evidence is less than compelling. We voted in 1975 by a sizeable majority to stay in the Common Market. And if we had adopted the Euro, is it not almost inevitable that we would have voted to remain? Not because of a sudden love for the EU, but because of the financial risks that tie Eurozone countries to the system.
In 2016 we voted to leave by only a small majority, and a succession of polls over three years showed that the country was deeply divided. So if European integration was indeed incompatible with our history, nearly half of us failed to realize it.
Twentieth-century Europe experienced an unprecedented cycle of horrors: war, defeat, occupation, civil war, dictatorship, genocide and—perhaps even more corrosive—moral catastrophe and shame. The idea of a united Europe therefore appealed not only to a longing for peace and prosperity, but for a psychological escape from past failures, even past crimes. Former dictatorships and newly liberated subject peoples of the Communist empire saw Europe as a proof of their emancipation and a safeguard against the return of a nightmarish past.
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