Britain’s Final Choice

Saturday, January 30, 1999

One of the most influential political analysts of the day is Conrad Black, owner of some great newspapers (London’s Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Jerusalem Post), who has just launched the National Post, a national daily in his native Canada, where he already owns dozens of newspapers and magazines.

Mr. Black, fifty-four, has just put his intellect and political clout behind a revolutionary political idea, one that has been stewing below the surface of British politics for a decade: Why should Britain submerge itself into the supranational European Union when its people and its economy would be far better off joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), of which the United States, Canada, and Mexico are charter members?

In a recent lecture at London’s Center for Policy Studies titled “Britain’s Final Choice: Europe or America?” Mr. Black, a leading Euroskeptic, gave reasons, some economic, some cultural, why Britain should move into an Atlantic community orbit and away from the prevailing orthodoxy of Eurofederalism.

Mr. Black’s proposal is bound to force a rethinking not only in the minority Conservative Party, which is split on the EU, but also in the ruling Labour Party, where there are also misgivings about Britain’s role in the EU. Both parties are quite aware that all public opinion polls show that around 70 percent of the British people share these misgivings. Woe to Tony Blair’s Labour government if the EU’s unelected bureaucratic rulers were to erode, in matters political, economic, and cultural, those values that the British voter holds dear.

By Anglo-American standards, said Mr. Black, the EU’s institutions are “rather undemocratic and unaccountable.”

In economic terms, British trade patterns differ from those of other EU countries. British trade with North America, as a percentage, is almost twice as much as that of other EU countries as a group. British net direct investment in North America has been more than double British investment in the EU.

In political terms, Mr. Black said that the British are “being invited to retire as autonomous members of an American-led alliance and to be subsumed into a pre-Thatcher social democratic Europe that has some central political ambitions, woolly as they still are.” To put it simply, handing Britain over to the social democratic bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg could mean the weakening of democratic capitalism and the concomitant cultural values of a market economy.

What is the U.S. position vis-à-vis the European Union and Britain? Once upon a time but no longer, our government looked with approval on British entry into the EU. Today the United States, Mr. Black said, is “irritated by the long-standing European habit of trying to fashion a Mideast policy by awaiting American initiatives and then staking out positions more favorable to the Arab powers [and] is also concerned that the EU’s shameful, arm’s-length treatment of Turkey will destabilize that crucial country and the entire region.”

Mr. Black repeated the anti-EU warning of Henry Kissinger that an integrated Europe, with or without British membership, would give lip service to the American alliance, dissent from American policy in many areas, and thereby imperil the transatlantic alliance.

In a recent Daily Telegraph article, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would support a move in Congress offering Britain “some associate status” in NAFTA. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas has introduced a bill offering Britain such status. Preston Manning, leader of the opposition in the Canadian House of Commons, has made a similar proposal. In fact, the Canadian government itself is pressing for an energetic expansion of NAFTA.

The dream of a federated Europe goes back a long way, to 1917, in fact. In chapter 3 of John Reed’s famous Bolshevik propaganda tract titled Ten Days That Shook the World, Leon Trotsky, then—October 30, 1917—at the height of his powers as war commisar of the Red Army, delivered himself of his worldview:

At the end of this war I see Europe re-created, not by the diplomats, but by the proletariat. The Federated Republic of Europe—the United States of Europe—that is what it must be. National autonomy no longer suffices. Economic evolution demands the abolition of national frontiers. If Europe is to remain split into national groups, then Imperialism will recommence its work. Only a Federated Republic of Europe can give peace to the world.