Original article in The Sunday Times, 14 December 2014.
A eurozone reshaped into a single political entity confederated to the UK would suit all, write Brendan Simms and Alan Mendoza
Now the union with Scotland is safe, for now, Her Majesty's government will be turning its attention to that other imperilled union, Europe. At present the debate is focused on how the EU can be "reformed" to enable Britain to stay a member. There are two problems with this approach. The first is psychological: eyeing the exits without thinking about those we are about to leave behind gives the impression of planning a political and legislative Dunkirk. The second is practical: any attempt to loosen the constitutional bonds will make the euro unmanageable and make Europe an even more feeble strategic actor than it already is, especially in the east.
We need to begin by recognising that the UK is an exceptional power because it is not prepared to sacrifice its sovereignty through membership of a full federal Europe or by joining the euro. Moreover, almost uniquely among European states, Britain is strong enough to survive alone because of our enduring economic and military potential.
Second, a weak Europe and a collapse of the eurozone is not in Britain's interest. The economic dislocation would be immense. Even worse would be the political extremism that would fill the vacuum on the Continent;; and weakening European bonds would reduce cohesion in the face of our greatest external enemy, Russia.
Third, we already have two highly successful examples of union in history. In 1707 the English and Scots brought hundreds of years of military, diplomatic and economic rivalry to an end by joining forces, boosting their joint power. The resulting Act of Union in which Scotland received generous representation at Westminster allowed it to retain its legal and education system while giving up its separate foreign and security policy. Great Britain was born, and with it a fiscal-military state that has punched above its weight since. When the representatives of the 13 colonies came together in Philadelphia in 1787 to agree a constitution they established a presidency empowered to conduct foreign policy and conclude treaties that were subject to ratification by the two houses of Congress.
Fourth, eurozone leaders do not seem to have grasped that, contrary to EU lore and culture, successful unions come not through benign convergence but through sharp ruptures in periods of extreme crisis. The political unity that the eurozone needs therefore requires a single collective act of will. It needs to follow the path set out more than 200 years ago by the UK and America by establishing a full parliamentary, military and fiscal union. This is the only way of solving the debt crisis, of deterring outside predators and turning Europe into a force for good in the world.
If this happens, and it must happen in some shape or form if the eurozone is not to fragment, “Europe” will become something quite different from the community that Britain joined 41 years ago. It is not a case of Britain leaving the EU, but of the eurozone leaving the original European Union — a “euroexit”. What is needed is a proposed political unification of the eurozone followed by a pan-EU referendum, in which the UK would most likely be the only state not to vote “yes”. This would result in a revised European confederation between the UK and the new eurozone state.
It therefore follows that a grand bargain between London and a putative eurozone state is necessary in which Britain continues to put in over the odds militarily (through Nato) and takes out over the odds economically. Immigration and travel could be resolved amicably on the basis of reciprocity. Justice and the budget would be repatriated. Most importantly of all, there would have to be a confederal management of the single market and the City.
So the answer to the current impasse is clear. The eurozone needs to establish a full federal political union, replicating the key features of the earlier Anglo-Scottish and American unions. This new state then needs to enter into a new confederation with the UK. In order to facilitate this outcome and redirect an increasingly deadlocked debate, the Project for Democratic Union and the Henry Jackson Society have set up a Brexit-euroexit project.
A united eurozone, constructed along Anglo-American constitutional lines, in confederation with Great Britain, is not only compatible with British sovereignty but very much in Britain’s interests. What is urgently needed on both sides of the Channel therefore is not a European Britain, but a “British Europe”.
Brendan Simms is president of the Project for Democratic Union. Alan Mendoza is the director of the Henry Jackson Society. They are joint chairmen of the Brexit-euroexit project.
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