“I wish to speak to you today about the tragedy of Europe. Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to recreate the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe”.
This what Winston Churchill said in Zurich in 1946. A speech which was to be the catalyst for European integration. Not only was Churchill a man of vision, he was a rare breed of politician, and had a quality few possess today. He was a man of ‘big ideas’.
European integration was a ‘big idea’, a revolutionary idea designed to put an end to conflict and build a union of prosperity. it was an enormous project. Few who were involved all those years ago could have imagined how successful the EU would become. And they would probably be astonished at how few problems there had been in the 54 years of its existence.
The European project has always been about learning, growing and adapting to changing circumstances. About understanding and responding to the different needs, strengths and weaknesses of members: about integration. But above all it’s dynamic, positive and exciting – something some members (i.e. us!) seem to have lost sight of.
There will be many crises along the way. Currently it’s the single currency. A crisis which is principally about fiscal integration, although the problem has been exacerbated by world ‘events’. But crises are sometimes the best way of achieving real and lasting change. If a positive outcome can be achieved, it will strengthen the union.
But what of Britain? Is it playing its full part in the EU? Is it putting its full weight behind Churchill’s ‘big idea’? Hardly. Today we have the shameful spectacle of mithering Tory ‘eurosceptics’ arguing for a referendum on whether we should remain in the EU. Doubtless we will be treated to the spectacle of that intellectual colossus and super eurosceptic Bill Cash spouting his usual twaddle and making us look as foolish as he demonstrably is. Sad. We do ourselves no favours. These ‘Little Englanders’ with their little ideas are doing their best to take the ‘Great’ out of Britain and jeopardise our future prosperity.
Winston Churchill would turn in his grave if he could hear the nonsense spouted by these self-important ‘little Englanders’. Little people who wouldn’t recognise a ‘big idea’ if they tripped over one. Time to move on and time to re-engage with Churchill’s ‘big idea’.