05 September 2019, The Tablet

Brexit or no Brexit, UK is part of Europe


 

Eighty years is a long time in politics. But events in early September 1939 are not irrelevant to what is happening in British politics today. On 1 September Germany, now a member of the European Union, invaded Poland, now a member of the European Union, drawing Britain and France, also now members of the European Union, into the fray. Soon a great swathe of other European powers were conquered, humiliated and plundered.

It is obvious, from that historical perspective, why the EU came into existence. It was to prevent that deadly plague of horror ever happening again. Germany was the instigator in 1939, but the nation states of Europe had been ravaged by war repeatedly before that: the war of 1914-18 was one of a sequence. War in Europe was normal, and many even thought it desirable: Clausewitz called it “the continuation of politics by other means”. And Britain was often involved by land and sea, manipulating its military alliances to suit its own interests.

No war between the nation states of Europe has broken out since 1945, and the continent has enjoyed a period of enduring peace and increasing prosperity unmatched in its entire history. It outlived the Soviet Union and helped in its largely peaceful collapse. All this is an extraordinary achievement.

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