23 September 2021, The Tablet

Robert Schuman, Churchill and the vision of Europe

by Alan Fimister

Robert Schuman, Churchill and the vision of Europe

Winston Churchill, left, with Robert Schuman in Metz, France, on Bastille Day 1946
Photo: Alamy/Fremantle

 

A British-born academic – pro-Brexit and Catholic – examines the differences between Robert Schuman’s vision for Europe and that of Winston Churchill and the Durham miners

On 21 June this year, Pope Francis declared the heroic virtues of Robert Schuman, the French statesman whose declaration of 9 May 1950 initiated the process of supra­national European integration. He is now the Venerable Robert Schuman, the last stage before beatification.

The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union gives a certain poignancy to this moment, particularly from my side of the Channel. Schuman’s life was defined by a Franco-German problem and the entity he created to solve it was a Franco-German endeavour. This was never our dream. Now we have become separated from it, probably forever.

The decision was of course extremely div­isive. Many Remainers have fallen into Brexit derangement syndrome and see the 2016 ­referendum as an epoch-defining catastrophe. Many Leavers have demonised the EU as a Babylonian nightmare from which we have escaped by the skin of our teeth. For a British Catholic Leaver like me, the sanctity of Robert Schuman cannot but give one pause. But then the figure of Schuman raises the question, “What was the role of Britain in the Europe Schuman imagined, and is that Europe the same as the entity we have just left?”

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