Churchill, my grandfather, always loved Europe –

8 months ago Comments Off on Churchill, my grandfather, always loved Europe –

Following two world wars fought out in the crucible of Europe, it is a miracle that there is now a peaceful and prosperous region of some 500 million free men and women, whose countries have risen phoenix-like from the ashes of the war. This extraordinary achievement has been made possible by the structure under which the European family has been able to live in peace, safety and freedom: a European Union of sovereign nation states whose relations are governed not by fear and the struggle for domination, but by the rule of law among their institutions and friendship among their peoples.

We know that this achievement creaks under severe stress, and how inadequately most of the institutions of the European Union are now coping. As we look across Europe, the pervasive mood is one of apprehension and pessimism. The troubles of Governments everywhere speak to the anxieties of their electorates and, sadly, to their mistrust in their politicians, their institutions and their leaders.

Nowhere are these insecurities and misunderstandings more obvious than in Britain. As the world has grown bigger for our country, the opportunities greater, the chances more glittering for our commerce and our people, too many of those who practice politics have taken a cramped and limited view of Europe and the rest of the world.

I believe that the case to remain is overwhelming, yet there is no point pretending that the European Union does not face many major challenges it must find better ways to meet. Schengen cannot survive without the most dramatic reform, and the external borders of Europe must be rapidly strengthened. None of us can feel happy that the EU, which has brought such great stability to much of the European continent, now appears to be weak and uncertain. Its unpopularity matters, and it is damaging.

In this country it is too easy to hear the counsel of despair and negativity: that the EU “has proved a failure on so many fronts” or that, in the particularly distasteful and ignorant language of some “leave” campaigners, “we are shackled to a corpse”.

When Europe was in an infinitely worse state than it is today, the people of Britain had the confidence and courage to join in its reconstruction. I cannot believe that we have lost so much feeling for our friends and allies that we would be prepared to abandon Europe in its present difficulties. For my own part I hope and pray that we would consider such dereliction of duty beneath us.

If we vote to remain, we will have the chance to seize a great moment. Through the kind of energetic, vigorous and skilled diplomacy as shown by the Prime Minister, we have the chance to take the lead in driving forward the big reforms that Europe must swallow. We will find willing partners who want to do the same. On economic reform, on security, on energy, on defence and on foreign policy, there are practical and radical steps that must be taken.

Our freedom, our prosperity and our security depend on a proper respect for the fortune of our neighbours, allies and old friends. Yet to consider this the sole reason to take part in the European project betrays a shrivelled and dismal conception of Britain’s role in the Western family of nations and all that it has stood for in peace and war.

Speaking to the House of Commons in favour of the Schuman Plan, the first stage of European integration, Churchill reminded the socialist government who opposed Britain’s participation that:

“We fought alone against tyranny for a whole year not purely from national motives. It is true that our lives depended upon our doing so, but we fought the better because we felt with conviction that it was not only our own cause but a world cause for which the Union Jack was kept flying in 1940 and 1941.”

Even at Britain’s moment of maximum danger and deep uncertainty Churchill never lost sight of this essential truth.

Sir Nicholas Soames is the Conservative MP for Mid Sussex

Churchill, my grandfather, always loved Europe –