‘The European Problem, the German Question and Anglo-American Solutions’


SPEAKER: Brendan Simms, President and Co-Founder of the Henry Jackson Society and of the Project for Democratic Union

TIME: 1 – 2pm, Wednesday 24th April 2013

VENUE: Committee Room 7, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

For a summary of the event, click here

Thank you very much for coming. When I was asked to introduce this meeting, I was very pleased and happy to do so. I am not sure if this is going to embarrass me more than Brendan, but when I was an undergraduate I attended the lectures that Brendan gave about Germany and the title of the lecture series was ‘The Struggle for Mastery in Germany’, which was a suitably antagonistic and some might say sort of Teutonic title really – addressing the relations between Germany and particularly Prussia and Austria had while trying to achieve primacy in central Europe, over period of nearly two hundred years, from 1740 to 1914. I am delighted to be able to tell you that it was by far the most enjoyable paper that I did in my last year at University. It was also the paper that I did the worst on for various reasons!


So no hard feelings, but I am thrilled to be able to introduce Brendan. Since then, he has achieved enormous distinction in this area. He has ranged quite widely from diplomatic history to international relations. In a wider context, he has got this fantastic new book, which I am half way through and I am enjoying learning things all the time, and I am very pleased to be able to introduce him and to be able to welcome you here. Now there has been bit of confusion from my end about the rooms, but I think this is probably the very first time I have ever been in this committee room and I have been the Member of Parliament for three years, so this is new experience for me, but it is very cool up here and I appreciate that!


I want to introduce Brendan who many of you know and the title of his presentation will be ‘The European Problem: the German Question and Anglo-American Solutions’. So without further ado, I will see the microphone as it were to Brandon.


Brendan Simms


Well, thank you very much for that. I thank Kwasi Kwarterng for chairing this meeting; I thank also Hanna Nomm, the events manager at the Henry Jackson Society, for all the work she has put into this meeting. I am here to speak about this issue, ‘The European Problem: the German Question and Anglo-American Solutions’, and it spins off in many ways my new book, ‘Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy’. I would like to suggest that the story I described there might have something to tell us about the present day. I think three of the book’s central themes are relevant. First of all, the centrality of Germany to the past 500 years of European history; secondly, the European order, particularly the central European order but also the general European order, reflects that preoccupation with Germany; and thirdly, the superiority in my view, historically speaking, of the Anglo-American form of the constitutional organisation.


To start with the centrality of Germany in European history, this is to a very large extent, of course, a question of location. Germany is right at the heart of Europe geographically; it is a vital space contested by almost all of the main powers at all times. For England, for example, as part of the defence of the low countries; for France, as part of breaking up the Habsburg rule of encirclement in the early modern period; for the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus, as the first line of defence for the southern coast; and indeed also for the Ottomans, whose main access of advance after 1453 was in the central Europe.


Germany is also important from the point of view of resources and wealth – it is now and has always been. Many sixteen and seventeenth century observers speak about the way in which any one power that controlled the resources of Germany’s wealth would prevail in Europe. For this reason, European great powers have sought, either to seize those resources themselves, or to deny them to others. So, the pre-occupation with Germany runs right the way through the policies of the Lois XIV, the revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes, the Cold War and of course applies to the First and Second World Wars.


When Germany was weak and divided, which it was for most of the period that I have described, it was a vacuum, so it tended to suck in instability from outside. A classic example of this, I am sure you will all be familiar with, is the Thirty Years War, when Germany was simply a battlefield, which other powers marched over. On the other hand, when it is strong and united, as it was between 1871 the First World War, it became such a power that it offset eventually the European and the global balance. Now we see faint echoes of this, I stress the words faint and echoes of this in the revival of German power in the past five years, which has led to tensions between Berlin and other parts of the Eurozone.


Now the question how the European order reflects the German question. I argue that almost all the principle European settlements of the past three hundred years or so of European history, they all reflect in one way or the other preoccupation with the German question. Starting with the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which many regard as the cornerstone of the modern international order; this develops the Holy Roman Empire, which is the German political commonwealth, as the structure which enables Germans to coexist, principally Catholics and protestants but also the Emperor, princes, imperial cities, knights and so on, and enables them to coexist without killing each other; but also to prevent them, through these civil wars, from sparking off a European conflagration like the Thirty Years War, which the Treaty of Westphalia brought to an end; and, also to stop the outsiders from seizing the resources of Germany. So, in order to achieve this, outside powers were given a guarantor role in Germany. So, the Swedes and the French later on and in the eighteenth century the Russians were given actually the formal accredited role as guarantors of the German order.


The problem was that the resulting Holy Roman Empire was actually unable to do this work; it failed and it did not manage to keep out the revolutionary French and Napoleon. Looking at the Vienna settlement in 1815, again this creates in central Europe a German confederation to replace the old Holy Roman Empire. This again is designed to be strong enough to deter outside powers, but not so powerful as itself to become the threat. The Versailles settlement of the First World War, the Yalta Conference settlement, I think you would agree almost at once that these are settlements designed for the containment of Germany in one shape or another, either territorially or through the international instruments established, the League of Nations in one case and the United Nations, which do not forget originates as the war time alliance against Germany.


After the Second World War, the European project was principally driven by two concerns, both of which are to do with Germany. The first concern which would have been uppermost in French minds was to contain Germany in common European structures; and the other concern, which was often neglected, principally the American concern, which was to find some way through European unity to tap into resources to demobilise Germany, for the common western democratic project. Mid-1950’s that second hope was derailed by the French parliament, which destroyed the European defence community, which would have established a European political military common structure. So, politics and strategy were uncoupled from social and economic integration: politics and strategy fell to NATO; and social economic integration fell of course to the EU. But these two pillars, which normally would be under one state heading, were then under two headings.


So, the result was that Germany was successfully embedded in Europe, and German unification did not, in fact, substantially change this equation. Europe absorbed the mighty Deutsche Mark – this again was very much the French concern that German currency strength in the 1980s and early 1990’s would be relativised. But then, as well we all know two things happened: first, the design of the Euro flooded the periphery with cheap public and private credit; and secondly, the European Union took on in many respects, aspects of German political culture and began to resemble more and more, the old Holy Roman Empire.


Now, there are positive aspects to this, which is the emphasis on legality, consensus and peaceful conflict resolution and we should not underestimate those. But there are also very important negative aspects. That is certainly the sclerotic nature of government, the weakness of being divided by petty rivalries and the failure to harness energies of inhabitants – and all of that led in the case of the Holy Roman Empire to being swallowed up by revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Now, in the case of the European Union, I argue, it makes the European Union unsuited to deal with pressing internal and external problems to which I now turn very briefly.


You are all aware, of courses, of the challenges facing the Eurozone today. The sovereign debt crisis and economic crisis, very substantially caused by this design flaw in the Euro, which in turn was a product of the strategy to contain Germany in a large part. There is a weakness of Europe in the world economically: compared to China, Europe is a weaker partner for the United States then it could or should be; it is divided with regards to some external threats, for example, Islamism, Russians in the Baltic States, and the considerable danger of fragmentation, either through the exit of the Greece from the common currency, or possibly some form of central secession, which would be a German exit from the common currency. And underlying it all are two things: one is how to deal with the German question; and related to that how to address the democratic deficit at the heart of the European project.


The second half of my remarks concern what I regard as the historical superiority of the Anglo-American constitutional project. What I argue in the book is that many of the challenges faced by the European Union today, particularly the Eurozone, have been faced by polities in the past. So, for instance, England in the late 17th-early 18th century was a country embattled by European enemies; and an open flank in Scotland – Scots were famously broke as the result of the colonial escapades; and more particularly, the thirteen colonies then the thirteen states that made up the United States in the late 1780’s, were very far from being a single unitary state, they were essentially a confederation united by the articles of confederation after the war of independence. They had enormous war debt and immense uncertainty within the debt and bond market. They were surrounded on all sides by potential predators. There was severe danger of internal disunity, a real sense among Americans that Pennsylvanians would fall out with Virginians, division between southern states, some more agrarian, commercial and northern states and so on. And how both Great Britain and the United States addressed those challenges I think has relevance for the Eurozone today.


In 1707, England and Scotland joined in a union: they created a joint parliament; they solved Scotland’s economic problems, fiscal problems with the pulling debt. Scotland retained certain rights in law peculiarity, in law and religion for instance, and the new United Kingdom became a common project for the defence of parliamentary liberties and the defence of the European balance of power against France externally.


In 1787, when the Americans sat down to consider how best to reorganise their policy, because of the problems I just described, what was particularly interesting is that they went through European history for instruction and example. They looked at Machiavelli and the 16th century Italian state, but since they are squabbling with internal divisions; Poland was no good, it was on the way to be partitioned. But they reserved the greatest contempt for the Holy Roman Empire, and they looked at the federalist’s papers and to many references by Alexander Hamilton, Madison, John Jay and others, referring to internal divisions, disunity, petty rivalries and so on of the Germanic constitution.

What we want they said, quite specifically, explicitly, we want something more akin to the Anglo Scottish Union and the language preamble to constitution referring to, it was a more perfect union or something like that, it mimics the language of Queen Anne in her invitation, a letter inviting Scots to negotiate on the Union. So, the Americans created a presidency; a Senate, of course, representing the individual states; houses of representatives according to former taxation, population principle; they pooled the death rate treasury bonds; they had a single army and navy, and they created the great power project called as we know as the United States.


So, how can these lessons be applied to the Eurozone today? I think the first thing we need to do is to get away from the idea that Eurozone can be somehow a sui generis project which will develop something completely new. I mean, it has but unfortunately in many respects. But I do not think that there is any need to reinvent the wheel. We have from history tried and tested – of course historically contingent situations are different – but  nevertheless a tried and tested form of constitutional organisation, and I would argue that what the Eurozone needs is an Anglo-American constitutional system, with a directly elected presidency, a Senate, a House of Citizens elected by population, pooled state debt as a one off process and then balanced budgets with debt ceilings, which will be enforced by an essential authority, responsible however to the joint parliament. It would have to have a single army; it would have to have a single language of government – that would have to be English – and all of these would have to be affected by pan Eurozone constitutional convention, elected by popular vote, which puts its proposal to the vote after it debates across the entire Eurozone on the same issues, on the same day in every participating state, and then those who wish to be in, can be in and those who wish to be out can be out, and those who wish to be out should remain linked to a residual European confederation through a single market with trade arrangements and the rest of it.


So, I conclude by saying that the British and the Americans, their unions made history. If the Eurozone fails to establish a similarly mighty union, then it will be history too, but not in the way that it had intended.


Kwasi Kwarteng MP


I am just glancing to one of my parliamentary colleagues and I am wondering whether she would sign up to that as part of the Labour manifesto going into the next general election. We have got plenty of time for questions, so, if you indicate your desire to ask the question the usual manner, sticking your hands up, that would be very helpful. I think initially, I will take them singly and then depending on what our time constrains are we might bunch some of the questions. Does that make sense? We start with, yes [pointing].


Question 1 – Archie Hamilton, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, House of Lords


The EU commission at the moment is trying to take us towards this single presidency, single parliament, and total integration. The argument, always, against this is the traditions of European countries, that they have been sovereign nations. Therefore, it is extremely difficult, I would have thought to compare Europe with the United States, which is basically an emigrant nation that set itself up and then said, millions of people are welcome to come here and you sign up to be Americans as you come in, actually what you are talking about, these people have enormous histories going back, who identify themselves separately, because we have already seen this. To talk about the extremes with the German-Greek situation, the Germans literally resent giving money to the Greeks and therefore they impose enormous conditions on anything they give. The result is, of course, that it becomes a double whammy. Germans resent giving the money and the Greeks resent the conditions under which they have to have it. So, that is what would happen if you move towards a completely federal situation, and there has to be fiscal transfers of money from rich nations to poor and both nations are going to resent the transfer. To me this is the recipe for a complete conflict.


Brendan Simms


Thank you, so essentially two arguments, about sovereignty and then transfers. On the question of sovereignty, the truth is that there are very few really sovereign countries in Europe today. I think this country is; I think Switzerland is; but most other European countries have had their sovereignty qualified in one form or another, so in the case of the Eurozone periphery, I suppose the southern and the western periphery, those countries have to a very large extent already lost their sovereignty. Ireland essentially lost its sovereignty in the bank bailout; Greece has lost its sovereignty in the way that you described; Spain and Italy potentially at some point; and Portugal in the same situation. Germans in a sense have lost their sovereignty, because the population do not feel particularly consulted on these transfers, but also German sovereignty has been qualified by this institution to resolve the German problem.


I will take one simple example: if Germany were to decide tomorrow to develop an active nuclear capability that would be a major issue. And I think that French sovereignty is or will be radically qualified when the French economic and fiscal situation is exposed to be what I think it probably is – in other words, dependent on some form of German back up.


So, my argument is that in most of the Eurozone, sovereignty for one reason or another has been lost or it never really existed, and a common political project with common democratic institutions would actually give back to these populations a stake in something which they have lost and they will never regain.

As for the transfers, this has already happened of course, and I think one of the things that make the transfer system work in this country and in the United States is that everybody feels represented within the common political structure. The minute you get away from that sense of democratic involvement, I think that the antagonisms actually increase. So my hope is that it will decrease rather than aggravate.


Question 2 – Gwythian Prins, LSE


Your basic analyses come up a bit flawed that we are in the position that we are in on the continent.  Prescription, I have much more doubt about and the reason I have doubt is partly as what Hamilton pointed out today – transference of the Anglo-American model into Europe is wishful thinking rather than a likely template. Secondly, with the threat, I think what you are confusing is an argument from objective pressures which is not to be doubted, of course, the Eurozone crisis, the beneficial crisis that it is often called in Brussels was created consciously to produce precisely the pressures that would force the creation of high political viewing, which everybody understood there was no legitimate [inaudible]. But the difficulty is that, that argument from objective pressures collides with the false identities of Europeans, and speaking as a half Dutch man, I continue that the kingdom of Netherlands is not about to accept the circumstance in which it might find relief from becoming part of Euro but if the Euro breaks that is the most painless way which we get out… [Inaudible] Germans described the European Union as you will remember as the skilful French rider, rides the steady German horse and the essence of riding is that the rider is not enjoying the horse, but the horse is very clearly enjoying the rider. [Inaudible] We have Europe which is perfectly falling of perfectly useful nation states, so let us go back to normal.


Brendan Simms


Thank you, I think you are absolutely right about concerns in the Netherlands with German power. I was at the seminar and at least one person in the room here was at that seminar in Berlin in 2011, and it was held in the Dutch embassy, and I asked, I won’t say who it was, but the important figure in the room, and I asked where are we having it here and he said: well, we are worried about Germany, it was about Germany in Europe.


So, that concern is there. The question is: is that concern addressed by the return to the nation state, which has a default option, which is what you recommend and I think that is where most Eurozone states and certainly Dutch would differ and also the French, because if you accept my proposition that the European project was on their side to a substantial degree and embedding Germany and it was always a forward moving process which ultimately, those national states would be overcome. Once you start saying, actually we are going back to go to the nation states, possibly even breaking up the common currency, then the biggest power will be Germany, and they will have a Deutsche Mark and then they will have exactly they’re saying that you say and we agree that most want to avoid. I think for both Dutch and French the question will be, if they want German sovereignty to be qualified, or indeed to disappear, and then their sovereignty must disappear as well. I think the Germans quite rightly insist on that. So far, you had a situation where the French argue that you have got a European army for the Germans effectively, or should have, but the French army for the French and the French deterrent, that will no longer work. I mean, if this Eurozone stays to happen, then the French will have to bring in their deterrent and the permanent Security Council seat and that will solve all kinds of little problems, if they do not, then Germany will either dominate the rump or they are on their own and that is the very last thing they want. And for those reasons that I think that they will ultimately come out more on the Federalist mind.


Question 3 – Michael Maclay


[Inaudible] I just would like to follow the previous very good question and very good answer, and I am with you in sharing the analysis but different on the recommendation. What we have in the rider of the horse is the show that we must stay on the road whatever happens. The French cannot afford to be on their own, alongside the Germans, and if France is going to be the continuity is there anything what you describe that would really feel to the French elite, and the little linguistic question you raise is of course existential, to have the French at the heart of something which is part of the Anglo sphere is quite close to incredible and other aspects what you describe are very difficult to imagine. [Inaudible] summoning up other than a huge crisis the energy to start of course, so I congratulate you on carrying on such an original set of ideas, I just wonder why working with what we have is not something you find more attractive as a historian, but however imperfect [inaudible] European Union as they exists there are certain quite successful single market and representative – hesitate to say European Parliament but there are things that one can work with.


Brendan Simms


Thank you. On the linguistic question, I think that there would be widespread consensus outside France in the rest of the Eurozone that it would have to be English. German president Mr Gauck mentioned just such an idea in a recent speech, so I think that they have beaten our bullet. I think that this is the only possible way to go in many ways in practice, wherever people sit down in Europe nowadays to discuss Europe they do so in English, even if the English and British are not present.

So, I don’t mean that, that would be Indian problem, as to whether there would be a sufficient crisis, crunch point to create the moment to make the transformation, as a historian I agree with your scepticism and the arguments we are making in the book is that true and lasting unions like the Anglo-Scott’s one and the American one happened in the face of what I call primacy of foreign policy, in the real life or death external threats; and what I also argue is that the problem with the European project was that this was uncoupled in the 1950’s and NATO by the fact that it did its job so well, took away from the Europeans that fundamental integrating forms of the defence, and that had consequence for the European project. So, maybe it is not possible without that sort of life or death threat, but on the other hand, the Euro crisis is perceived certainly by very many people as an existential threat, so that may provide motive but speaking as the historian, maybe not.


As to the role of the British, I actually take the view that it is not essential to have Britain as part of this project. I have spoken very carefully if you have noticed of the Eurozone rather than of Europe in general. I think this for two reasons. I am from Ireland and I would be delighted to have Britain on board, if Britain were to see its initiative on this and to lead Europe towards some kind of Anglo-American constitution union, it would be fantastic but, of course this is not going to happen, because the vast majority of people in this country do not want it.


So, what I think we need to do is simply to respect that – and other European countries, particularly the Germans, who keep trying to bring the British back in to deeper political integration – is to accept that, but also to realise that there is huge fond of good will in Britain towards the British and towards deeper Eurozone political integration. In other words, there is absolutely no interest I think in London for chaos in Europe, so what we need really is not a European Britain, but as I have described British Europe. So, the best thing the British can do for Europe is to bequeath this language as I mentioned and this Anglo-American constitutional structure, supported of course by the Americans and then we will end up with three cognate unions or roughly say in terms of governance all speaking English, I mean what is there not to like?


Question 4 – George Grant, Henry Jackson Society


I just want to start by agreeing with you that I think that these sorts of unions cannot come about but through a sense of existential crisis, but I will put to you that what is happening with the Eurozone, at present, does not constitute that. I think you are talking about potential military violation for real existential crisis, where there is a sense of existential crisis within Europe people perceive it as having come about, because there has been too much of a move towards closer union, as opposed to too little, in terms of the economic catastrophe that is potentially pending as the result of the Euro.


But I think of the second thing that I want to bring into this, because we talked a lot about the French and the Germans, and the Poles and the British, but what we actually mean by that. There is a distinction that seems to me between the political elite and the population at large and I think that is absolutely critical at this point, because no nation state can surely exist, unless there is a shared sense of historical experience and common destiny not among the rulers but among the people as the whole, and we have seen even within the successful Anglo-Scottish union that when there is a challenge to that sense of historical destiny among the population, you can have the threat of real rupture as we having with whole Scottish independence debate. And you have mentioned the problem of a democratic deficit at the heart of Europe, but that deficit surely has come about precisely, because the political elite over the past fifty years have sought to bring about ever-closer union, knowing full well that the people would never have it if it was put to them through some form of democratic consensus and that is precisely the problem and so, not only do you have within Europe a sense of deeply divided states not only at the political but at the level of population at large. People are just in no way united either by the shared sense of historical experience or by the sense of common destiny, and there is only so many holidays that your average general citizen is willing to give up to bail out the Greek tax payer and I just do not see that changing anytime soon and for that reason, unfortunately I beg to question your thesis.


Brendan Simms


Thank you, George. Two questions really, the existential crisis and the lack of shared experience, and I think you are right and you have already addressed this to certain extent. There is not an existential foreign policy crisis. That is not to say that there won’t be, one of the things we really cannot predict is what the future brings in terms of surprises. I cannot say, for instance, the situation in the east, the whole question of Baltic States, NATO’s article five commitments in Poland and in Baltic states, do raise interesting questions, which will result for instance, I think in very intense Polish interest in the European political integration project and that is interesting for two reasons. First of all because the Poles have fought as we know for hundreds of years for their independence and secondly, because the Poles have an understandable scepticism towards the Euro and the economic side of it. So, why somebody like Radoslaw Sikorski, who has a very conservative hard-headed conservative opinion, shows so much interest in the European political project, because he sees in European political integration defence in depth against Mr Putin and that is the long and the short of it. The point I am trying to make is, if there are challenges like that or elsewhere that could produce the kind of pressure we are talking about, that is for the future, but that is also partly due to the fact that we do not within Europe have a conciseness of threats to one part being a threat to the whole, and that is precisely why the American patriots in the 1780’s argued for union, because they said the same thing, they said the trouble is that the Northern Carolinians are not interested in the British, they are worried about the Spanish in the South, people of Pennsylvania are worried about the Indians and worried about people in Virginia. What we need is one common strategic space, which will give us one joint public sphere which will trash all these issues out.


On the question of shared experience, I am a bit more optimistic, because I think that the European Union has created a very strong sense of Europeanism, even among ordinary people across the Eurozone and the number of people arguing that the union should break up and should return to pure and simple national states are very small, and I accept, obviously, whatever project isn’t overrated, it has to be based on the popular vote and I would be optimistic that if you said to Italians, Greeks or Irish people, here is the project your vote in House of Citizens will count the same as a vote of the German. Your vote for the Senate will actually count more, because that’s the way Senate over represents smaller territories. And you can vote for that or you can vote to [inaudible] and you can be running alongside whichever states decide to join this mighty union. I am confident that if people are given a choice, they will go for a union solution which gives them a stake in the central vote. If they do not, they do not have to, so the problem will solve itself.


George Grant


It would be interesting to consult YouGov on this?


Brendan Simms


It has been done. Declan Ganley did this about eighteen month ago and discovered in France and Germany a plurality of people who would favour this, such a surrender of sovereignty, it was published by RUSI. Interesting to do the poll again but it has done.


Kwasi Kwarteng MP


Can I just make a point as someone who is a constituency MP and is responsible for a constituency: I think the intuition in this country, for a lot of people, is what Brendan is outlining is what is going to happen and that is why they do not want to be part of it. I mean that is the force of the Eurosceptic part of my party and certainly of UK is [inaudible] from a lot of your analyses which intuitively fail. Are there any more questions?


Question 5


We might follow on that, I mean should we be supporting the gross of uneconomical, uncompetitive, compressed European Union or the Eurozone, one of our main trading partners is going absolutely nowhere in the global market, just is not relevant, keeps on talking to itself and looking inadvertently at  what is going on. I am not sure we should be supporting this, and I think we should be asking to free itself up and become more competitive. [Inaudible]


Kwasi Kwarteng MP


Are there any more points? I want a bit of more structure. Yes, [pointing], just briefly.


Question 6

I will say briefly, with respect to Brendan, to be slightly more progressive then I was in my first [inaudible], because of the threat that all those people face from Mr Putin, they were going to join everything [Inaudible]. If you offer us NATO we will join, for this reasons we did have NATO and NATO works extremely well for the existential threats, you are completely correct, but European Union never will, because I must confess [inaudible].


Brendan Simms


I will respond to that, and I think in the case of Poland, in the 1990’s, they were always clear that they wanted the European Union for the economic bits and they wanted NATO for the military bits. They now have NATO and what is very striking is that there is doubt about the validity of Article 5, which is to a considerable extent also to do with the feeling that there is the American turn away from the Europe towards the Pacific and so on, and that is exactly why Radek Sikorski is also thinking in terms of a European political military.


On the question of whether Britain should support this and if it would be in its interest, and I am speaking as an outsider of course, recommending something, I mean there is obviously, historically, a very valid argument that Britain’s security has been dependent on some form of balance of power based on fragmentation within Europe. That’s one strand as you know in British strategic thinking, in a sense you are following that, but there is also a very strong strand, which says that an organisation of the Holy Roman Empire that has a coherent hold to contain the French or any other hegemony is in Britain’s interest, and that disintegration within central Europe is against Britain’s strategic interest. When we come to the question of the Eurozone there is a no doubt that the analysis of Her Majesty’s Government, that the collapse of the Eurozone and return to the more flexible nation state based, would cause massive short to medium term, possible long term disruption, also to the British economy and this is why Mr Osborne has been recommending so strongly deeper political, economic, or fiscal integration within the Eurozone and this is also why very understandably I come back to Kwasi Kwarteng’s point – Britain which already has a successful union does not need to be a part of it. All the things that are broken in Europe today and historically, have never been broken in Britain. It’s a great privilege you have but that is why the situation is different.


Question 7 – Mallory Wober


I noticed that your analysis and questions have explored what one might call bottom up problems of the [inaudible]. I am slightly aware that eastern European states have had the background of electing monarchies and how would it be If Europe decided it would elect a monarchy?


Brendan Simms


Thank you. That is a real wild card question, but it has been raised in another context before and I thought about it a bit. I mean historically speaking, of course, as you say, these monarchies of Holy Roman Empire were elected, so a fundamental part of a German emperor constitution was the college of seven electors, later expanded to nine and I think ultimately to ten.


What would happen to the ruling houses within a single federal state? I do not think there would be a problem of maintaining the existing ruling houses; in the same way, it is not particularly a good precedent but in the case of the Second German Empire you retained after 1871 the King of Rotenberg, the Grand Duke of Baden and so on. So, that I think would be no problem. There would be I think a more knotty issue, as to who or what sort of head of state you should have. My personal preference, and I am sure this will be used against me at some point, is that if we maintain a European confederation of the revamped European union which will then include Eurozone state I am describing, Great Britain and other states who are not part of the Eurozone union, then you could actually have the House of Windsor as the overall monarchy and you could then have the European Emperor –  but then we are already in the “Star Wars” chart!


Kwasi Kwarteng MP


Absolutely! I must say I had not anticipated discussing the institution of the universal monarchy, which is after all what we were fighting against, I mean from 1688 to 1815.


Brendan Simms


I did say it would be held against me.


Kwasi Kwarteng MP


On that note any more questions relating to perhaps the earlier things Brendan was talking about?


Question 7 – John Kennedy

Your modest proposal of an ever-closer union does recall here in the 1980’s when the Bishop of Oxford said to the Archbishop of Canterbury, “hey let’s have a gay bishop”. It did not happen and it all ended in tears. I would rather suspect that something similar would occur. The modest depth of antipathy to the European Union seems to be extraordinary and remembering again listening to the David [inaudible] lecture at which Robin Cook, the then foreign secretary, was present and David came up with his own modest proposal, which envisioned that there would be transfer payments required which would be a matter of only 30% of British GDP. The stony disbelief with which Robin Cook greeted this modest proposal always struck me, and it struck me as the real barrier. I cannot have many people here [inaudible] Eurosceptics but I’d rather feel that the number maybe is increasing as we speak.


Brendan Simms


In that case it is probably better I don’t reply.


Kwasi Kwarteng MP 


Just to focus on your question, we not really talking about Euro scepticism in Britain so much, but about the possibly of Eurozone becoming this single country, so in a way it is irrelevant what people think here, because Brendan is not suggesting that we are going to join this anytime soon. Are there any more questions?


Question 8




Brendan Simms


Well, I think that is almost ten years ago now, is not it? First of all, correct me but, I think the whole way in which this was gone about was very different from single constitutional, conventional, American-style, single debates, votes; and same time that is why I specified this very clearly. So, what you had instead was a sort of game, let’s see what they do, what they will vote for and can they get certain assumptions and so on. I think the single process would be much more straightforward. I think one of the arguments I made in the book is one of the problems with the European project is being this idea of incrementalism and gradual process, whereas in fact, unions have tended to happen as a ‘big bang’. Scots come down to London, they wrap it up, that is it, [inaudible] but doing it over a protracted period then it leads to the kind of things that you have described.  But I also think that the story has moved on, that in many respects the sovereignty that has been defended in those novels has already been eroded and people who realise they won’t get it back, if they don’t want it they don’t, but I think they should be given a choice.


Question 9 – Gisela Stuart MP


Can I apologise for having to pop in. Brendan and I, we have discussed this in Munich and in many other places and but I just want to make two observations [Inaudible]. What is historically going on in the British mind in relation to the rest of Europe? Did not they overturn this massive tenure of foreign policy without debate?


Brendan Simms


That is what I was trying to argue earlier, that there is actually also very strong strain historically of wanting to have a coherent powerful central Europe, provided it is acting in a way that is in consilience with British interest. So the nature of that political union is key, obviously not to have the whole of Europe united under the dictatorship, this is really what was on offer in the past, unpalatable forms of integration, but to have it integrated in a way that is actually British is a boon in a same way as the creation of the new British states on the other side of the Atlantic in the long run helped British interest. In the same way, I would see the creation of the single Eurozone state as in those strategic interests, broadly speaking. So, I do not see any necessary contradiction there.


Question 10 – Hans Kundnani, European Council on Foreign relations


I wanted to come back to your point of incrementalism. This point of incrementalism in many ways defines of what European Union is and the process of European integration.  I take your point that, it could be different this time, it can be this ‘big bang’ moment because of the Euro crisis, although the kind of process of accelerated integration that we have seen past three years is still quite small compared to the ‘big bangs’ you were talking about and it involves different negotiations and so on. It seems to me that what is more likely to happen is the continuation of the incrementalism, perhaps speeded up a bit, nevertheless continuation of incrementalism, somewhere between the ‘big bang’ and the complete disintegration. Given German power at the moment and the conciseness that there is in Germany, that this is just the moment and it might pass this particular moment of German predominance not least because of the demographic issue, which will mean that France actually becomes the bigger member state eventually. Is the danger not actually that the Eurozone does move in the direction you are describing towards political union, very slowly and because you have the Germany based power hood at the moment, what it actually does is that it exchanges that political union on German lines rather than on Anglo-American lines. So, my question is how much of a problem is that, if you have a political union that basically looks something like the federal republic, in terms of politically, economically and so on?


Brendan Simms


I think there is a great danger in two senses. One with the current strategy is that there can be some form of union bond in the long run, but until we can get that, there has to be a behavioural change in target nests, which is perfectly reasonable demand, but the result is, if it is done incrementally as you say, because of the way the economies have grown essentially the peripheral countries just crash before they ever get to the point. Which is why I think why they need one soul, the Hamiltonian debt consolidation solution that just does it in one go, but in return for which they actually lose finally the rest of their sovereignty.

The second problem is, if it is moved incrementally in the way that you described, then you do end up with the united Europe, which then represents more the Holy Roman Empire, and that has precisely even in this new incarnation all the old problems of the old empire of sclerotic decision making, inability to act on the world stage and so on. So there is an awful lot at stake, I agree.


Question 11 – Charlie Laderman, University of Cambridge




Brendan Simms


Well, I think you put your finger on something which is that Washington has indeed held back periodically issuing exhortations on other currency, but what you do not see is what you had historically in the first twenty years after the Second World War, when you had the very intense US engagement with the European political integration project, I mean Truman particularly, Eisenhower and Kennedy, all of them were very keen on the creation of some form of the United States of Europe, because they saw a cognate polity to themselves, because they saw it as a polity that could burden share. And, I think what we have seen with the Obama administration is more a kind of despair, but I do not blame him for all reasons we have discussed. But a certain despairing that the Europeans will get their act together and the certain sense also that there are greater power shifts further to the east. We have been there before with the Clinton administration, there too when [inaudible] turned their back on Europe and the new Tiger economies and by the end of the 1990’s you had the economic crisis and of course you had the Bosnian crisis that brought the United States back into Europe with the vengeance, so I think if there are people wishing they can leave Europe in the background which I doubt, soon will be disabused.


Kwasi Kwarteng MP

Thank you, I think we should wrap up now, given that we have spent an hour I think in a very interesting and lively discussion, I thought. I was struck by how a lot of the institutions, the vision that Brendan described is actually not far from the current reality. There are lots of obstacles, but thirty years ago I think that the single currency for the Eurozone would have been a pipedream, but it exists and there are European-wide elections, there is a single currency, it looks like there will be a fiscal union at some point, there is a banking union, so world “Star Wars” I think you referred too and the European empire under one constitutional monarchy is not that far removed from reality. There are still a lot of problems and how do we actually get there, but your vision and your imagination and the coherence with which you have outlined this picture is quite compelling.



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