At the end of the Second World War, the situation on the continent was bleak: European civilisation – or what was left of it – was profoundly disturbed and razed almost wholly to the ground. Germany was in abject desolation, almost universally loathed. And Central and Eastern Europe, while temporarily ‘liberated’ from the Nazis’ genocidal dictatorship, soon fell victim to the inane brutality of communist tyranny.
Into this carnage leapt the Atlantic democracies: Britain, Canada and the United States. Their objective was simple: reorder the affairs of the continent to prevent German resurgence and stop Russia from extending its iron curtain further still. Institutionalising their power within a robust security architecture – ultimately realised through NATO – these Atlantic democracies provided the foundations for a defanged and impotent continent to stand once again upright. Much of Europe has been blessed by peace for the past seventy years.
Only from this secure environment could the process of European integration emerge. Integration was a product of peace and security; it was not their cause. It is therefore galling to hear European officials and politicians claiming – since the British people voted to leave the European Union – that Britain has become an unreliable and uncommitted country. Some even seem keen to position the United Kingdom as a kind of European pariah. For example, Guy Verhofstadt MEP recently compared Theresa May to Machiavellian opportunists in medieval Florence, while Michel Barnier accused the British of reneging on their commitment in the ongoing fight against religious extremists.
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