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Are we fools led by liars?

Posted by Richard Monday, February 28, 2005

Following Saturday’s report in Die Welt, which had the German Europe minister Hans Martin Bury describing the EU constitution as a "birth certificate" for a United States of Europe, in today’s Times William Rees-Mogg asks who’s got it right? The German minister for Europe or the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, Jack Straw?

A translation of the Die Welt article can be seen here.

In his piece, headed: "Are we fools led by liars?", Rees-Mogg compares Bury's statement to the Bundestag with Straw’s claim that the constitution treaty signalled "thus far and no further on European integration" and asks: "Is the treaty a boundary marker for European integration or is it a birth certificate for 'a single European state bound by one European constitution', to use the language of the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer?"

He then undertakes a detailed examination of the key parts of the constitution, leaving his readers in no doubt that he goes with the Bury/Fischer axis, then observing that he sometimes thinks "that Britain has a government which takes us all for fools."

"There may be a case for a United States of Europe," he writes:

Many continental Europeans believe in that; most Germans, for instance, see a single European state as a natural development, similar to the creation of a united Germany in the 1870s. Britain, as Franz-Josef Strauss used to say, should have the status in a United Europe which Bavaria has in the Federal Republic. Bavaria, he would add, does not feel any need for a separate air force. Some Germans differ. One recently commented to me: "What is the problem for which the European Union is the solution?"
On these issues, Rees-Mogg thinks we "could have a useful debate" – as do we all. Is it Europe's destiny to become a superstate? Is the age of British independence at an end? Can we protect democracy and the rule of law in a fully united Europe?

And therein lies the problem. Although that would be an honest and historic debate, we cannot have it so long as the government pretends that the European constitution is anything other than a constitution for the United States of Europe. The Germans are telling the truth, avers Rees-Mogg, concluding: "So long as our government takes us for fools, we have every reason to take them for liars."

Nice sentiments, and we would not disagree with them. But Moggy must know that if the government came clean, it would lose the referendum. Thus, despite calls for a debate, the government does not want one; despite deploring our "ignorance on Europe", they do not want an informed population. Instead, they will rely on their mixture of half-truths and lies, repeating them continuously in the hope that enough people will believe them to make the difference.

They are in effect, hoping that most of us are fools and for the rest, when we call our own government liars, they hope that no one will believe us. For the record though, liars they are. Whether we (most of us) are fools remains to be seen.