Known to his friends as Jimmy, Goldsmith was described as having a ‘colourful’ private life and a ‘controversial’ business career. In the latter part of his life he became active on issues to do with the environment, for example being strongly opposed to industrial farming. He also opposed multi-national trade agreements, considering them to be detrimental to blue-collar workers who would have their jobs exported to low-pay countries. A further repercussion being that products previously manufactured domestically would then be imported, adding to trade deficits. He will probably be most remembered for his political activities.
He became a politician who was anti-politician, founding the Referendum Party in 1994 with a declaration that it would be wound-up when its objective had been achieved. He had no ambition for high-office. He was scathing of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that initiated the European Union in 1993, and of the UK politicians who had refused to let the electorate have a vote on a major change of direction. Because of his family roots in Britain, France and Germany he could not be labelled with the derogatory title ‘little Englander’. If you have not been able to watch the video of his keynote address to the 1996 RP Conference, the extract that follows might be of help.
“…..the European institutions consist of unelected bureaucrats who have been or are being handed almost total power over the lives of all the peoples of Europe. In so far as we are concerned, the overwhelming majority of those powers have traditionally been in the custody of our Parliament, our Court of Law and our Government. Now they have been abandoned silently, deceitfully and irreversibly by our politicians and without our consent.
We have been encouraged to sleepwalk into surrendering our nation. Let us never forget the assurances given to us by Mr Heath’s Conservative government when he took us into Europe in the early 1970s. These are the shameful words that were printed in his official White Paper, I quote: ‘There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty’. Never again should we trust such people.
How has this happened? As we know, the construction of the European Union was designed by Germany assisted by the elite civil servants of France. It draws the bulk of its inspiration from Germany’s constitutional heritage. The ethos of that constitution is drawn from Prussia, and Prussian political thought was moulded principally by the German philosopher, Hegel. So the key to understanding the institutions of the European Union is to understand how the German constitution, itself, came about.
I seek your indulgence to remind you of this essential piece of history, essential for grasping what is happening to us today, and essential to understanding how we find ourselves bound by a constitution alien to everything we have respected and stood for during, as Hugh Gaitskell (the former Labour Party leader) said, a thousand years of our history.
Hegel, the philosophical father of the German constitutional tradition, believed in the State and despised the people – or ‘rabble’ as he often called them. He wrote and I quote: “The people… do not know what they want. To know what one wants is the fruit of profound insight and this is the very thing that the people lack”. “We should venerate the state as an earthly divinity”, he added.
He explained that only the bureaucrat is the true servant and master of the state. Hegal considered that elected bodies, such as Parliament, were only useful to perfect the process of subordinating the people. Prussia began to unify the independent nations of Germany in 1834. At that time they were still independent monarchies. The first step was to create a common market or customs union known as the – Zollverein – comprising 19 nations. The peoples of the various German nations were told that its purpose was to form a large free trade area. After some armed struggles, the common market was converted, in 1867, into a political confederation.
The peoples were told that this would help to consolidate and to develop that common trading area whilst maintaining substantial independence for the participating nations. Four years later, in 1871, the trap was closed. The Confederation was expanded and converted into a single German super state dominated by Prussia. The Parliament was no more than a democratic looking front, whereas real power was concentrated into the hands of the leading civil servants. The principle of irreversibility was made absolute. No nation could withdraw from this new German super state.
I am telling you all this because it relates directly to the way the European Union has been created. Remember what happened. First came the Common Market. We, also, were told that its purpose was to form a large free trade area. Then we moved on to a grouping of nations. We, also, were promised that we would retain essential national sovereignty. Of course, a Parliament was established but real power was, also, concentrated in the hands of leading civil servants. The principle of irreversibility was also introduced prohibiting any nation from leaving the EU. And now the trap is being closed. We, also, are being led blindfolded into a federal super state.
The French civil servants, who are both the servants and the political masters of the French state, acted as handmaidens in this enterprise. They were flattered, suborned and rewarded. And they are vain and arrogant enough to believe that by collaborating with Germany, they will become the co-masters of Europe. They seem incapable of understanding that they are just being used. As someone who is half French, let me assure you that one day they will be judged by the French people, the true ones, not the elites, and that the verdict will be severe.
That is how the EU was created in total contradiction with the fundamental principles of British democracy. It placed all real power into the hands of unelected civil servants and did so with the help of fools, weaklings and worse. Hegel would have been content. The power of the civil servant will not be polluted by the people. The rabble, as he called them, will have no influence.
Well, we are the rabble. And we have had enough.“
Since this keynote address and following the 2007 Lisbon Treaty that reformed the European constitution, the two amended treaties that comprise the constitution contain an article providing for member states to withdraw from the EU. This is not a – Get out of Jail – free card. It is subject to conditions and negotiation, and at a cost. Because it has never happened before, nobody knows how it will work. States that have received EU funding would have financial burdens that would in practice make it near impossible for withdrawal to be considered. Those States in membership of the Euro Zone would have a very difficult task to disengage. The United Kingdom does not face those problems. Indeed as a net contributor, the UK could and should claim compensation.
We are into unknown territory, so who knows how a claim for compensation would be received by the European Commission? Obviously it would be resisted, but it is good opening position for negotiations. We know that David Cameron is a useless negotiator and has fat chance of getting anything back. He would have to be replaced as the chief negotiator in any exit discussions.