Why the “Anglosphere” Is No Alternative for the EU

Autor: John Laughland | Publikováno: 9.7.2011 | Rubrika: English

In 1963, following the signature of the Elysée Treaty by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer which laid out the basis for future cooperation between France and Germany – the founding document of what we now know as “the Franco-German axis” – the German Bundestag appended a preamble to its instrument of ratification of that treaty which reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to the Atlantic alliance and which spelled out that nothing in the treaty would undermine the pro-Washington foreign policy of Bonn. De Gaulle felt that this preamble betrayed the very purpose of the treaty itself, which was to constitute Europe as a geopolitical pole independent of (if still friendly towards) the United States. That treaty having essentially failed, de Gaulle then pursued his policy of balancing between East and West on his own.
Ever since 1963, and perhaps as a result of the failure of the Elysée Treaty to achieve De Gaulle’s aims, political opinion in France and Britain has been united around a strange paradox. Pro-Europeans in France (the majority of the political class) argue that European integration is necessary to make Europe independent of the Americans, while anti-Europeans in Britain argue that it is precisely the danger of European integration that it will undermine the Atlantic alliance. This was one of Margaret Thatcher’s principal beefs with Europe and it remains a cornerstone of British Tory Euroscepticism to this day.
For such people, the alliance with America is the sine qua non of British foreign policy. They believe that this is threatened by Europe. The most pronounced expression of this idea is support for the so-called “Anglosphere”, for which John O’Sullivan (a British expatriate in the United States) argued again recently in the Daily Telegraph. Far better than the current entanglement with France, Germany and other continental countries, they say, would be an alliance with like-minded English-speaking nations, the US in first place but also Australia, Canada, India and the Commonwealth. These countries are united, the argument runs, by an attachment to “individualism, the rule of law, honouring contracts and the elevation of freedom” and the implication is that these values are not shared by the corporatist, socialist, corrupt and even authoritarian political cultures prevalent on the European continent, and of which the EU is itself an expression.
On one level, this suggestion that Britain join a different international grouping from the current EU is an instrument deployed to deal with the objection that opponents of the EU have no alternative to suggest. “What do you propose instead?” is the question which progressives always use to floor conservatives – and it usually works. This is because, in the progressivist political culture of today, the truly conservative answer, “Nothing in particular,” seems deeply unsatisfying.
At a deeper level, however, the “Anglosphere” proposal illustrates the fatal intellectual flaws of British Tory Euroscepticism. In spite of all the rhetoric about national sovereignty, what most British Tory Eurosceptics are basically expressing is their dislike of Catholic countries. If Carl Schmitt was right to say that all political concepts are really secularised theological concepts, then the “Anglosphere” is nothing but old fashioned anti-Popery, with all the humbug and dishonesty which that cultural movement contains. This much is clear from the fact that some theoreticians of the Anglosphere (John Hulsman of the Heritage Foundation, for instance) have suggested that Scandinavian countries should be asked to join the club, while others (including the former Tory MP, David Howell, whom O’Sullivan quotes approvingly) say that “Asia” is also a part of the Anglosphere, or at least part of the world to which British prosperity is tied.
The argument that Britain and other English-speaking countries embody the values of liberalism is also highly tendentious. Samuel Huntington attacked “Caesaro-Papism” in his Clash of Civilisations, saying that division between the temporal and spiritual power was the key to Anglo-Saxon liberalism, but of course there is only one country in the world where the king is head of both the temporal and spiritual power – England – while the Pilgrim Fathers who founded America itself were fundamentalist theocrats. England was the first centralised state to emerge in Europe, with very strong monarchical power, and intolerance and even persecution of non-Anglicans (including during the long period of British prosperity and power under the Georges in the 18th century) was as strong in England as persecution and intolerance of non-Catholics was under Louis XIV. So much for liberalism.
More generally, and as Murray Rothbard shows in his magnificent Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, it is precisely Protestant countries in which state power is strongest, for Catholic countries retain the notion that there is an independent source of authority (both the Church and the precepts of natural law) from the state. Catholic countries have been among the richest and most powerful in the world. Austrian economics, indeed – the discipline to which Rothbard adheres – argues that the modern theory of the free market owes far more to the natural law theory embraced by the medieval scholastics, and transmitted to the modern age by the neo-Scholastics at Salamanca in the 16th century, than it does to the clearly proto-Marxist labour theory of value embraced by Adam Smith.
The difference between England and the continent does not, therefore, lie in liberalism or even in prosperity. It lies instead in England’s post-Elizabethan economic orientation towards the sea, which contrasts dramatically with the more land-based economic practices of continental Europe. It was when English buccaneers like Francis Drake started to set up what later became Britain’s hegemony of the seas that England disentangled herself from continental politics and started to become “an island nation” instead of one European power among others.
This maritime geo-economic orientation is the defining fact of English political culture, not liberalism. It is so strong, indeed, that “free trade” remains the single taboo which it is impossible to break in England. Everyone is in favour of it and if you suggest taxes on imports you are treated as an economic Neanderthal. Yet there is no reason, from a low-tax small-state point of view why taxes should not be lower on labour than they currently are (30% approximately) and higher on imports or foreign exchange (which are currently taxed at 0% or close to it).
It is because of this dogmatic assertion to the ideology of free trade that successive British governments, Conservative and Labour alike, have all supported EEC/EU membership and further European integration. They see it as a way to promote foreign trade. I say “ideology” advisedly. The British attachment to “free trade” is a progressive and even revolutionary ideology, as can be clearly seen from the fact that, in spite of their supposed Burkean heritage, what British so-called “conservatives” resent about the political culture of continental Europe is its resistance to change.
It is this same cosmopolitan ideology which inspires some people to opt for the Anglopshere, or at least for vehement support for the American alliance. British Tory Eurosceptics are not interested in national independence: they are interested in the universalist and progressive ideal of anonymous international exchange. Their hostility to bureaucratic organisations, so vocal when it comes to the European Commission, vanishes when we are talking about the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, all of which are based in America. British anti-Europeans are not interested in the national independence of Britain but instead a different set of supranational structures into which to embed the country.
Yet it is a false dichotomy, which is why I started this article by mentioning the Elysée Treaty. European integration has always been an American policy. It has always been supported by the United States, and European integrationists deliberately take American federalism as their model (the body which drew up the defunct constitution was not called the “Convention” for nothing). In recent years, EU enlargement has been driven by geopolitical imperatives decided in Washington, as is illustrated by the fact that it followed by only a short time the exactly equivalent enlargement of NATO. Indeed, the membership list of these two supra-national organisations, both based in Brussels, will become even more indistinguishable when, again as a result of American pressure, Turkey joins the EU. Eastern Europeans are lucid about this. They do not talk about joining the EU but instead about their countries’ integration in “Euro-Atlantic structures”.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read the EU treaties. The Treaty of Nice, which is the treaty currently in force, says this (Article 17):

“The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article [on Common Foreign and Security Policy] […] shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework.

In other words, there can never be any contradiction between the EU’s foreign policy and that of NATO because the EU treaty specifically forbids it. This provision remains unchanged in the Treaty of Lisbon (albeit as Article 28A).
What we have, then, in the proposal of the Anglosphere, is little different in constitutional or even ideological terms from the current project of EU integration. It is merely a different version of the same thing, propagated by people who have never understood the nature of the European project in the first place. They have, in particular, not understood that America – and specifically the internationalist American ideology now widely known as neo-conservatism – is itself the driving force behind the end of national sovereignty.


From the desk of John Laughland on Wed, 2008-01-02 13:48

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