Here are the aims of the next President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyden.
- She wants to see “A united states of Europe – run along the lines of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the USA.”
- She wants an EU army: ” “Europe has to build an army,” Wolfgang Clement wrote in this space yesterday. He’s right!”
Is she alone? Are these just some aberrant views not shared by other European leaders, who despite this nominated her to the most powerful office in the EU? Many Remain supporters express doubt that this is actually the EU’s aim, instead believing the lie that ‘a vote for Remain is a vote for the status quo.’ Last month I was accused of ‘paranoia’ and this being my ‘pet apocalypse’ for saying that a factor behind my decision to vote Leave was the EU’s desire to become a nation state.
Well no, it’s not unusual. Below are some top EU leaders openly supporting federalism. I’ve deliberately just picked some of the biggest names that people are likely to have heard of; if we went down to vice-presidents, group leaders and deputies one could find many more.
- In 2005, Guy Verhofstadt, the current chief Brexit negotiator of the European Parliament, wrote a book called (in Dutch) ‘The United States of Europe‘ arguing that this was the desire of the majority of the EU’s population.
- In 2014, the then Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, said he would work towards establishing a United States of Europe.
- Barroso, the previous Commission President, called for a major transformation of the European Union into a “federation of nation states”.
- In 2017, Martin Schulz, a former President of the European Parliament, called to establish a United States of Europe within the next eight years.
Even leaders who don’t explicitly back the federal project consistently push for more Europe. Macron, for example, has called for an EU-wide minimum wage, an EU army and greater harmony in many other areas. And of course the call for ‘Ever Closer Union’ is baked into the EU treaties themselves, a course of direction that can only have one end.
This is not remotely secret or a strange conspiracy theory. Full political integration is the openly stated goal of many current EU leaders and was baked into the ideals of the EU from the beginning:
- Schuman envisaged ‘gradual political integration’
- Adenauer explicitly called for a ‘United States of Europe’
- Monnet established an “‘Action Committee for the United States of Europe”
- Spinelli (another of the Founding Fathers) is described on the Commission’s site as an ‘unrelenting federalist’ and he presented a draft treaty for a federal Europe which the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed but wasn’t ratified by member states. Merkel, Hollande and Renzohad a symbolic meeting on the island where he was imprisoned (in WW2) just after the Brexit vote.
- Hallstein, the first Commission President, wanted a federal Europe.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this ambition. It is not one I share, but it is not in any way immoral or evil. There are, I know, some Remain voters who share this ambition, in which case they are right to wish to Remain. And, of course, it is not inevitable that the EU will be successful: the next financial crisis could cause it to fissure, stopping the federalist project in its tracks.
However, history teaches us that it is generally a good idea to believe political leaders when they say they want to do something controversial – particularly when it’s something we might prefer they didn’t. Given the EU has publicly, openly and consistently told us its direction of travel for the last half century, we would be well advised to take them at their word. And when considering our own position on Brexit, we should consider the possibility of a nation of Europe to be a likely circumstance within our lifetime – as if we do not wish to be part of it, much easier to get off now, than further down the route of Ever Closer Union.