In a speech at the current Conservative party conference, British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has compared the European Union to the former Soviet Union. He also mentioned the word ‘prison’. Having been criticised by various figures within the European Commission, it has been reported today in various media outlets that he has backtracked somewhat.
It is interesting, therefore, that former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, once said: “The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe”. You would think he was in a better position than most other people to judge. So what exactly did he mean?
I don’t think that Jeremy Hunt was suggesting anything along the lines of the murder of citizens, or forced labour camps. So what was he actually talking about? Perhaps something along these lines.
I’ll describe a hypothetical political system. It’s a one-party state, where there is no official opposition, therefore anti-democratic, where laws are decided behind closed doors by unelected, unaccountable officials, where the media are controlled, and where no opposition, no attempt to change the system, or criticism is tolerated. Now, is that a description of the former USSR (and other similar Communist states), or is it a description of the European Union? (Or is it both?)
Let’s look at the EU’s record on such issues:
Is the EU a One-Party State?
- No vote of the people in Europe can remove the unelected leaders of the EU; they are chosen from within their own closed group, which is not elected by the people.
- The Council of Ministers makes the decisions, but it meets in secret, with no public record of its proceedings or votes. The parliament to which the people elects MEPs is not allowed to suggest any laws, it is merely advisory. The three party groupings there tend to vote in agreement; they therefore resemble a single pro-EU party, merely endorsing the decisions of the Council of Ministers, rather than being a scrutinising and challenging opposition.
- Inside the EU, we have to accept their policies and laws, no matter which party forms our government.
- The European Union has a fixed political and economic agenda, which (they say) cannot be changed, even though it was put into place by unelected, unaccountable, officials. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in 2015: “Elections cannot be allowed to change economic policy”. (One wonders therefore why Jeremy Corbyn endorsed a Remain vote in the 2016 referendum, since he wants a complete change of economic policy in Britain.) Various figures, from Angela Merkel downwards, have stated that the EU cannot be changed or reformed.
- Petitions put forward by the public under the Citizens’ Initiative are ignored.
European justice commissioner Vera Jourova made a speech at the Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna. She criticised two British newspapers for their hostility to the EU, arguing that “the media’s job in holding the powerful to account should be balanced with a responsibility to avoid encouraging hate”. She did not seem to be including the ranting and raving of Remainers who have branded Brexit voters as ignorant racists and nationalists, and silly out-of-touch elderly people.
What was she advocating? A “European approach to media based on quality and smart regulation, if needed”. By ‘European’, she of course meant ‘European Union’; most European people prefer free speech.
Commissioner Jourova grew up in a USSR dominated regime, Czechoslovakia, and said: “I lived in a totalitarian regime where there was only one right ideology, only one right government and only one allowed discourse. Minorities did not exist, diversity of views and opinions were not respected. People did not dare to speak up”. Now she is suggesting that newspapers should not be allowed to criticise the European Union! If they do, they might be “regulated”.
To sum up, Giles Merritt, founder of Friends of Europe (a pro-EU think-tank!), said that the EU’s institutions are “distant, remote, inscrutable, politically unanswerable, untouched by the new austerity, and seemingly indifferent to criticism” (1).
As I said at the beginning, Jeremy Hunt used the word ‘prison’ in his speech. Anyone who doesn’t think that the EU is a prison should note the great difficulty the United Kingdom is experiencing trying to escape.
As stated above, It was reported that Jeremy Hunt had compared the EU to the Soviet Union. What he was actually talking about was the apparent desire of the EU to punish those who want to leave: “It is the Soviet Union that prevents people from leaving. The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish, it will grow — and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape”.
The EU has responded as one might predict, completely missing the point. Various spokespeople have called Hunt’s comment insulting, and referred to repression, violence against citizens etc. Manfred Weber MEP is a typical example: “Show us the gulag… Show us the stasi system… You should apologise”. A more significant figure is Donald Tusk: “The Soviet Union was about prisons and gulags, borders and walls, violence against citizens and neighbours. The European Union is about freedom and human rights, prosperity and peace, life without fear; it is about democracy and pluralism, a continent without internal borders and walls. As the president of the European Council, and someone who spent half of my life in the Soviet bloc, I know what I am talking about”.
As suggested above, Jeremy Hunt was not talking about gulags and violence. This is again completely obvious from the quote. Perhaps these people should actually listen to what has been said before criticising.
If Donald Tusk thinks that the European Union is about prosperity, I suggest that many millions of people across Europe would disagree with him. If he thinks that the European Union is about democracy, then I don’t know how to help him. The whole purpose of the EU is to create a federal state, which gets rid of national sovereignty and democracy (ordinary people voting for what they want), replacing them with remote, unelected officials accountable to nobody. (Does that sound at all like the USSR? I have gone into more detail above.)
As Mick Hume says: “Every serious politician and thinker in the Western world will declare their support for democracy in principle. Yet in practice the authorities are seeking to limit democratic decision-making and separate power from the people” (2). And it’s not just the Western world. The official title of North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Perhaps it’s better not to listen to what people say, rather watch how they behave.
If the European Union is as Donald Tusk describes it, why on earth would any sensible person want to leave? 17 million people in the United Kingdom must presumably in his eyes all be racists, unreasonable nationalists, and silly old people. This is what the Remain side claims, but is obviously untrue. Perhaps he should take a good look in the mirror, and address the issue that Jeremy Hunt was really talking about.
Bibliography (for the first part):
Brexit: The Road to Freedom, Will Podmore, i2i Publishing, 2018
(1) Slippery Slope: Europe’s Troubled Future, OUP, 2016, p15. The think-tank is pro-EU, but apparently trying to reform it. “Friends of Europe is a leading think tank that connects people, stimulates debate and triggers change to create a more inclusive, sustainable and forward-looking Europe”. (They are perhaps wasting their time and should take note of the statements coming from within the EU.) Good luck! (https://www.friendsofeurope.org/about-us/about-us)
(2) Revolting! How the Establishment Are Undermining Democracy and What They’re Afraid of, William Collins, 2017, p1