The European Prison House of Nations

December 6, 2018 Updated: December 6, 2018


In 1977, a couple of years after British voters decided to “continue” membership in the European Economic Community or Common Market, the Eagles released a song called “Hotel California.” Its famous line, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” was, on one account, about the Church of Satan or more generally the clutches of Satan.

Once having embraced him, you can no longer escape, even if you repent.

At the time, there was no link in anyone’s mind, as far as I know, between the song and the Common Market. There was no understanding in Parliament or among voters that the UK would be unable to leave, ever, once they confirmed it as a member. Since the Brexit vote in June 2016 to leave the EU (the current name for what was once modestly called the European Coal and Steel Community), the UK government has negotiated an agreement that seems to show how well the song’s words apply to the EU.

Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, like other ministers involved in Brexit, resigned from the government in protest at what Prime Minister Theresa May was agreeing to. “This Brexit deal is like locking ourselves in jail—and giving the EU the key,” he said.

The words echo Lenin’s description of the czarist Russian Empire as a “prison house of nations.” Though Lenin championed the right of nations to self-determination, his description of the Russia of the czars came all too soon to be applied the Soviet Union that replaced it, and today to that empire’s replacement, the Russian Federation.

The sense of national humiliation, of shame, is palpable as both “remainers,” who voted for Britain to stay in the EU, and “leavers” agree in denouncing the proposed deal. It’s the worst of all possible worlds, where the UK continues under EU law and regulations in which it has no say. It isn’t free to negotiate with other sovereign nations, a situation that continues indefinitely. The UK continues under substantial EU control, with no vote or participation in shaping the policies that control it.

Terms like vassalage, permanent fiefdom, enslavement, and appeasement abound, and, for all their hyperbole, express real and widespread shame and dismay.

It’s as if the nation has awoken at long last to the true nature of the EU, which was intended and designed from the start to enmesh its members in a mass of laws and regulations from which it would be all but impossible to escape.

A United States of Europe

The European Union project advanced by stealth and deception step by step, pretending it was a trade arrangement among governments, while moving ineluctably and irreversibly toward complete political and economic union. It was intended by its idealistic pioneers as early as the 1920s to produce a new supranational government with central control over member states, a single currency, and the economic and political controls it required.

In the most comprehensive and thoroughly documented study of the EU’s history, called appropriately, “The Great Deception,” Christopher Booker and Richard North show how EU founding father Jean Monnet’s vision of a United States of Europe as a supranational government, able to overrule the vetoes of any of its individual member states, won out decisively over Winston Churchill’s understanding of an intergovernmental Council of Europe.

Monnet’s vision from the start involved the limitation of democracy and national sovereignty, and of the powers of the established and accountable national institutions, reducing them to something more like municipal governments than bodies that guided the destinies of nations.

As attempts to move toward political union—with a powerful central bureaucracy that was unelected, unaccountable, and, inevitably, unpopular—were rebuffed, it became important to the success of the project to disguise what was really going on. When the European Coal and Steel Community was established, with Monnet as its head, it sounded like a limited trading arrangement. But already, Monnet was referring to it as the “government of Europe.”

When Monnet’s attempt to move the member states toward political union were rebuffed, the pretense that nothing more than a trading arrangement was involved, a Common Market persisted. But the Common Market’s structure included all the core institutions needed to run a future government of Europe, although they were quite unnecessary to a limited economic setup.

Booker and North detail the shameful collusion of British Prime Ministers Macmillan and Heath in this deception through the 1960s and 1970s. Both men were fully briefed as to the project’s ultimate goal of full economic and political union. But they were determined to conceal the truth from the public and Parliament. British entry was to be sold as only a “Common Market,” a matter of trade and jobs, not sovereignty or democracy. When the public was told that there would be “no essential loss of sovereignty,” the government knew this wasn’t true.

Subsequent developments took the same course. The Single European Act of 1986 was sold as turning the Common Market into a single market, but it gave Brussels control over several other important areas not related to trade. Each new treaty or act ratcheted up the process, so the motion was always toward more integration and more political union, never going back.

The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 was an important step toward further integration, toward a single currency, and toward giving the EU its own foreign and defense policies and its own constitution. The EU was to be a sovereign government on the world stage, its member states subordinate entities with limited power.

When French and Dutch voters rejected the subsequent “Constitution for Europe” in 2005, EU leaders reintroduced essentially the same document under the less threatening name of the Lisbon Treaty. It established the European Council as an official institution of the “government of Europe.”

“So the trap has snapped shut,” commented Booker in The Telegraph just before the Lisbon Treaty came into force.

Vaclav Klaus, who from 2003 to 2013 served as the second president of the Czech Republic, predicted just before his country joined the EU in 2004 that it would mean the end of his short-lived country as “an independent sovereign state.”

The EU, as Russian newspaper Pravda put it, not without irony, was the reincarnation of the USSR. It was a new prison house of nations, a triumph of empire over nations, the replacement of an order of sovereign nations and democracies by a supranational empire. And, as Booker put it, a new wall protecting Europe’s politicians from its subject peoples.

Paul Adams is a professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawai‘i and was a professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Case Western Reserve University. He is the co-author of “Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is” and has written extensively on social-welfare policy and professional and virtue ethics.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.