Why I believe the European Commission crisis has revealed the stark truth about the European 'project'

March 19, 1999

Patrick Minford The author, professor of economics at Cardiff University, was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s

This week's resignation of the commissioners has brought everything to a head, showing that the European machinery of government is corrupt and inefficient.

In higher education I have anecdotal evidence of people being discouraged from expressing views that are critical of the prevailing European agenda. There are all sorts of funds being dished out by European organisations for research - but an academic's chance of getting this money is not enhanced by criticism of the European project. This is a form of intellectual corruption.

There are two schools of thought on this week's events. The Tony Blair school argues that the current crisis is a great opportunity to reform the European Commission. The other school of thought, which I believe in, says that actually there is no real chance of reform because the system embodies a centrist socialist philosophy too deeply.

There is no realistic prospect of getting Europe's overwhelmingly socialist governments to agree to reform. This collapse of the commission into a sort of socialist heap shows that you cannot get moderate socialists to reform much less moderate socialist coalitions.

In theory the resignations have created an opportunity for a fresh start, but I am overwhelmingly sceptical. Past experience would support my scepticism. Even where everybody was agreed for two decades over the need to reform the Common Agricultural Policy it did not happen.

The whole European project is informed by an agenda of political aggrandisement and a scarcely concealed desire to build a superpower to rival the United States. This agenda is against the interests of the European people. The political superpower model is outmoded. What Mr Blair is asking for when he asks for reform is for Europe to turn around by 180 degrees.

Everything we know about these philosophies of vested interest tells us that believing such a U-turn might happen is completely ridiculous.

European leaders have embarked on an extraordinarily ambitious project for the euro - to make a "one-size-fits-all" monetary policy work for a thoroughly divergent group of countries. If we take further steps to integrate ourselves into Europe by joining the euro we are courting a huge disaster.

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