Lost and Found in translation

This letter from our Chairman appeared in the Derby Telegraph


Like Percy Brown (7 March), I found a certain humour in the idiocies of the European Common Agricultural Policy which created the wine lakes, beef, butter and grain mountains. Previously we had a very common sense policy which allowed the food of the world to come here without customs duties. Suddenly the taxpayer and the housewife were made to spend far more to make food dear than we had previously spent to keep it cheap.

Nobody could tell me where this strange policy originated and I did not get a definitive answer until 2002 when I received a copy of a German book from the Forties, called “European Economic Community” where the framework and principles were set out concerning the new neighbourly Europe in the making. It was a compilation of papers by very senior people in law, diplomacy, industry, politics and economics.

With great effort, I translated the two key papers – a difficult job because the introduction was in very stiff academic language and the lead paper in a more popular journalistic style.

More recently I met Lord Walsingham, who had been in the German Department of the Foreign Office in 1950 during the Attlee government when the European Coal & Steel Community was formed. I recorded an interview with him. He told me that British Intelligence was well aware that the Community treaty between France & Germany contained secret clauses that each would subsidise the other’s heavy industry to knock out Britain and assume dominance of Europe. It seems to have worked rather well.

The video is linked to an article which you can Google at Edward Spalton Witness to History. Lord Walsingham is the witness. I am merely the scribe. It also links to my translation.

“European Economic Community” was published in Berlin in 1942 and the lead paper was delivered by Reichsminister Walther Funk – Minister for the Economy and Post War Planning.


Yours faithfully


Edward Spalton

The United States of Europe – an aspiration since???

Congratulations to long-standing CIB member and independence campaigner Sonya Porter, whose letter (below) was published in last Friday’s Daily Mail.


Back in 1960, I learned which country was destined to be the organ grinder to whose tune the monkeys of Brussels would have to dance.

I was a shorthand typist with the International Labour Office, one of the UN agencies in Geneva.

One morning my boss took me to a conference by the European Coal and Steel Community, a forerunner of the EU.   It was extremely dull and, after putting on the translation headphones, I dozed off.

I woke with a start when the German delegate said:  ‘And we hope within a few years, Europe will be one country.’   I thought:  Goodness, gracious, they’re at it again!   That delegate might have meant it in the nicest possible way, but it was only 15 years after World War II, and that was not the way I took it.

I think I was right, wasn’t I?

Sonya Porter

Photo by fdecomite

The man who could blow up the EU

On 22nd April 1966, Jean Rey, the Belgian lawyer who succeeded Walter Hallstein as president of the European Commission, delivered a speech in Brussels full of optimism about  the future of the European project.  At this time, the Community had just emerged from the “Empty Chair Crisis” where France’s General de Gaulle, concerned about the increasing power of the Commission and erosion of national sovereignty, recalled France’s representatives, resulting in six months of virtual paralysis within the European institutions.

Rey expressed great confidence about the Community’s ability to bounce back form the crisis and move forward towards closer integration:- “There is no reason for the leaders of the Community to show the any hint of pessimism, of discouragement; the slightest doubt about the eventual success of their efforts.”  Europe had a great future, he claimed, but only if it integrated. Indeed, in so doing, Europe could lead the world:- “The times when nations could live in isolation is over….After several centuries when the nation state represented the final word in political wisdom, see how the world is organising itself in continents and it’s the Europeans who are leading by their example.”

Overt federalists like Rey are a rare breed nowadays. True, the EU has expanded from its original six members to 28 (soon to be 27) but the optimistic, almost visionary quality of Rey’s utterances are a thing of the past. No better proof of can be found by comparing Rey’s words with a speech by Martin Schulz, the leader of the German Socialist Party, the SPD, at his party’s  conference on 7th December.  The substance may be similar but the tone is completely different.

“I want there to be constitutional treaty to create a federal Europe” he said. Fine, that has always been the goal of the EU. He then went on to say that once drafted, it would “be presented to the member states, and those who are against it will simply leave the EU.”

This is the big difference. It would never have occurred to Jean Rey to talk of expulsion from the EU and Schulz’s harsh language is an implicit admission that the European Project is faltering. We addressed some of the reasons a couple of months ago and in spite of the promising headline data on the Eurozone economy, the political divisions are as deep as ever.

Far from encouraging unity around common ideals, Schulz’s words will only inflame these divisions. His vision of “Europe” is the Western European multicultural variant which is being so fiercely resisted in countries like Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.  Furthermore, as a German, his words will be interpreted in Southern Europe as a threat to their fiscal independence.  The most extreme reaction may well come from his own countrymen, however. The federal Europe to which he aspires can only come about if his countrymen are prepared to foot the bill and subsidise the poorer countries. The lack of enthusiasm for such generosity lay behind the success of Alternative für Deutschland in the recent Federal Election. Perhaps Herr Schulz might care to reflect that his own party recently registered its worst performance – and under his leadership – in almost seventy years.

True, there was a certain amount of grandstanding in the speech. The SPD is setting out its stall for renewing its coalition with Mrs Merkel’s CDU party but its overt federalism was given short shrift by the German Chancellor, who said ““I believe the ability to act now is the priority, not setting long-term goals,” In reality, while Schulz (and Jean-Claude Juncker, for that matter) are wanting to put their foot on the accelerator, Merkel actually wants to go more slowly but in exactly the same direction – and it’s not a direction that commands as great a degree of support as it once did.  There may not be anyone of the calibre of Charles de Gaulle in a position of authority in an EU member state, but the issues are the same as those which provoked the “empty chair crisis” – increasing centralisation and a loss of sovereignty by the member states.

In a very thought-provoking article, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said that we must not forget why we are leaving the EU. “It is not a whimsical choice. The decision was forced upon us because the EU began to assert ‘totalitarian’ reach, using Hannah Arendt’s term advisedly to mean a systematic assault on prior traditions and institutions in order to create an entirely new order,” he said. The article begins, however, by quoting someone from the very heart of Europe who is claiming that the EU is becoming  an “imperial construction”. In other words, it’s not just the UK which has lots of unhappy people. “Life in Europe in 2017 is resembling more and more what it was like under colonial administration. We are subjected to an invisible administration that shapes our destiny down to the tiniest details. Should we really be surprised that it is leading to revolts?” asks the Belgian David van Reybrouck, a prolific writer and historian.

The EU expended a huge amount of energy (and, no doubt, money) to try to contain Brexit and prevent a domino effect. It breathed a huge sigh of relief when  Neither Geert wilders nor Marine le Pen achieved the breakthrough they had hoped for. The volatility of many European voters and the fault lines between the EU-27 have not gone away, however, and if Schulz becomes Germany’s vice-chancellor and fancies joining forces with Jean-Claude Juncker and Emmanuel Macron to push ahead with the federal Europe to which they fervently aspire, the net result may well be the opposite – that they end up blowing the whole project to pieces.


Photo by opposition24.de

A thought for Remembrance Sunday – a letter from our Chairman

This letter was sent to a number of local newspapers in the Midlands area.


As we approach Remembrance Sunday, perhaps we should consider the words of the German Chancellor concerning the European project –

“ We must create a…European Economic Association to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Hungary …Italy, Sweden and Norway….All members will be formally equal but in practice under German leadership and must stabilise Germany’s dominance over central Europe”. (Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Imperial Chancellor, 9 September 1914).

The European Union is well-suited to these long-nurtured ambitions. It is noteworthy that the states of Central Europe are today becoming increasingly restive under their predetermined subject role in this geopolitical construct. For home consumption, today’s German politicians occasionally refer to their “benevolent hegemony” over the area. Few would deny that it is exercised in a more enlightened way than earlier attempts – but hegemony means hegemony, just as Brexit means Brexit.

This geopolitical Weltanschauung predates the political unification of Germany and remains influential in academic and political circles. One eminent German businessman broke free from the mental shackles of the past in a rousing speech in the House of Lords on 24 October by  invitation of Lord Fairfax at a meeting arranged by Global Britain. He was Dr. Markus Krall, Managing Director of Goetz Partners in Frankfurt.

He contrasted the top-down, authoritarian rigidity of the EU project with the long-standing tradition of liberty typified by the Britain’s parliament. He said “ Germany is probably the one country in Europe that was emotionally and intellectually least prepared for the news that a majority in the United Kingdom had decided to call it quits with the European Bureaucratic Union…. We Germans – regrettably- have a tradition of belief in the infallibility of government. While the liberal school of Anglo-Saxon origin views the state and its bureaucracy with a healthy dose of scepticism, this is not so between the rivers Rhine and Oder”.

Let us hope that Dr. Krall’s refreshing wind of change will blow through the corridors of power in Germany and Europe. We can then look forward to honouring the sacrifice of our war dead in the reasonable expectation of a happy “Concert of Europe” – something like the “Europe des Patries”, envisaged by General De Gaulle and the association of countries advocated by Winston Churchill.

Yours faithfully



Edward Spalton



A bit of light relief

Some of you may already have come across this rather clever pastiche of Lewis Carroll’s Lobster Quadrille from Alice in Wonderland, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with it, you may enjoy this bit of light relief from all the more serious Brexit issues which are dominating the news:-

Won’t you join our Common Market? said the Spider to the Fly,
It really is a winner and the cost is not too high,
I know De Gaulle said “Non”, but he hadn’t got a clue,
We want you in, my friends and I, for we have plans for you.

You’ll have to pay a little more than we do, just for now,
As Herr Kohl said, and I agree, we need a new milch cow.
It’s just a continental term believe me, mon ami,
Like “Vive la France” or “Mad Anglais” or even “E.E.C.”

As to the rules, don’t worry friend, there’s really but a few,
You’ll find that we ignore them – but they all apply to you!
Give and share between us, that’s what it’s all about
You do all the giving, and we all share it out.

It’s very British, is it not, to help a friend in need?
You’ve done it twice in two World Wars, a fact we must concede,
So climb aboard the Market Train, don’t sit there on the side,
Your continental cousins want to take you for a ride.

Photo by James E. Petts

The miller’s tale – a series of reminiscences

EPISODE 1 – Early intimations.

“Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy” – Ode on intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood by William Wordsworth.

We moved into the countryside from the house next to the mill in 1950 and our old home became offices and a laboratory for our family business.. Going into the business made my later close acquaintance with the European project inevitable.

That was all in the far, unsuspected future when I went on a school visit to Germany in 1958. The German boy I stayed with asked me “Have you heard about our Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft? It will guarantee our living standard”. Neither his English nor my German was up to translating the word. So an answer had to wait until we got home. As soon as I asked our teacher, several other boys said

“My chap said exactly the same thing”. So it was obviously something they had been taught in school.

Our teacher, Mr Rhodes, explained that the word meant “Economic Community” and it had been started by a new treaty the previous year between France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux countries.

We discussed it for a while and thought it was a very good idea that these continental countries were co-operating with each other. “But remember,” said Mr. Rhodes, “This shows a difference in tradition between our countries. You would not be taught a political opinion like that as a fact in a British school.” How times have changed since!

This was the first time I remember people talking about what was called “The Common Market” and, whilst we wished the neighbouring countries well, I don’t recall many people being keen on the idea of our joining it ourselves. Matron was an exception but she was a Liberal – then a very small parliamentary party. One prominent member was a Lady Violet Bonham Carter who was so extremely enthusiastic that a radio comedian dubbed her “Lady Violent Common Barter” !

Interest moved up a notch around 1960. By then I was a pupil in a firm of corn merchants at Banbury, called Lamprey & Son Ltd. Their office was next to the town hall and had a high sloping desk with stools – no lounging in executive chairs! The accounts were still kept in hand-written ledgers upstairs. On my arrival, the manager, an austere man, passed me a weighbridge ticket – 5 tons 2 hundredweights three quarters and one stone. “There you are boy. Twenty five pounds twelve shillings and six pence per ton. What does it come to?” When I asked for a piece of paper to do the calculation “Lord love you, lad. What have they been teaching you all these years?”

Farmers came into the office on market days to order what they needed, to pay their bills and to be paid for grain which we had bought from them. It was a busy cheerful place and I clearly remember one nice old boy, a smallholder who had lost a leg in the First World War, asking the manager. “Well, Mr Humphries, be you goin’ to join this ‘ere common market?”. It didn’t rank very high in our concerns amongst the general bustle of a busy office. I did many jobs in that firm from bagging coal to really responsible tasks. Our boss, Roger Bradshaw, was only about ten years older than I. His father had died quite recently. So it was very different from working for my father. He would give a task, such as taking over the running of the retail shop without any detailed instructions and his favourite exhortation was “It won’t take you five minutes to get hold of it”.

Sometimes it took me much longer but I was allowed to make mistakes as long as I owned up. His son phoned me a few days ago to say he had been asking after me and this put me in mind to write these reminiscences.

After two happy years I went back home. Our most profitable product was a milk powder food for baby calves which my father had developed. He knew that technical advances were taking place in Holland and we eventually came to an arrangement with a large Dutch firm to use their formulations and made several visits to their mill to effect the technology transfer.

It was on one of these visits in 1962 or 1963 that I first came across the European Common Agricultural Policy. I was watching wheat come down a conveyor and suddenly saw purple grains. Now the only reason I knew for purple grains was ergot – a very nasty fungus which causes abortion in cattle amongst other things and there seemed to be an awful lot of it. The director who was looking after me said he would explain it all that evening. I learned that the grain had been dyed because it had been subsidised for use in animal feed. The dye ensured that the wheat could not be diverted back into human food. He explained the whole complicated system which also subsidised the use of milk powder in calf food.

I had never come across anything quite so odd in my life. We then had free trade in food and feed at home. How on earth could a common sense people like the Dutch have come to use such a complicated (and frankly barmy) system? “Little Holland is neighbour of big Germany,” my host said “and the Germans wanted it”. It was then that I remembered that he was very senior and I was very junior and a guest in his house. So I thought I had probably spoken out of turn.. His speech was quite matter-of-fact, as if describing the weather. I also knew that he had flown with the RAF during the war. So I shut up but remembered.

It would be ten years before we entered this system. In the meantime, many people were quite well-disposed to the idea of joining the “Common Market”. Mainland Europe was doing much better than us economically. We always seemed to be strikebound in major industries and things were rather shabby here in comparison to their rapid progress. There were also people I respected greatly, who had done great things in the war. “This will be marvellous for you and your generation Edward. It means you will never have to suffer the sort of things we did.” You had to take notice of people like that. But nobody could explain to me why they had such a crazy agricultural policy.