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.

The admirable Mr Attlee – a letter from our Chairman

The letter below appeared in the Derby Telegraph – in response to Mr C. N. Westerman – an indefatigable letter writer and ardent europhile.

Sir,

Mr. C N Westerman is fulsome in his praise for Clement Attlee, the post war Labour Prime Minister.

One of Attlee’s best decisions was to keep us out of the European Coal & Steel Community which became the EU . He was a democrat and would not submit to the “High Authority”, invented by Jean Monnet and friends. Nowadays it is called the European Commission.

Attlee said “There is no way that Britain could accept that the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority which is utterly undemocratic and responsible to nobody”.

His Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin was even more opposed to European integration. In a splendidly mixed metaphor he said “”If you open that Pandora’s box, you don’t know how many Trojan horses will come flying out.” Well, we know now!

I recently interviewed Lord Walsingham (now 92), who was secretary of the tripartite conference at the Foreign Office ( USA, United Kingdom & France) which cleared the way for the Coal & Steel Community. British intelligence was aware of secret clauses between France & Germany whereby each would subsidise the other’s heavy industry when in competition with us – to weaken our economy and reduce our defence capability. The Americans also insisted on an end to denazification so the German industrialists who did well out of wartime slave labour would get off.

Lord Walsingham resigned in protest, rejoined his regiment and went to fight in Korea. His account of the way the Foreign Office worked in those days is most amusing. A video of the interview (approx 35 minutes) is linked to the article: www.campaignforanindependentbritain.org.uk/witness-to-history/

Anyone interested in the deep motives behind the EU project will find it interesting.

Yours sincerely

Edward Spalton

Customs Union: from Zollverein to irrelevance

By Ian Milne

Preamble

Orwell’s Nineteen Eight Four came out in 1948, less than a decade before the official birth of the European Community.  In Orwell’s vision, three totalitarian super-states, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, were perpetually at war.

The European Community was – is – merely the latest version of the chimera of a single European state that had been pursued in the nineteenth century by writers such as Victor Hugo, by Continental tyrants such as Napoleon, and, in the twentieth century, by German governments led in 1914 by Bethmann-Hollweg  and from 1933 to 1945 by Hitler.

Consciously or not, the European Union was built on similar assumptions: that the post-war world would consist of huge “blocs”, competing for resources & markets, and that European states were destined to amalgamate into a single state. In the Eurocrats’ weltanschauung – world-view – North America constituted one bloc, Europe another, while to the East, (the Soviet Union, its first candidate, having failed) China would exercise hegemony over the Asian land-mass.

The EU Customs Union

Since its accession to the “Common Market”,  “British Trade Policy is not to have a British Trade Policy”. The UK hasn’t been in control of its own trade policy since 1973. What the UK has had since 1973 is being trapped – for the first time in its history – inside a customs union – the EU Customs Union.

The EU Customs Union, the only one in the developed world,  is a relic from the “Fifties” –  the 1850s. This is how it came about.

In  German & French “received wisdom”, customs unions are (still !) a peculiar obsession. The 19th century German customs union – “Zollverein” –  was the mechanism associated in the German collective consciousness with the Bismarckian creation of Prussia & then the German Empire.

On 4th September 1914, a few weeks after the  outbreak of the First World War,  Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg issued his letter setting out German war aims. War aim number four1 was to “create a central European economic association through common customs treaties…….”. (A Figaro journalist, Eric Zemmour, describes this as a plan for the “vassalisation économique” of France through the mechanism of a customs union2.)

Two years later, in 1916, when the war wasn’t going too well for Germany, Berlin offered a separate peace to the Belgian Government (then in exile in Le Havre3), involving the evacuation of German occupying forces from Belgium & the signing of a bi-lateral Belgian-German customs union4.   This was turned down by the Allies.

In early 1917, when a compromise peace with Britain, France and Russia might just have been possible, German aims were for a “German peace” with a customs union led by Germany and with the involvement of Austro-Hungary and Romania, thereby solidifying Germany’s hold over its supposed allies and converting them to a de facto part of the peacetime German economy, no different from Alsace-Lorraine and a large slice of Belgium which Germany also proposed to retain.

In the next war, in 1942, when Germany still believed it would win, the Reichsbank organised a conference5 in Berlin to plan how Germany would run the European economy afterwards.  This involved a European Customs Union – Zollverein – very similar to the one we have today.  (It also involved a single currency with – believe it or not – an opt-out for the UK).

 Almost two centuries on, in 2016, with average customs duties worldwide (including in the UK) down to a little over one per cent6, customs unions have lost whatever economic raison d’etre they ever had.

The EU is likely to experience a significant decline as an important trading partner in the future due to demographic issues. These two Global Britain briefing notes (here and here) list the projections for population growth and decline within and outside the EU. It is particularly interesting to see the very different projections for France and Germany.

Ian Milne

1          The full text (translated) is: “We must create a central European economic association through common customs treaties, to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Poland “sic”, and perhaps Italy, Sweden, and Norway.”
2          Eric Zemmour, Figaro, 29.9.16 
3          The building which housed the Belgian government in exile between 1914 & 1918 survived the 1944 bombing & still stands in Saint-Adresse, a suburb of Le Havre.
4          Georges-Henri Soutou, La Grande Illusion, 1914-1920, pp 75.
5         The title of the 1942 conference was “Europäische Wirtshaftsgemeinschaft”
6          In 2013, 82 % by value of all UK imports of goods from outside the EU bore zero customs duties. The remaining 18% of such imports bore an average rate of EU-mandated customs duties of 8%. That 8% average is likely to be lower now.

 

Photo by Polybert49

Witness to History

LORD WALSINGHAM (now aged 92) was a Third Secretary in the German Department of the British Foreign Office in 1950, when the foundations were being laid for the first stage of what is now the EU. It was then called the European Coal & Steel Community. He was Secretary of the tripartite study group (The UK, USA and France) which  cancelled all denazification to rebuild Germany against communist Russia for the Cold War.

This link is to a youtube video where he recounts his experience (approx 35 minutes)

Whilst the project was ostensibly about securing peace in Europe, British intelligence was well aware that there were secret additional  agreements in the Coal & Steel Treaty between Germany and France to weaken British heavy industry, eventually to undermine Britain’s defence capability so that the European project  would dominate Europe unchallenged in the long term.

Britain did not join the Coal & Steel Community but neither did it make public the ulterior, anti-British intentions of the “Fathers of Europe”. At the time Britain was  heavily indebted to the USA which was backing the EU project and funding the European Movement through the CIA.

The European Coal & Steel Community was intended to lead to a united Franco/German European army but the French National Assembly voted that down. Jean Monnet, Schuman and colleagues decided that they needed to proceed more gradually as the nations of Europe were not then ready to assent to their  dissolution in a single European polity. The European Economic Community was founded on this principle of small, repeated inexorable steps towards “ever closer union”. The process was called “Engrenage” – like a ratchet, it was irreversible. The Treaty of Rome set this up in 1957.

The name “European Economic Community” is highly significant. As a businessman, Monnet well knew the importance of brand loyalty. Every politically aware German of the Nazi era would recognise the  “Europaeische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft”,  set up to build integration between the countries of Europe after the Nazi victory of 1940 and widely publicised in a collection of papers of the same name, published in Berlin in 1942. Translations of the introduction and main paper are available here. Apart from some descriptions of contemporary events, there is nothing in them which has not come out of the EEC and the EU in the last sixty years. The mindset and geopolitical world outlook are virtually identical.

The post war EU’s biggest project by far, the Common Agricultural Policy, was decided in 1962 but it was based on the clear guidelines, laid down twenty years before in Nazi Berlin (link here).  Now, of course, the Nazi EEC turned out to be mostly propaganda because the pressures of war overtook and destroyed it – but many of its intentions, including dominance over central Europe have been carried into effect under the EU flag , since the fall of the Berlin wall.

The Nazis were adapters rather than inventors of the project, which had been on official German minds for generations. On 9 September 1914, the Imperial Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg wrote:- “Russia must be pushed back as far as possible from Germany’s Eastern frontier and her domination over non-Russian vassal people broken… We must create a Central European Economic Association through common customs treaties to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary and perhaps Italy, Sweden and Norway. This association will not have any common constitutional supreme authority and all members will be formally equal but in practice under German leadership and must stabilise Germany’s dominance over central Europe”.

Monnet, Schuman and colleagues added the “common constitutional supreme authority” in the form of the European Commission but the project is still highly congruent with the remarkably stable, long term objectives of Germany’s political class since the 19th century.

In late 2016 the German government allocated 4 million Euros to an investigation into the influence  of Nazi personalities and policies in the post war era.

State of the Disunion as 60th anniversary celebrations approach

No doubt there were huge sighs of relief in Brussels that fewer Dutch voters than expected supported Geert Wilders’ anti-establishment PVV in the country’s recent General Election and that the VVD (Liberal) party, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte gained the most seats.

A few days before the European Union’s 27 remaining members meet to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of  Treaty of Rome, they can breathe more easily – at least for now. However, Mr Wilders was never going to become Prime Minister due to the multiplicity of political parties in the Netherlands, virtually all of which ruled out going into coalition with his party. If the PVV had become the largest party in the Dutch Parliament, it would have nonetheless emboldened anti-EU parties in France and Germany, where elections are also due later this year.

Even so, next weekend’s festivities cannot disguise the harsh fact that the EU is becalmed, with no clear sense of direction. Eurosceptic parties may not yet be on the verge of forming governments in Western Europe, but their support is growing steadily. In response, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has recently published a white paper offering five different future scenarios for the bloc’s future.

In a nutshell, these range from pressing on with ever closer union (Scenario 5) at one extreme to a reduction to nothing more than a Single Market (Scenario 2) at the other. The other three options are a two-speed Europe (Scenario 3), with some countries integrating faster than others, “Doing less more efficiently” (Scenario 4) and “Carrying on” (Scenario 1).

The ever-closer union option is unlikely to gain much favour in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Hungary. The current Polish government is a supporter of repatriating power from Brussels and the recent reappointment of Donald Tusk, a member of Poland’s biggest opposition party, as President of the European Council against the wishes of Poland’s government, is not going to improve relations between Warsaw and Brussels. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski said that his country will “play a very rough game” in the European Union.

Hungary has no appetite for interference in its internal affairs by Brussels. The European Commission has criticised the construction of a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia, but Hungary has ignored the criticism and pressed on regardless.

Then there are Greece’s problems. Our friends in EPAM, a Greek Eurosceptic organisation, are organising protests against austerity outside several Greek embassies, including one in London, on Saturday 25th March. The organisation claims that austerity has bitten so deep into Greece’s fabric that lives are being lost as the country’s health service has reached the point of collapse. One article recently brought to our attention claims that “The country is rotting inside the EU and the eurozone. The Greek people have crashed economically. Greek cities, because of massive illegal immigration, look less like cities in Europe and more like cities in Afghanistan. Banks have begun the mass-confiscation of residences. The people are on the verge of revolt.

Of course, it is the Euro, one of the EU’s flagship policies, which has put Greece into its current straitjacket. Until recently, however, support for both the Euro and EU membership was remarkably strong. Almost two years ago, at the height of the last financial crisis, over 69% supported remaining within the Eurozone, with 56% wanting to keep the single currency even if it meant harsh austerity measures being imposed.

Such statistics act as a reality check to those of us in the UK whose dislike of the EU is so intense that we find it hard to figure out why other countries are not preparing to follow us out of the exit door.  We have never been keen on pooled sovereignty and for us, the EU’s “Ring of death” flag is a badge of shame. Across the Channel, things are viewed differently. Member states which suffered years of Soviet rule or military dictatorships view EU membership as a symbol break with a past they are all too keen to forget. While not all the EU’s leading lights are such gushing  federalists as the Belgian MEP and former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt,  there are still plenty of enthusiasts for the project. For instance the Spanish MEP  Esteban González Pons who called Brexit “selfish”, claimed that the EU was the “only alternative” in an increasingly globalised world and expressed the hope that one day, we would one day “come home”  – re-join the EU in other words.

Such sentiment seems almost laughable given that others in the EU clearly view  Brexit as a great opportunity to press on with closer union now the pesky foot-dragging Brits are going their own way.  We will no doubt hear much about how wonderful the EU is during next weekend’s celebrations, but once the festivities are over, the leaders of EU-27 will have to look long and hard at Mr Juncker’s five options for the EU’s future and coming to a consensus isn’t gong to be easy. Geert Wilders may not have achieved the breakthrough for which he hoped, which in turn has made Marine le Pen’s already difficult path to the Elysée Palace even harder, but the EU has only won a short-term reprieve.  A big fireworks display in Rome cannot disguise the fact that it faces a serious identity crisis which it shows little sign of being able to resolve.

Photo by Christopher Lotito

A letter from our Chairman:- “How BBC was “nobbled” before our vote to join EEC.”

This letter appeared in the Derby Evening Telegraph on 2nd March 2017

Sir, The President and the Media

Saros Kavina is quite right that a free press and media are important to a free society. But President Trump has shown some discernment in excluding the BBC from his press conference.

What has emerged from the American election is that the media are composed of a collection of interest groups with their own agendas which they promote quite ruthlessly, bending the facts where it suits them.

As a long-serving independence campaigner, I would rate the BBC as amongst the worst offenders. Its part in manipulating public opinion in the Seventies in favour of entering the EEC was fully admitted in a Radio 4 programme “Letter to the Times” of 3rd February 2000. Contributors included Sir Edward Heath, Roy Hattersley and the Conservative marketing man, Geoffrey Tucker, who organised the campaign which brought the influential on side. Apart from the Daily Worker, every single national newspaper supported the European project.

This is what Tucker said.

We decided to pinpoint the “Today” programme on radio and followed right through the news programme during the day…. the television programmes “News at Ten”, “24 Hours” and “Panorama” and from radio “World at One “ and “Woman’s Hour”. Nobbling is the name of the game. Throughout the period of the campaign, there should be direct day by day communication between the key communicators and our personnel – e.g. Norman Reddaway at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Marshall Stewart of the “Today” programme. And in 1970 the “Today” programme was presented by Jack de Manio, who was terribly anti European. We protested privately about this. Ian Trethowan listened and de Manio was replaced.Ian Trethowan, a personal friend of Heath’s, was the BBC’s Director of Radio.”

So the BBC was under daily direction by the Foreign Office as to what it should say to British people, in the interests of a foreign organisation, the European Economic Community. Norman Reddaway went on to a knighthood and to be ambassador to Poland. BBC policy has remained unchanged ever since.

So, to Saros Kavina’s advocacy of the free media, I agree that it would be a good idea.

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton