I have a picture pinned over my desk here in Brussels, a 1929 photograph—“obtained under great difficulty,” the caption says—of a man being executed by guillotine at 5 a.m. on an open street in France.
The title of the picture is “Legacy of the French Revolution.” I keep it because it is a modern link with an historic Continental horror. That is to say, it is a reminder, as I shift from my desk to the European Commission press briefings, of what it means to be “European.”
For me the title of the picture should be “Lest We Forget.” Lest we forget the culture from which the European Union springs. Lest we forget the history that has shaped Europe: the Terror, Napoleon’s butchery and his civil code, the violent European revolutions, the Continental taste for coercion, the Marxist distaste for the sovereignty of the nation-state.
You may think I go too far, but the more I watch the European Union—and I’ve been writing about it since 1979, when I won a fellowship to study the thing—the more I understand. This Continental coalition has a flawed and bloody pedigree. It is no place for Britain, the island nation whose governments and laws spring from Magna Carta, Common Law, and the 1689 Bill of Rights.
The European Union is centralized, intolerant, antinational, single-party, elitist, undemocratic, and illiberal. ...