The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Enlargement remains a weak option

Dr Helen Szamuely
Enlargement remains a weak option

That agricultural support would create major difficulties in the enlargement negotiations was always obvious. An interesting question, though, has been whether the EU would seek to solve the problems by means involving similar treatment of candidates and existing members, or by discriminating against the candidates. Recent reports from Brussels make it clear that the EU has chosen discrimination: farmers in the EU candidate countries will get much less support, even after membership, than farmers in existing member states.

When the Berlin Wall fell, the European Community was faced with a historic opportunity to create a real European unity. To do this, however, it would have had to abandon the idea of a united European state, at least in the immediate future, and, instead, negotiated a free trade area between itself and the former Communist countries.

Instead the EU first shilly-shallied. Then it began to conduct negotiations that had the effect of imposing the acquis communautaire, on the weaker economies of the east. Much of the acquis is considered onerous and counterproductive by businesses in the west, and, at times, the EU put itself in the position of re-imposing centralised and bureaucratic regulations on countries that were still celebrating the end of those imposed by the Soviet Union. As the negotiations progressed, it became clear that the EU was more concerned with protecting its own vested interests than with helping countries that had suffered fifty years of Communist oppression.

The Bruges Group says that the EU should discard its outdated ideas. It should look at the new post-Communist world in Europe and act accordingly. That post-Communist world does not need centralised, bureaucratised structures, nor a new European citizenship, nor a fortress Europe. It needs a new, free, open Europe of independent states and a free market (not a single market of quotas, regulations and harmonisation). We need to look beyond the divisions of the cold war and beyond the obsessions of the post-War period. Western Europe should look to Eastern Europe as to a partner. That cannot be done while the EU holds the notion that the only way forward is to create a single European state that will swallow all the existing ones.

A true Europe of Nations does not need to enlarge – it can simply exist and create a network of agreements. There is a place for all countries in a Europe of Nations.