It is often argued by people who wish to remain part of the European Union that the fears expressed by people who wish to leave because they fear a federalised United States of Europe are just fear-mongering and there is no substance to it. What few federalists exist, they argue, they have little voice and little influence to effect their goals.
Guy Verhofstadt MEP, leader of Association of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the liberal grouping in the European Parliament, delivered in the European Parliament on the 28th June, five days after the European referendum, a speech reacting to the Brexit vote, calling for a European state.
I have written out the full transcription below, and you can watch the video here.
He spends a minute bashing the Brexit politicians and their campaign and then lays into the European Council for their poverty of vision in not seizing the political moment and pushing towards that state. Then he announces plans for his grouping, your grouping, to develop documents this year, in how to realise that vision.
Now I find that all very worrying, but you know what? I’ll never have to worry about Britain joining the Euro or forming a European Army again, because whatever happens with our membership of the single market, that stuff is off the table once and for all.
“The only thing I have heard from the Council is that we shouldn’t change anything and we should just implement existing policies. I find this shocking and I find it so irresponsible. I don’t think you understand what is happening. It’s not only a Brexit referendum. Before that it was the referendum in Denmark: negative. There was the referendum on the Ukraine agreement in the Netherlands: negative. Now in the UK: What are you waiting for? For the next referendum in France? The next referendum in Italy, maybe?
When will the Council recognise that this type of European Union, of today, you cannot defend it anymore, and that Europe needs to be re-formed; and in my own opinion, a new vision and new project needs to be presented to the citizens of Europe, because the truth is that the citizens of Europe are not against Europe, they are against *this* Europe.
And the proof of that, Mr. President is the Eurobarometer and I am asking myself why the Commission and Parliament have not published this much earlier. It’s from a few weeks ago, in April, and you know what the results are?
82% want more European action on the fight against terrorism.
77% of European citizens want more European action in the fight against unemployment.
75% of European citizens want more European action in the fight against tax fraud.
74% are asking for more European action on the issue of migration.
On 14 of the 15 questions put to the European citizens in this Eurobarometer, a few weeks ago, people are asking for more European action, not less European action.
The problem is that Europe has become, what? Europe, our Europe has become an expert in legislation on the exact measure and colour of packets of cigarettes. We have become experts in deciding the amount of flushing water in toilets, and the level of subsidies that local football clubs can receive from a local government.
But what European citizens want and this is what the Eurobarometer tells us, is that they want;
* a European border and coast guard
* a European asylum and immigration policy to tackle the migration crisis
* to have a European capacity for intelligence to tackle terrorism
* to have a European government to defend the Euro
* to have a European army to defend the borders and contain conflicts in our neighbourhood
That is what the citizens are asking. That is what they are asking. Here.
The problem is, the inconvenient truth, or rather, I should say, the convenient lie, is that more of the same will not get us out of this crisis, dear colleagues. That is burying our heads in the sand. People want you to work on another Europe, a Europe that delivers results. And by not doing that, what you are doing is sleepwalking towards a disaster. Towards 27 other referendums, in the near future.
So let’s not be naive: the real problem, and Mr Patella is right when he is mentioning Schengen, is intergovernmentalism.
A loose confederation of nation states based on unanimity cannot work.
That is the reality of today, that you don’t recognise, until now.
And I will conclude with that, Mr. President, we’re going to do our homework. Parliament will be ready in October with a global plan based on [unintelligible] reports of the way forward. And we will not talk, be sure, about federalism, integration, deepening, widening, coordination, implementation, and all these other buzzwords that are in the centre of our discussions.
We’re simply going to go back to the ideas of our founding fathers. That is what we have to do.
And it is a [unintelligible] challenge. Now or never.
Our union will change, Mr. Tusk, or it will die. That is what is at stake.”
(6) EP Plenary session: Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June 2016 – Council and Commission statements. Round of political group speakers. Guy VERHOFSTADT (ALDE, BE) + bluecard (10:01 – 10:09)