The referendum vote is taking Britain out of the EU, much to my surprise. I hadn’t expected people to vote leave, despite supporting that idea since the 1975 referendum, though I have equally wanted to see the creation of a radical politics in the European space as an alternative to the EU.
We can be pretty sure that Britain’s role in the EU will soon be fictionalised by journalists like the people at ‘Der Spiegel’ who have rediscovered the wholly inaccurate notion of Britain in the 1970′s and ’80′s as the main source of pollution in Europe .People did believe that to be the case, until Chernobyl demonstrated how the winds also carried pollution from eastern europe westwards. The UK had begun cleaning up the coal fired legacy of the industrial revolution in the 1950′s with the introduction of the ‘Clean Air act’, which restricted the use of coal rather than ‘smokeless fuel’ in domesic heating. Spiegel’s people could be a bit more careful with their sifting.
The myth is currently being propounded that there was always the intention of Franco-German unity with the establishment of the EU via the ECSC from the 1940′s onward. As the following little story demonstrates, the truth is rarely allowed to get in the way of a good narrative history:
“When the French Prime Minister, Monsieur Mollet was recently in London he raised with the prime minister the possibility of a union between the United Kingdom and France.” So, when Eden turned down his request for a union between France and Britain the French prime minister came up with another proposal. This time, while Eden was on a visit to Paris, he requested that France be allowed to join the British Commonwealth. A secret document from 28 September 1956 records the surprisingly enthusiastic way the British premier responded to the proposal when he discussed it with his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook.
It says: “Sir Norman Brook asked to see me this morning and told me he had come up from the country consequent on a telephone conversation from the prime minister who is in Wiltshire.
“The PM told him on the telephone that he thought in the light of his talks with the French:
“That we should give immediate consideration to France joining the Commonwealth
“That Monsieur Mollet had not thought there need be difficulty over France accepting the headship of her Majesty
“That the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the Irish basis”
Seeing these words for the first time, Henri Soutou, professor of contemporary history at Paris’s Sorbonne University almost fell off his chair. Stammering repeatedly he said: “Really I am stuttering because this idea is so preposterous. The idea of joining the Commonwealth and accepting the headship of Her Majesty would not have gone down well. If this had been suggested more recently Mollet might have found himself in court.”
Nationalist MP Jacques Myard was similarly stunned on being shown the papers, saying: “I tell you the truth, when I read that I am quite astonished. I had a good opinion of Mr Mollet before. I think I am going to revise that opinion. “I am just amazed at reading this because since the days I was learning history as a student I have never heard of this. It is not in the textbooks.”
It seems that the French prime minister decided to quietly forget about his strange proposals.
No record of them seems to exist in the French archives and it is clear that he told few other ministers of the day about them.
That is how history is made and unmade according to the actors’ convenience.