All across Europe, from riots in Greece to those protest votes for Marine Le Pen and George Galloway, we see signs of how alienated people now feel from the “political class” which rules over our lives, out of touch with the rest of us, without meaningful opposition, no longer responsive to any democratic control. I am reminded of a document I discovered in the National Archives at Kew in January 2002, when sifting through papers released under the 30-year rule relating to Britain’s negotiations to join the Common Market. It was a confidential 1971 memorandum, clearly written by a senior Foreign Office official, headed “Sovereignty and the Community”.
With chilling candour, this paper (from FCO folder 30/1048) predicted that it would take 30 years for the British people to wake up to the real nature of the European project that Edward Heath was about to take them into, by which time it would be too late for them to leave. Its author made clear that the Community was headed for economic, monetary and fiscal union, with a common foreign and defence policy, which would constitute the greatest surrender of Britain’s national sovereignty in history. Since “Community law” would take precedence over our own, ever more power would pass to this new bureaucratic system centred in Brussels – and, as the role of Parliament diminished, this would lead to a “popular feeling of alienation from government”.