November 23, 2023 - 6:40pm

One has to almost admire Guy Verhofstadt. He is an enemy of Brexit and an arch-federalist, but he doesn’t hide his intentions behind weasel words. He wants to extinguish national sovereignty and he doesn’t mind who knows it

In fact, he’s put together a plan for further EU integration. Snappily entitled, “Report on proposals of the European Parliament for the amendment of the Treaties”, it proposes to massively restrict the right of member states to veto EU measures. Other features include the “establishment of a defence union including military units […] under the operational command of the Union”; exclusive EU “competence” (i.e. control) over environment and climate policy; and a “strengthening” of the “Union’s common immigration policy”.

Surely, something so radical would fall at the first hurdle. After all, even at the heart of Europe, Verhofstadt is a bit of an outlier, isn’t he?

Apparently not. This week the European Parliament voted in favour of his proposals by 291 to 274. That’s not enough to make them law: treaty change would require the unanimous approval of all 27 member states. Nevertheless, the idea that full-blown federalism is a minority pursuit, or a Brexiteer conspiracy theory, is blatantly wrong. The Verhofstadt view of the EU’s future commands a majority among the Union’s directly elected politicians.

Ironically, the European Parliament voted for the Verhofstadt plan on the same day that the Netherlands held its general election. As the results made clear, the Dutch people — though generally liberal and internationalist by temperament — have had enough of European and global elites overriding national priorities.

And it isn’t “just” the voters expressing their frustration. For instance, Michel Barnier, best known to Brits as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has just reiterated his desire for French control over immigration to France. This week we also heard from Donald Tusk, a former president of the European council and likely next prime minister of Poland. He made it clear that his party would be opposing the Verhofstadt plan. He has also been quoted as saying that “one of the reasons why the UK left the EU was this naive, sometimes even unbearable euro-enthusiasm, which was transformed into projects that changed the character of the EU”.

That’s an interesting comment from someone who once said there was a “special place in Hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely”. 

But, of course, even the most clueless of Brexiteers had a perfectly sensible plan — which was to get away from the unbearable euro-enthusiasts first and then work out what to do afterwards. If you’re stuck in a room with a lunatic, that is the logical order of priorities.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.