The peace case for the EU


Cameron predicts World War Three, screamed the tabloid headlines, when the former Prime Minister attempted to make the peace case for Britain’s EU membership during the 2016 vote.

And he was denounced as a scaremonger, serving out another dish of Project Fear.

Yet Cameron was right to make this argument – he just should have started making it earlier.

Indeed, for those of us preparing for a People’s Vote sometime in the next nine months, I believe we need to prepare the ground for the peace case now.

Worryingly – if fortuitously for Remainers – the strength of the argument that EU membership enhances our security has never been stronger.

At home, the recognition is now much greater that peace in Northern Ireland has been built on EU membership effectively underwriting the Good Friday Agreement. Over 3,600 people were killed in the troubles in Northern Ireland. Anything that puts that hard-won peace at risk is the height of irresponsibility – and the bizarre debate over the Northern Irish backstop has only served to highlight that.

And international developments ought to make at least some Leavers think again.

The future of NATO has never faced such questioning by a US President than under Trump. It’s 70th birthday celebrations this year were decidedly muted.

Russian muscle-flexing combined with concerted attempts to undermine western liberalism and democracy show the fragility of post-Cold War security – even before one adds in the tensions with Iran and North Korea.

Then one should consider China, and the increasingly strained relationship with the US, currently focused on trade wars. The renowned US security analyst, Graham Allison, recently coined the phrase the “Thucydides’s Trap” referring to when a rising power causes fear in an established power which then escalates toward military conflict.

His thesis begins with the quote from the Greek historian, Thucydides, who wrote: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta” and then Allison charts the history of superpower switchovers down the centuries, which have mostly ended in armed conflict.

While he concludes war between the US and China can be avoided, his warning is that a peaceful outcome is not inevitable.

For the UK and the whole of Europe, such warnings must be urgently heeded. Europe has been highly successful in helping to keep the peace and heal divisions over recent decades – even though it has received little credit for it.

But Europe’s toughest peace challenges may lie ahead.

So we must now make the case that the UK must stay at the European table to contribute to solving these known risks to our future peace.

As Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I saw at first hand how Europe’s soft power can be used to reduce the risks of war.

After Russia annexed Crimea and stirred up conflict in Ukraine, I attended many meetings with EU and G7 Energy Ministers, focusing on the potential threat to Europe’s energy supplies to Europe should Russia decide to turn off the taps or exercise its geopolitical energy influence in other ways.

My conclusion was we needed to reduce Europe’s dependency on imports of Russian fossil fuels – it would be good for climate change action, and reduce the money going into the Kremlin’s coffers, and thus Putin’s war chest. So the UK tabled proposals for an ambitious EU energy security strategy to do just that – and they were adopted.

If the UK had been absent from the EU table, I doubt the outcome would have been so positive.

You don’t have to believe World War Three is round the corner to understand that Britain’s peace and security is best served by remaining in the European Union.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.


  1. Stephen Gwynne says

    The inevitably of war will arise as global resource and energy constraints began to impact on fundamentally unsustainable economies such as the EU free trade system and the US free trade system.—first-steps-and-explorations.html

    The frictionless EU free trade system and the need to sustain this unsustainable system through the market appropriation of foreign resources and future reserves of renewable resources is already causing conflicts in less developed regions within Asia and Africa.

    Similarly, free trade regimes dramatically increases carbon emissions and material waste which is leading to the inevitably of economic, climatic, environmental and ecological disruptions.

    The way forward for global and European peace is to create economic sufficiency systems which the EU Treaties do not enable and facilitate. Consequently, the UK for example is currently operating at 60% food security and reducing as migration led population growth demands the expansion of grey infrastructure and the built environment into what remains of the UK’s ecological means of survival.

    Currently, the EU has no adaption strategy regarding the increasing likelihood of economic, climatic, environmental and ecological disruptions and so in the event of a sudden crisis, the EU is ill prepared to deal with shocks.

    Leaving the EU is therefore required in order to establish the required autonomy to adapt and change UK systems towards sufficiency whether in terms of social, cultural, political, economic and most importantly ecological sufficiency.

    Remaining locks the UK into a dysfunctional EU system which does not provide adequate autonomy to create national social, cultural, political, economic and ecological security.

    Without national security and sufficiency, there will be no European or Global security and sufficiency. Without national security and sufficiency, the possibility of resource and energy wars significantly increases the more nations are unsustainable, insecure and insufficient.

    Peace will be built up through cooperative trade systems with systems being managed through national security requirements.

    Peace will not be built up through highly competitive trade systems mediated through supranational free trade regimes which deny nations or states the ability to create sustainability, sufficiency and resilience within their territories.

    As such, the best option to create long lasting peace is to leave the EU Treaties and begin pioneering global and European adaptation towards national security concerns.

  2. Dr Selby Whittingham says

    I agree. People say NATO has kept the peace. But, if some Brexiteers wish,
    the EU breaks up and rivalry and aggression reappears between member
    states, that will threaten the continuance of NATO and the readiness of
    the USA to defend Europe (it was not so keen in WWII before Pearl Harbour).
    The case needs to be made that the EU underpins NATO.

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