In September 1946, almost a year after World War 2 ended, Winston Churchill delivered an important address at the University of Zurich. The speech is one that is known by many historians and EU bureaucrats, but is not one that is remembered by the British public: his call for a United States of Europe.
This Victorian-born statesman, whose political career spanned all of the decades of the twentieth century up to that point, lamented that Europe, a strong and capable continent with fine prospects was riven with division and continual conflict. His was a bold step, and one that would even surprise people to this day, that know nothing of his proposal to release Europe from interminable war and the terrible price that inflicted on its people. In Zurich he said:If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance … there would be no limit to the happiness, the prosperity, and the glory which its 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people would enjoy.
Churchill’s seemingly imprecise quantification of Europe’s population was actually his way of hinting that the east and west of Europe might well one day be unified, something that we have largely seen in modern day Europe. The extra 100,000,000 was the people of the Soviet satellite states. He continued:
Churchill’s weakness, however, was his inability to recognise that Britain’s empire would almost vanish by the end of the second half of the century. He said in his speech that while Britain would be supportive of the ‘United States of Europe’, it would not be part of it, as its future lay in its colonies and commonwealth.
It seems incredible to think that Churchill was the founding father of the EU, even more so now that the UK is part of it. Yet there is one detail that we should remember, as it was the very reason why Churchill proposed the creation of the EU in the first place: we have had no wars in the EU since its inception. There can be no better commemoration of the WW1 dead than that.