16:51 GMT +314 October 2019
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    Winston Churchill

    'Let Europe Arise': Churchill's Dream 70 Years On as Brexit Beckons

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    Seventy years ago, September 19, 1946, the former Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill called for a United States of Europe, which his own Conservative party has now disowned, as it starts negotiations to exit the European Union.

    Churchill delivered his speech at the University of Zurich, where he bemoaned the "quivering mass of tormented, hungry, careworn and bewildered human beings, who wait in the ruins of their cities and homes and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new form of tyranny or terror."

    Seventy years on, his words seem ironic, as the European Union appears split over the rising migration crisis, with country after country erecting border controls and fences amid deep divisions over a common immigration policy. 

    Churchill's vision was of a combined Europe, centered on the Paris-Berlin axis.

    "The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany," he said.

    Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill at the WW2 Teheran Conference
    © East News / Everett Collection
    Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill at the WW2 Teheran Conference

    "The structure of the United States of Europe will be such as to make the material strength of a single State less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honor by a contribution to the common cause."

    Divided Europe

    Seventy years on, it is that same Paris-Berlin axis that is seeking to pull together the EU as it currently stands — facing Britain leaving the union, divisions over the migrant crisis and facing a north-south split over the Eurozone single currency.

    Churchill's prophetic words eventually led to the formation of the Council of Europe, which remains to this day, but which is not a part of the European Union. It is comprised today of 47 member states —including Russia — and was founded in 1949, with the main aim of protecting human rights. It oversees the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the court.

    Although Britain voted to leave the EU, in a referendum on June 23, it did not vote on the issue of leaving the Council of Europe. Much was made, in the run-up to the referendum, of the need to reclaim powers over human rights, yet the vote was for leaving the EU and not the Council of Europe — although a majority of the British public will not have understood the difference between the two separate organizations.

    ​Europe is now at a crossroads, with Britain expected to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, triggering the start of negotiations to exit the EU — whatever that means. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said many times "Brexit means Brexit," yet most people know that — for Britain to remain a trading partner with the EU — it will have to accept some degree of political integration with it.

    As the EU faces the biggest test in its history, Churchill's words will be ringing down the corridors of Brussels: "In this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America — and, I trust, Soviet Russia, for then indeed all would be well — must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live. Therefore I say to you: Let Europe arise!"


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