The Spectator

Letters | 9 June 2016

Also in Spectator Letters: purging the posh, cuckoos, ‘Generation Snowflake’, Sir Donald Bradman and Eddie Mair

War and Brexit

Sir: Over the past few weeks every underemployed academic, hack or backbencher has come forward offering opinions on the Brexit dispute. The result has been one pool of confusing sludge. I wonder if, as a nonagenarian, I could contribute a view before the deadly vote comes along?

After four years’ service in the wartime army I was appointed to Germany as Daily Telegraph correspondent. Though it was several years after the war, what I saw appalled me. I don’t think I realised quite what a job the RAF had done; or imagined the appalling suffering of the enemy civilians. What would another European war do? We were fearful, and grasped at straws. It was at exactly that time that the scheme for pooling Franco-German coal and steel production, which at a stroke would render any future French/German conflict impossible, was first thought up. It was a visionary precursor to the EU. Europe is more fragile than one imagines; the slaughter in Bosnia occurring so recently should at least give us pause for concern.

As far as British interests go, I can hardly think of a more deadly combination than an exit from Europe and accession to power by a triumphant Boris Johnson. What motivates Boris is quite clearly self-interest; his timing suggests so. When he became editor of The Spectator, in 1999, I took him to lunch and asked him how he saw Europe. He said: ‘I spent five years working in Brussels with the bloody Belgians and I concluded that Europe was a sink!’ With such strong views, the mystery is why he waited nearly 20 years before becoming the standard-bearer for Brexit.

It would be hard to imagine a worse fate for Britain than to find ourselves out of Europe with few friends in the United States and an entertaining jokester as Prime Minister — which would be the progression if Brexit were to win.

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