“be[ing] a Nazi province” was preferable to becoming a British dominion. Philippe Pétain, a leader of the pro-armistice group, called union “fusion with a corpse”.
Craig at Is the BBC Biased? reports on a David Keighley News-Watch piece on Nick Robinson’s claim that Churchill was the father of the European Union which give us a lot more detail about what went on in 1940….David Keighley concludes….
[Robinson] doctored some of the original commentary to make it fit with EU’s hagiography about its formation….It is deeply troubling that he should project such bias, at any time – but especially during the EU referendum. It seems that he deliberately chose to amplify the ‘Churchill is father of European unity’ concept.
I thought, well why not just Google it and see just how easy it is to find out about the plan. Something Nick Robinson could have done with ease……and I came up with a Wikipedia article that gives an indepth look at how the Anglo-French union came about…and you know what, it wasn’t as Robinson said here…
There’s one interview we haven’t got, it’s with the man who in many ways was the father of a united Europe. No, he wasn’t a Frenchman, he wasn’t a German, he wasn’t a Belgian, he was, in fact, the British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill. In the desperate days of June 1940, Britain’s new wartime leader’s first instinct was to go for full political union, quite unthinkable today. Churchill’s plan, in a last-ditch effort to stop France falling to the Nazis, was that Britain and France would become a single country, an indissoluble union with one war cabinet running defence and the economy on both sides of the Channel. The British Cabinet backed it, but with one prophetic exception, they simply couldn’t stomach the idea of a single currency. Days later France fell, and with it, at that stage, the idea of political union.
Trouble is, it wasn’t Churchill’s plan, he had little to do with drawing it up…it was Frenchman Jean Monnet’s plan and as for indissoluble…it was only for the duration of the war as the British declaration made clear.
Jean Monnet is seen as the founding father of the Community which has been developing and growing since 1950 from principles and plans he defined and began to put into practice.
We have inherited Jean Monnet’s idea and it is up to us to press ahead with the historic task of building Europe.
A single Cabinet, a single army, a single nation’
In the spring of 1940, after the defeat of General Weygand’s troops, what counted most for Monnet was to ensure that the allied democracies did not break ranks in the face of the enemy. He arrived in London a few days before General de Gaulle and drafted a plan for an indissoluble Franco-British Union, a true merger of the two nations, for de Gaulle, the British Government and the French authorities in refuge in Bordeaux. The idea was to create a psychological shock and encourage the French army to get out of enemy reach and the French navy to join up with British forces and carry on the fight.
Robinson doesn’t for some reason tell us that in 1956 the french proposed yet another union…this time by Mollet not Monnet…. ‘French Prime Minister Guy Mollet proposed a union between the United Kingdom and the French Union with Elizabeth II as head of state and a common citizenship. As an alternative, Mollet proposed that France join the Commonwealth.’ British Prime Minister Anthony Eden rejected both proposals.
Ironically it was the BBC that rediscovered this proposal... The Mollet proposal was first made public in the United Kingdom on 15 January 2007 through an article by Mike Thomson published on the BBC News website…..and the French reaction in 2007?….French journalist Christine Clerc asked former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (Gaullist) about Mollet’s 1956 proposal. Pasqua answered, “if his demand had been made official, Mollet would have been brought to trial for high treason“
Guess Robinson picked and chose bits of history to suit a particular narrative…that of Churchill being very pro-European Union….Robinson tells us the French rejected the proposal but not just how hostile the French cabinet’s reaction was to the proposal in 1940 ...that “be[ing] a Nazi province” was preferable to becoming a British dominion. Philippe Pétain, a leader of the pro-armistice group, called union “fusion with a corpse”.
So it seems, other than for a couple of renegade Frenchman, a European Union avec Les Rosbifs wasn’t on the books except as a wartime expedient to try and keep the French on board. Guess no one was really keen on the EU then, least of all Churchill. Something Nick Robinson could easily have found out if he didn’t know already, and hard to believe he didn’t. Therefore we must conclude he was trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the BBC audience and con them into following in what Robinson tells us are Churchill’s footsteps and vote for further integration into the EU…as a remain vote would inevitably be.
World War II (1940)
In December 1939 Jean Monnet of the French Economic Mission in London became the head of the Anglo-French Coordinating Committee, which coordinated joint planning of the two countries’ wartime economies. The Frenchman hoped for a postwar United States of Europe and saw an Anglo-French political union as a step toward his goal. He discussed the idea with Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill’s assistant Desmond Morton, and other British officials.
In June 1940, French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud’s government faced imminent defeat in the Battle of France. In March they and the British had agreed that neither country would seek a separate peace with Nazi Germany. The French cabinet on 15 June voted to ask Germany for the terms of an armistice. Reynaud, who wished to continue the war from North Africa, was forced to submit the proposal to Churchill’s War Cabinet. He claimed that he would have to resign if the British were to reject the proposal.
The British opposed a French surrender, and in particular the possible loss of the French Navy to the Germans, and so sought to keep Reynaud in office. On 14 June British diplomat Robert Vansittart and Morton wrote with Monnet and his deputy René Pleven a draft “Franco-British Union” proposal. They hoped that such a union would help Reynaud persuade his cabinet to continue the war from North Africa, but Churchill was skeptical when on 15 June the British War Cabinet discussed the proposal and a similar one from Secretary of State for India Leo Amery. On the morning of 16 June, the War Cabinet agreed to the French armistice request on the condition that the French fleet sail to British harbors. This disappointed Reynaud, who had hoped to use a British rejection to persuade his cabinet to continue to fight.
Reynaud supporter Charles de Gaulle had arrived in London earlier that day, however, and Monnet told him about the proposed union. De Gaulle convinced Churchill that “some dramatic move was essential to give Reynaud the support which he needed to keep his Government in the war”. The Frenchman then called Reynaud and told him that the British prime minister proposed a union between their countries, an idea which Reynaud immediately supported. De Gaulle, Monnet, Vansittart, and Pleven quickly agreed to a document proclaiming a joint citizenship, foreign trade, currency, war cabinet, and military command. Churchill withdrew the armistice approval, and at 3 p.m. the War Cabinet met again to consider the union document. Despite the radical nature of the proposal, Churchill and the ministers recognized the need for a dramatic act to encourage the French and reinforce Reynaud’s support within his cabinet before it met again at 5pm.
The final “Declaration of union” approved by the British War Cabinet stated that
France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain, every British subject will become a citizen of France.
Churchill and De Gaulle called Reynaud to tell him about the document, and they arranged for a joint meeting of the two governments in Concarneau the next day. The declaration immediately succeeded in its goal of encouraging Reynaud, who saw the union as the only alternative to surrender and who could now cite the British rejection of the armistice.
Other French leaders were less enthusiastic, however. At the 5 p.m. cabinet meeting, many called it a British “last minute plan” to steal its colonies, and said that “be[ing] a Nazi province” was preferable to becoming a British dominion. Philippe Pétain, a leader of the pro-armistice group, called union “fusion with a corpse”. While President Albert Lebrun and some others were supportive, the cabinet’s opposition stunned Reynaud. He resigned that evening without taking a formal vote on the union or an armistice, and later called the failure of the union the “greatest disappointment of my political career”.
Reynaud had erred, however, by conflating opposition to the union—which a majority of the cabinet almost certainly opposed—with support for an armistice, which it almost certainly did not. If the proposal had been made a few days earlier, instead of the 16th when the French only had hours to decide between armistice and North Africa, Reynaud’s cabinet might have considered it more carefully.
Pétain formed a new government that evening, which immediately decided to ask Germany for armistice terms. The British canceled their plans to travel to Concarneau.