Introduction: Mr. Oulds is the Director of the London-based Bruges Group, and an international political analyst who has made a specialty of analyzing and opposing the European Union and its political propaganda. Still a young man, Robert not only holds the position of the director of the Bruges Group, he also became a Conservative Councillor in Chiswick for the Chiswick-Homefields ward in May 2002 after discovering how Labour "ripped Chiswick off." Oulds himself describes the Bruges Group as a "leading Eurosceptic cross-party think tank aiming to reform the European Union and end the drive towards the single European State." He is also the Lead Member for Education in the London Borough of Hounslow and Standard-Bearer and Treasurer for the Chiswick Branch of the Royal British Legion.
Daily Bell: Thanks for sitting down with us.
Robert Oulds: Thanks for having me.
Daily Bell: Thank you for taking the time to participate. You and your group have waged a courageous battle against a stubborn and powerful foe. Can you tell us how The Bruges Group came to be?
Robert Oulds: The Bruges Group followed Margaret Thatcher's famous Bruges Speech, made at the College of Europe in Bruges. Here Lady Thatcher, as she is now, outlined her critique of the centralization of the EC as it was then and made the case for a Europe of democratic nation states open to the wider world without burdensome regulations being forced upon them by the anti-democratic European institutions.
Daily Bell: Tell us please, how you came to the head the group and give us some background on yourself?
Robert Oulds: The Bruges Group is working to take Britain out of the European Union. I became involved with the Bruges Group as a Masters student and offered to base my research in the field of communications management on a topic that will be of use to the Group. The Bruges Group is an independent all-party think tank. Our independence is our strength allowing us to be free to follow our own policy agenda and put the national interest above party political considerations.
We were set up in February 1989, and our aim was to reform the centralized European structure that was emerging in Brussels. Its inspiration was Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech in September 1988, in which she remarked that, "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level".
We've helped shift public opinion, reached out to Members of Parliament and made the case for an independent Britain in numerous publications and discussions. We've established a high profile as a leader in the battle against an ever-closer union with Europe and we'll keep fighting against further integration and to roll back British participation in a single European state.
Daily Bell: What is the biggest problem that the EU faces?
Robert Oulds: The biggest flaw may be that there is no Europe as we would understand a nation-state to be constituted. Those running Europe have introduced various cultural initiatives to promote such a consciousness, but it is an artificial process. There are 370 million citizens who will have to come to terms with a new conception of themselves as ‘Europeans' rather than simply nationals. That's very difficult.
The idea is to play on people's natural passions in order to pursue the kind of cultural development that can bind citizens to Europe. Cultural development has become the missing piece of the European jigsaw, one that those at the head of the EU hope can facilitate a transfer of popular allegiance from the nation-states to Brussels.
Daily Bell: Is culture enough?
Robert Oulds: There are problems with this approach. The first one is that it is hard to determine what a culture shall be, and thus the approach has been extremely top-down. The process of developing a culture was actually ceded to committees and marketing professionals.
Second, it is very difficult to identify what a culture is anyway, and the EU's concept of culture ended up being discrete and sanitized – one that focused on culture as having to do with art and customs rather than politics and money. Even the background of European culture is questionable as it has been tidied up into what Eric Wolf once called ‘a genealogy of progress', or as Elie McBride calls it, the ‘Plato to NATO' conception of European civilization.
Third, the foundational aspects of culture, which include history and language will almost certainly result in a revisionist view of European progress, one that is already being encapsulated in various text books funded by the EU. The clearest example of this is Jean-Baptiste Durosselle's 416-page magnum opus, Europe: A History of its Peoples, which the Commission also paid to be translated into every official EU language. The problem with such revisionist texts, as I already mentioned, is that they are essentially disingenuous, treating European history as if it were a march from an unenlightened time towards political union under the leadership of courageous and visionary European statesmen. These European founding fathers, as EU historiographers portray them, are to be established as the true saviors of Europe from the scourges of fascism, nationalism and war.
The ‘Russian doll' theory of European identity-formation is questionable at best. One can espouse the idea of being "European first," but in fact this model is highly compartmentalized and circumscribed. It assumes that ‘culture' is to be confined to art and music, television, architecture, sport and tourism, and divorced from anything else. In practice, it is the economic and socio-political issues that divide Europe and likely define local cultures.
Daily Bell: Where does your faith come from, the ability to continue to fight this battle against the odds?
Robert Oulds: The British people are opposed to the centralization of the EU and will ultimately reject it. The referenda in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, France and the Netherlands show that many on the continent think the same. The EU Constitution, which was then turned into the Mastricht Treaty has ceded many areas of decision making to the EU. It's accelerating EU legislative imperialism.
Daily Bell: The Bruges Group was the most highly influential EU Skeptic group in the 1990s. Do you think you have reclaimed that influence?
Robert Oulds: We are continuing to expose the enormous costs, both democratic and economic, that the EU is forcing upon us. Now most British people are like minded. The direct cost of our EU membership, net of the funds we get back from the EU, amounts to around £3 billion a year. But this is only a fraction of the story. The Institute of Directors has recently published a report – EU Membership: What's the Bottom Line? The conclusion of their economists is that when we add in the additional costs of the CAP and regulation, membership is costing between 15 and 25 billion per year. That's roughly £1000 for every family in the country.
Daily Bell: Does the UK need the EU?
Robert Oulds: The UK is a global power with membership in numerous global entities including the UN Security Council, the G8, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO and the Commonwealth. Worryingly, however, under the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, Britain has lost its right to steer its own course in world affairs. Javier Solano the EU High Commissioner, responsible for Foreign Affairs, has responsibility in this area. Britain is also all ready being pushed to give up our permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Daily Bell: Not trying to be impolite, given The Bruges Group great history and remarkable efforts, but have you in a way LOST the fight, given that the EU rolls along. Or is this a false perception?
Robert Oulds: In terms of public opinion we are clearly winning. However, in other ways, the battle has many challenges. We increasingly have little influence over what happens in our own country. The European Union is an emerging Super-State. The unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats of the European Commission make 62% of our laws and this figure is only increasing. What is more, these laws have supremacy over laws made by our own democratically elected Parliament.
Daily Bell: What will be next?
Robert Oulds: We have predicted that next will be a European army, harmonized taxation and fiscal policy across the EU. Our legal system will be abolished along with the traditional rights that guarantee our liberty. A single European Super-State will then be established through the EU Constitution and Charter of Fundamental Rights. All this is inevitable with European integration.
Daily Bell: We agree with some who believe in a way the EU is a reconstitution of the USSR. Is this too strong an analogy?
Robert Oulds: I think so, but the anti-democratic nature of the EU should not be understated. Britain is the fourth largest economy in the world; we do not need to be part of a European Super-State. Besides there are positive alternatives for Britain with no detrimental effects to our democracy and ability to govern ourselves that should be vigorously pursued.
Daily Bell: What would those be?
Robert Oulds: We could opt out of the EU, but remain within the European Economic Area. It comprises the 27 members of the EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It offers four freedoms of the single market – of goods, services, capital and people. Its members must adopt single market legislation but they are free of the CAP, the CFP, the fiscal and monetary policy, home affairs policy and foreign and security policy of the EU.
Daily Bell: Any other options?
Robert Oulds: The Swiss option of a free trade agreement with the EU may be attractive. Access to the single market entails more paperwork but the obstacles are not insuperable. Swiss exports to the EU constitute 63 per cent of its total exports and 15 per cent of Swiss GDP – much higher figures than ours. Growing trade for the Swiss has not required political integration and, importantly, they are not bound by single market legislation.
Daily Bell: How do you activate these alternatives?
Robert Oulds: We need the self-confidence to preserve our own institutions. Where other countries have suffered dictatorship, civil war or foreign occupation the British experience has fortunately been different. What some see as insularity by Britain, others see as a justified attachment to the way in which we run our affairs. Napoleon said that a nation's policy is determined by its geography. If so, we would do well to remember that Britain is not at the heart of Europe but on her western edge.
Policy needs to be determined by successful history and present need. In the spirit of liberty, democracy and the pursuit of prosperity, we need for the second time since 1945 to reverse a ratchet. Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher identified the socialist ratchet that undermined our prosperity at home, lowered our esteem abroad and sapped our faith in ourselves. They set out to reverse that ratchet and they succeeded. Today the task is to recognize that there is a ratchet for European integration. As the federalist juggernaut speeds ahead, ever more power is taken from the peoples of Europe and handed to unelected bankers, bureaucrats and judges.
Daily Bell: But can this be done?
Robert Oulds: The people of Britain will never knowingly consent to be governed by those who do not speak their language, live in their country or depend upon their votes. The power of self-government, the right to hire and fire our rulers and the capacity to chart our own destiny are inalienable birthrights. They should not be traded in for a mess of pottage otherwise known as a back row seat at a show called "The Heart of Europe". Our destiny is surely as a self-governing nation, which trades freely with the world. The future is bright; the future is global. Our success in it is dependent upon the vision, self-confidence and caliber of our leaders, our businesses and our workforce.
Daily Bell: What is the view of the majority of the British on the EU? Do they realize their own political class sold them out? How is it possible in a Parliamentary Democracy that such a swindle could occur over such a long period of time?
Robert Oulds: The British people are waking up to the deceit behind EU integration.
Daily Bell: What is the point of the EU, anyway. What do you think the leaders of the EU are trying to do? Is there a larger purpose?
Robert Oulds: Many of course are seduced by the corruption, but no doubt they use the EU to force laws through without reference to their own national parliaments and peoples. Furthermore, these laws cannot be undone by their own national democratic institutions making future elections redundant.
Daily Bell: Do you expect a referendum if the Tories win? David Cameron recently "reneged." Why do you think he did so?
Robert Oulds: Perhaps fear of upsetting some pro-EU MPs. We will try and force a referendum.
Daily Bell: What is the sentiment in Britain now? We think it is overwhelmingly anti-EU.
Robert Oulds: Very much so. Polls show that most British people want to leave the EU and replace our membership with a Swiss style free trade agreement.
Daily Bell: How do the ruling elite in Europe and Britain believe they can move forward with an entity (the EU) that has less and less credibility and popular support?
Robert Oulds: They think of themselves of an enlightened elite and have contempt for their own populations. They do not care. The Government will have to ask the people in a referendum. Which means that this cannot be done without your consent.
The people of Denmark, a country that is much smaller than Britain and more dependent on trade with the eurozone, rejected replacing the krona with the euro and this is despite much undue influence from their own Government and a biased media in their referendum. And the Danes are doing well outside. If they can keep their independence so can we. Britain has a choice and does not have to accept an ever-closer Union, the choice is for the British people and our Parliament. The judgment in the Metric Martyrs case confirmed that Britain could even leave the EU if it passed an Act expressly repealing the Treaty of Rome.
Daily Bell: What will happen in Britain when people begin to be tried for "European" crimes that are not against the law in Britain? Will there be an outcry?
Robert Oulds: I think there will be. Hopefully, Britain's politicians will listen before that happens.
Daily Bell: Is antipathy to the EU something that divides the British classes, or is a broad-based phenomenon at this point?
Robert Oulds: It is quite broad based with the young being amongst the most Eurosceptic.
Daily Bell: We are struck, still, by the antipathy to Ms. Thatcher who was, in our opinion, one of the better leaders that Britain ever had. Whereas Blair and now Brown are among the worst. Does the British electorate not see this? Why have they put up with the virtual evisceration of the nation?
Robert Oulds: Blair and especially Brown are now held in contempt by the British people but unfortunately there is a lot of apathy.
Daily Bell: Is the tide of socialism in Britain gradually lapsing? What was responsible for it in the first place? Why is the British elite in many cases so socialist when Britain virtually invented classical liberalism (the justification for modest government) and pioneered concepts of freedom?
Robert Oulds: Politicians use socialist policies to bribe people with other people's money. This has led to a severe fiscal crisis and people are waking up to the fact that cuts are needed. But if powers are not returned to nation states then the EU will go the same way as the USSR and Yugoslavia. If it is not finished the EU's excessive regulation will slowly drag Europe down.
Daily Bell: Do you think Margaret Thatcher eventually awoke to the danger of the EU and this was her political undoing?
Robert Oulds: Yes, the revolt against her started when she made it clear that she was against the euro.
Daily Bell: Anti-EU sentiment seems to be growing in Europe and especially in Britain. What is the future for Britain and the EU? What is going to happen?
Robert Oulds: I think Britain will leave and the eventually the euro will collapse. I am very hopeful that the outcome will militate against the EU and result in the kind of independent and prosperous Britain that her peoples deserve.
Daily Bell: Thanks for sitting down with us. It was an honor to speak to you and to spread the word about the good your group has done and is doing.
Robert Oulds: Thank you very much, it has been a pleasure.
Robert Oulds, who has certainly fought the good fight lo these many years, seems relatively optimistic that the worst of EU leveling depredations will be rolled back over time and that Britain will emerge relatively unscathed.
Of course there is yet reason to be pessimistic given the ongoing progress of the EU. In the past year the EU has consolidated a constitution of sorts and continued to make progress in creating a United States of Europe. The EU, as far as we can tell, still has not received an audit and the corruption level is likely at an all-time high. Indeed, it is apparently common knowledge within certain banking circles that recalcitrant European pols are apt to receive visits from "men in black." The choice: Open an offshore bank account, see it filled (and go along with the program) or undergo public humiliation and potential criminal charges. It is a choice that most politicians will not have a great deal of trouble making.
But there are glimmers of light, as well, for those who believe the EU is an anti-democratic, generational invention of the power elite that is dedicated to imposing power from the top down. The EU is under a great deal of stress right now because many European countries cannot tolerate the kind of economic demands that euro makes on their economies. Greece, Spain, Italy and central European countries may soon see violent unrest as their welfare societies collide with euro "fiscal discipline."
We put "fiscal discipline" in quotes because while it is true that the euro-zone demands or is supposed to demand a certain level of economic rationality from its associated countries, the reality is that Europe is mostly a hopeless case when it comes to government spending, taxation, inflation, etc. In another generation, the European fiscal climate will probably be nearly as bad as Russia's (its USSR-version) before she imploded.
It may not reach a point of USSR-style implosion in another generation though as we would not be surprised to start seeing states trying to peel away from the EU. It is fine to insist on fiscal discipline, but in fact the EU's fiat-money economy with its central banking stimulation does not allow for anything to replace what is already there. States that might be able to create a level of fiscal discipline cannot do it because their entrepreneurial sector is consistently ruined by central banking monetary over-stimulation.
This is yet another effect of pernicious central banking policies – the surrounding rhetoric sounds great in both the US and Europe but the reality is that the private sector is continually damaged by fiat money. What is put in its place? Corporatism – an approach that emphasizes huge mercantilist companies which are able to leverage the current central banking economy. It is this vast enterprise-structure that likely provides the motor for modern economies while small entrepreneurial firms expand and contract with central bank money flows.
Within the current mercantilist system, therefore, a welfare state is vitally important, as the busts that take place regularly shatter the ephemeral dreams of those trying to build businesses and make a living. There are no agricultural or other real-life solutions to fall back on – those have also been compromised by fiat-money booms and busts – and thus the state becomes the benefactor.
But subject the state to "austerity" and "spending discipline" and you may well be asking for civil unrest. Stripped long ago of the familial agricultural unit, force-fed entrepreneurial dreams that will likely die during the next crash, where are citizens of the West to turn? This is the reason for the continuing development of the Western welfare state – one that cannot help ending in tears – and the reason, as well, that the EU's structure that insists on a certain level of GDP to debt, etc. will only encourage further civil difficulty in our opinion.
At some point, further relaxations will have to be made in the euro formula or the EU will start to spin apart as this economic crisis continues. Oulds sees the unworkability in parochial – British – terms, but at best the euro is a stopgap solution for what was, really, a non-existent problem. At some point, there will be a day of reckoning – and Oulds doubtless expects that Britain will retrieve more of its independence at that point if not before. But we wonder what will happen to rest of the EU.
Will we end up with an empowered and resentful Germany pulling what is left of the EU train – and facing a resurgent Britain across the channel? That would be ironic indeed given the EU was putatively set up to discourage pan-European violence by encumbering Europe in the chains of commerce.