Professor David Blake was speaking at a time when prospects for a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU were hanging in the balance, with one of the key sticking points being the bloc’s insistence on Britain adhering to rules and regulation aimed at protecting its single market after the end of the year. And the academic, who is Professor of Economics at Cass Business School, said Brussels’ tendency towards protectionism dated back almost 80 years – many years before the birth of the inception of the European Steel and Coal Community in 1952, or the Treaty of Rome which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the common market.
Specifically, he highlighted a conference held in 1942 at the Berlin School of Economics – part of the University of Berlin – during which the phrase European Economic Community was mentioned, apparently for the first time.
Walther Funk, who served as Reich Minister for Economic Affairs from 1938 to 1945, outlined proposals for a customs union in a chapter of the plan which was presented to the conference entitled The Economic Face of the New Europe.
Prof Blake told Express.co.uk: “I would argue that the conference volume from the papers presented at the 1942 conference held at the Berlin School of Economics was the blueprint for the EU.
“And that the driving force behind this was Walter Hallstein, the first President of the European Commission between 7 January 1958 and 30 June 1967.
“Funk’s contribution was to propose the Customs Union and Single Market.”
However, he suggested it was nevertheless reasonable to use the plan as a basis for concluding the EU to be an intrinsically anti-Anglo Saxon entity, much as prominent Brexiteers have argued over the years.
He explained: “At the heart of the plan is a strong dislike of what is described variously as English/Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-American/liberal-capitalist laissez-faire economics.
“The underlying economic philosophy behind the plan for the EEC is ‘state economic leadership’ over heavily regulated private sector companies which are expected to operate as efficiently as possible using the latest available technologies”.
Furthermore, Prof Blake said he detected the fundamental priorities spelt out in the 1942 plan within the EU’s negotiating strategy, both in terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and trade deal negotiations, suggesting the EU had been constructed with “ruthless German efficiency”.
He said: “There are two key components to this. The first is that it is anti-competitive in the sense that it involves state economic control or leadership – although once the directives embodying state economic control have been passed, then businesses are free to compete to deliver the plan.
“Secondly, and just as important, it is anti-democratic.
“The idea of parliamentary approval is not mentioned in the plan. A European Parliament was introduced with appointed members in 1958 and with directly elected ones from 1979.
“But its role is to do little more than rubber-stamp the directives proposed by the Commission.”
Explaining the limited role the assembly plays, he added: “It is unable to initiate, block or repeal legislation.
“While it can suggest amendments to proposed legislation, these can be ignored by the Commission.
“Belgian historian David Van Reybrouck, in his 2016 book Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, describes the European Parliament as little better than one of the ‘councils of the people’ in the interwar colonial empires of the Belgium, Holland, Britain, or France – with the real power resting with a distant imperial executive.
“What happens in the EU is that unelected bureaucrats at the Commission initiate all laws which are then rubber-stamped by a spineless parliament and then enforced by unelected judges at the European Court of Justice. This is not democracy.”
The way in which the EU was devised, it was always obvious that Germany was going to be the chief beneficiary, Prof Blake emphasised.
He said: “The way that Hallstein achieved power so early and for so long at the beginning of the EU meant that the 1942 Plan was going to be implemented.
“This meant that the main beneficiary would be Germany, since the plan suited the German mentality both economically and politically.”
“However you also need to factor in French ambitions – which was for France and Germany to run the EU – as a united political economic and political entity – as notionally equal partners, with Germany taking economic leadership and France taking political leadership.
“Macron has his own plan for doing this.”
As for the future, Prof Blake believes the UK’s departure does not bode well.
He said: “I cannot believe that a protectionist anticompetitive over-regulated EU will fare well in the century dominated by China.
“Merkel once complained that ‘the EU has 10 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the world’s income and 50 percent of the world’s welfare benefits’. This is not sustainable in the long run.”
As for Britain, he said: “The UK made the mistake of not joining at the beginning.
“We were offered the leadership of Europe at the end of WW2 – and we turned the offer down.
“The UK then made the mistake of joining in 1973 when it was too late to have a major influence on the direction of the EU. We have not been happy members ever since”.
With specific reference to Brexit, he added: “I think it is right to leave for economic and democratic reasons.
“We were the first country to invent global free trade. We believe in markets rather than regulation.
“Global Britain would be based on this original model.”
Nevertheless, he foresaw problems as a result of the Withdrawal Agreement which sealed the UK’s exit from the EU, but which he believes paves the way for further interference from Brussels.
He warned: “The Withdrawal Agreement is a trap. We Brexiteers (especially Martin Howe QC) knew this, yet Johnson signed it.
“It keeps us as a client state of the EU. The trade deal we get will be bad because of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“Plus we are the EU’s dumping ground.”