It was about how to safeguard a peaceful future for Europe after the catastrophic German expansionism of the previous half-century. Containment through military and economic means had been tried, but it didn't seem to stop the Germans coming back for more. If you couldn't contain Germany, you might at least be able to give it common cause with the rest of Europe by integrating it. For a while, this seemed to work. Europe thrived on the parallel objectives of post-war reconstruction and integration.
Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall and re-unification. Germany was big and powerful again and once more seen – however fancifully for an age where another all-embracing European war is almost unimaginable – as a potential threat to stability and peace. Monetary union was the quid pro quo for allowing a re-united Germany, a way of further binding Germany's national interest into that of the rest of Europe.And there you have it. The whole point of the EU is to keep the Hun down. I'm not sure this is quite right. Somehow I think Fritz has lost the will to go walkabout in Europe again; the Prussian tradition has been all but destroyed and Saxonian hedonism seems to have triumphed. The war is still too fresh in European minds - in British minds, anyway, to allow for any German military expansionism. No, I think the mood is more 1870 than 1939; for a second phase Zollverein rather than rolling the Panzers. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, poor little Belgium, and perhaps
If I'm even partially right, the counter to a new Gross Deutschland is not the EU but a strong Anglo-French alliance, as it has always been. I know we have a natural aversion to getting into bed with the Kermits, but if there's a diplomat left in the FO worth his salt, our efforts will go into courting our neighbour. It's time for another Entente Cordiale.