The question facing Europeans is therefore this. Not to forge an ever closer union in which, for all the EU's successes, the word forge seems unhappily to be increasingly appropriate. But how to manage the now foreseeable breakup of the EU in a responsible and restrained way, preserving and strengthening such forms of co-operation as we can. The goal would be to minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless: all more real dangers in the next generation than the last. But that, ironically, was why the EU was created in the first place.Though the EU and its institutions are the focus of popular antipathy, we may get a nasty shock if we expect Westminster to regain a range of powers at the EU's demise; those powers will stay where they have been for many years now, in Whitehall. The demise of the EU will serve only to expose that our true masters are not in fact the sleazy, avaricious and corrupt elected MEPs in Brussels but a cabal of zealous and unelected officials in Whitehall, who have long been working in league with a similar cabal of equally zealous and equally unelected officials in Brussels; Whitehall, twinned with Berlaymont.
And yes, zealous is the right word. Civil servants should have no business being zealous, you might have thought, but I've met them. I've worked with them. They're zealous. They believe that they alone have been entrusted with the good of the commonweal, that they alone can work towards goals of social justice, peace and international equity, they alone can interpret what is a responsible defence of the national interest. They hold themselves responsible to a vague locus they term 'the Crown' - not the person of the monarch, you understand, like the loyalty of simple soldiers, but to the symbol of monarchy. And above all they believe that for our own good we cannot be trusted to exercise the powers of government ourselves, that management of everything from Whitehall is the most beneficent and fair of all options. They genuinely believe not only in the rightness of their collective outlook but that their stewardship of the nation is a good rather than an evil. They are not only zealous, they are well-meaning. They are proud that their treacle-like impact on the plans of politicians dilutes and delays change and prevents extreme swings; like diodes they gatekeep, allowing through legislation that benefits their aims and blocking and revising that which doesn't. They are neither of the left nor the right. They are central Statists.
And as for Kettle's belief that it was the EU that had as its aim to "minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless" I think this is exactly the core of belief of Whitehall and its Euro counterparts, and they genuinely believe that only they stand between a fair and ordered world and anarchy. And this is the most dangerous delusion of all.