The age of the nation state is over and the idea that countries can stand alone is an ‘illusion’ and a ‘lie’, the EU president believes.
In one of the most open proclamations of the goal of a European superstate since the heyday of Jacques Delors, Herman Van Rompuy went on to denounce Eurosceptism as the greatest threat to peace.
Tory backbenchers condemned the inflammatory comments in the speech made by Mr Van Rompuy to mark the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
They said it proved that David Cameron would have a battle on his hands if he is to prevent extra powers being handed to Brussels.
Last night 23 Conservative MPs, including former leadership contender David Davis, rebelled in the Commons by demanding a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty is amended – even if ministers argue the changes do not affect the UK. Their call was defeated.
Mr Van Rompuy’s speech in the German capital told his audience that ‘the time of the homogenous nation state is over’.
He added that the ‘danger’ of Euroscepticism was spreading beyond the confines of countries such as Britain and was becoming a stronger force across the whole continent.
‘We have together to fight the danger of a new Euroscepticism,’ he declared. ‘This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries.
‘In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion – it is a lie.’
The Belgian equated Euroscepticism with fear, which eventually leads to war – echoing former French president Francois Mitterrand’s famous phrase that ‘nationalism is war’.
‘The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear,’ he said. ‘Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war.
‘Today’s nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride in one’s own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others.’
In a strong defence of the euro, he said the recession would have been far worse if France still had its franc and Germany still had its mark.
Again employing the imagery of war, he said: ‘Just imagine the big recession of 2008/09 with the old currencies. It would have resulted in currency turmoil and the end of the single market. A currency war always ends in protectionism.’
And in a section about the fall of the Berlin Wall, he praised the ‘statesmen of 1989 – Helmut Kohl, Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Delors’.
There was no mention of Margaret Thatcher, who as British prime minister at the time argued against closer integration.
Last night UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: ‘Rumpy Pumpy is unfit to govern. This man is an overpaid catastrophe who wants to abolish our nation. The only non-nation is Belgium, his own country.
Backbench Tories warned such views were now on the rise in Brussels.
Conservative MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘At last we see the real intentions of the Eurocrats. If that’s what Mr Van Rompuy believes, he should at least get elected by someone before he says it.’
…as Eurocrats waste millions from your taxes!