16 March, 2000 (revised October, 2014)
Comparison with Taiwan
The citizen is concerned about two things only bread and the big match. Juvenal, c.60-130 CE.
It strikes me that an appropriate school essay subject for March, 2000, might be 'Compare and contrast the relationship of Taiwan with mainland China and that of Britain with the European Union'.
The superficial similarities are obvious. In both cases, we have relatively small, moderately democratic, and economically successful off-shore islands subject to take-over bids by their totally undemocratic continental neighbours.
The contrast is chiefly in the historical development of the two situations. Whereas Taiwan has been independent of China for only fifty years and their peoples have much culture in common, the British Isles have been independent of Europe for over nine centuries and have had the enlightening experience of assembling an Empire spanning much of the Earth before dismantling it in such a way that most of its former constituents still voluntarily remain part of the British Commonwealth. Yet the Taiwanese are preparing to defend themselves against armed invasion by Chinese warlords, while the United Kingdom is meekly acceding to every bureaucratic instruction from a European Commission composed mainly of failed politicians appointed without reference to the European citizen. Why have the formerly self-confident British suddenly become so pusillanimous by comparison with the Taiwanese?
I think the answer must be that we in Britain have become so addicted to State subsidies and distracted by spectator sports and TV entertainment that we are no longer aware of how feather-bedded we are. We no longer reflect that our personal liberties and privileges have not been granted to us by benevolent Ministers for Sport or Social Security but were hard-won over hundreds of years by the sweat and blood and tears of ancestors who fought for them against the tyrants of their own times. These are the ancestors whom we must once again emulate if what may reasonably claim to have been the most liberal country in the Western world is not to disintegrate in apathy, anarchy, and despair.
It may be argued that the Taiwanese situation is likely to involve the United States, thus sparking off a war between two 'great' powers, whereas the 'peace-loving' British deserve credit for avoiding giving any excuse for similar conflict in the European theatre. But surely the personal liberty that we British once cherished is too precious to be traded away by traitorous politicians who promise us in exchange nothing more valuable than continued enjoyment of bread and the big match. In view of their fumbling over the Millennium Dome, Wembley Stadium, and the Royal Opera House, one cannot help but doubt their ability to deliver on any promises at all. We should all do well to try to earn our own bread as best we can.
The quotations at the head of this essay are as pertinent now as they have been at any time in the last two millennia. The European Union threatens individual liberty in a manner which is all the more dangerous because the mailed fist is cushioned beneath a well-padded velvet glove. But let us not forget that the glove is padded more for concealment and protection of the fist itself than for the sake of gentleness in the manipulation of the objects of its attention.
Consider just a few of the results of our political flirtation with Europe in the last thirty years. Our fishing industry has been ravaged by regulations drafted by bureaucrats who seem to imagine that dead fish will magically be restored to life when they are thrown back into the water. Our farming industry is being strangled by amateurish gratuitous interference with local practices which have grown organically over the centuries to suit the local soil and climate and culture. Small British businesses must give the requirements of Continental regulators precedence over serving their British customers. Suddenly, and almost unheralded, it has become a criminal offence to sell produce whose price is expressed with reference to our traditional units of weight and measure.
But rather than tire you with a litany of examples of lost material freedoms, I have the more urgent task of asking you to examine how successive governments, elected through the machinery of our own ballot boxes, have diminished our capacity to resist impositions by continental bureaucrats. What was until three years ago the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is now as difficult to define as is the European Union itself. Northern Ireland has been fought over for a long time, and its fate is still far from decided. Wales has been split off from England. The patient work of nearly four hundred years has been undone by giving Scotland its own Parliament.
As someone brought up in a Gaelic-speaking community in Scotland, I bitterly regret the constitutional vandalism which has re-introduced artificial political boundaries into the mainland of Great Britain (by which I mean the largest island in the British Isles). I now consider myself fortunate to have been resident in England for over thirty years: but I still resent having to re-label myself English as opposed to Scottish or British. No doubt our political power-seekers saw some electoral advantage in pandering to the demands of Scottish and Welsh Nationalists (although, in the event, it seems to have rebounded on them). But is it also possible that part of the underlying aim was to divide the country to make it less resistant to European take-over?
As a 'naturalised' Englishman, I now resent the fact that England, by far the largest and most significant political unit in these islands, is left without any clear political structure of its own underneath a Parliament in Westminster that still purports to govern a Kingdom that is no longer united. The idea of setting up Regional Assemblies in England itself would have Alfred the Great turning in his grave. If the currently ruling collection of British political tyrants are allowed to get their own way, I fear they may contrive to ensure it will not long be even a Kingdom.
Rather than carve these islands up into political lumps still too large and diverse to be digestible, would it not have been infinitely preferable to have restored the powers which have been progressively removed from local authorities counties. cities, towns, districts and parishes all looking to the Crown as the executive Head of State and to one UK Parliament as their first and principal safeguard against tyranny?
As someone who served in the Royal Navy for twenty-five years, I am saddened at the incoherence of policy with respect to our armed services. Not only am I appalled at the apparently systematic way in which they have been run down by Ministers of all colours who simultaneously delight in basking in the reflected glory of the continuing achievements of the remaining handful of highly-disciplined forces wherever they are called upon to go: I am even more concerned at the inevitable erosion of morale and fighting efficiency caused by the introduction of women into combat units; and I recoil with horror at the very idea of current proposals to give subordinates the right to challenge military commands in courts of law. If ever there was a proposal calculated to emasculate military strength, this must be it. But why should we expect any better from a government composed of individuals who between them lack any vestige of military experience?
Most of all, I am concerned about the prospect of the formation of a European Defence Force and the effect it would inevitably have on the uniformed men and women whose tradition is to support British policy and defend the integrity of the United Kingdom more often than not against hostile powers on the neighbouring continent. Why have we been given no clear definition of what constitutes the Europe that is supposed to be defended? Why have we had no indication of the identity of the potentially hostile forces it is to be defended against? Could it perhaps be because such a European Defence Force could have no honest role except in the context of a conflict between 'great powers' of which the European Union aspires to be one? It should be obvious that if a European Defence Force were ever involved in a war, that war would be both global in scale and catastrophic in outcome. But it seems more likely that the intention behind the formation of such a force is the suppression of political dissent within Europe itself. In either case, it is of paramount importance to ensure that no serious attempt is made to constitute such a force. And the best way of stopping it is to make sure that Britain (or, at least, England) not only refrains from participating in it, but preserves the means of resisting its imposition by force, if necessary.
Never in my lifetime has Britain been so militarily weak as it is now. And never has there been such a lack of clarity about British foreign policy. It seems to me that in a global economy in which almost any individual anywhere in the world can almost instantly communicate with almost any other individual, the most 'ethical' foreign policy is to have no 'foreign' policy at all. The very last thing individuals who recognise each other's humanity will ever want to do is fight one another. Now that individual citizens of all nations can communicate directly, foreign secretaries and diplomats have no rôle but that of keeping us apart: but they will doubtless cling to the trappings of former glory as long as they can. And what is the EU but an anachronistic continuation of 'great power' politics which have been overtaken by globalisation? Every human being is now easily seen to be a citizen of space-ship Earth, and it is obviously in all our interests to rub along together and take care to avoid doing each other any harm.
The war-mongers of the future will be either irresponsible idiots or power-crazed tyrants who believe they can somehow keep out of harm's way while other gullible or greedy individuals do their dirty work for them. Yet the bodyguards and security precautions with which such megalomaniacs must protect their own skins should be conclusive proof that those who would restrict responsible exercise of my freedom automatically extinguish their own liberty and condemn themselves to living in perpetual fear.
The formation of 'great' powers augments the fears which lead to wars. Hence the best prospects for political stability arise from voluntary restraint in political ambition. If politicians were content with maintaining the territorial integrity of relatively small countries (such as Taiwan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) within which men and women were left in peace as far as possible to work out their own solutions to their own local problems and make friends with other men and women throughout the world, there would be little incentive for wars to break out between them. 'Small' powers present little threat to anyone outside their own borders. And the best defence for the immediate neighbours of any country riven by internal strife would be to seal off its borders and make its citizens fight it out among themselves until peace was restored. This would not only prevent the conflict from spreading but would eliminate the problems caused by attempting to make false distinctions between 'refugees' and 'economic migrants'. If there is no prospect of refuge and nowhere to migrate to, the importance of finding ways of getting on with one's fellow-citizens becomes more pressing.
Thus I find myself totally opposed to the European Union as it has turned out. I can sympathise with the idealism of the original signatories to the Treaty of Rome in the aftermath of a horrendous war which broke among what are now the constituents of the EU; but I doubt very much if even those signatories would approve of the manner in which the concept has been developed. The same tyranny that the war was fought against is now presenting itself in different guises within the EU itself.
Witness the hysteria with which European politicians have reacted to the electoral success of the Austrian Freedom Party. If the EU doesn't respect the verdicts of Austrian ballot boxes, is there any reason to suppose it will respect those of British ones if they go against the European political grain?
Witness the situation in France, which has only recently relinquished the Presidency of the EU whatever that means. There, in a manner reminiscent of the Albigensian Crusade and the suppression of the Knights Templar, draconian laws aimed at the criminal suppression of associations or groups (loosely described as 'cults') have been approved by the Senate. There we have the politicians of a country supposedly founded on 'Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity' arrogating to themselves powers to criminalise the members of any association that is not an established church or a powerful political party merely by lumping them with 'combatant and anti-government organisations and private militias'. Is this not enough to make every red-blooded citizen become anti-government?
Witness Denmark, where the Prime Minister is being sued for allegedly mis-using taxpayers' money to influence the 1997 referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty by illegally disguising its consequences. Is it any wonder that in a recent referendum, the Danish people decided to refrain from sacrificing their national currency in favour of the Euro?
Witness the situation in Germany, wherein the leadership of what was until recently the ruling political party and the mainspring of EU development, is shown to have been utterly corrupt.
Witness the corruption recently exposed in the European Commission itself, which was required to resign en bloc. How confident can we be that everything will be OK now that the staff of the Commission in Belgium have been stripped of their privilege to ignore traffic rules a privilege that most people in the EU were not aware they had? This privilege is now restricted to the twenty Commissioners: but one can't help wondering why responsible law-makers should reserve to themselves powers to break laws that don't suit them.
And witness Turkey where secularist politicians anxious to join the EU are campaigning to ban Islamic ritual slaughter of animals.
Is it not now clear that the EU, which was intended to unite the peoples of Europe, is having precisely the opposite effect, even to the extent of stirring up unnecessary polarisation among the peoples of its constituent states?
From a British point of view, we may derive a modicum of comfort from the fact that we still retain our own currency and, with it, a measure of detachment. But we can hardly rely on this alone to sustain us in the decade ahead because we can't trust our own politicians. If we could, at least one major party would adopt a policy of complete withdrawal from the EU. But the Conservatives still somehow contrive to pretend that 'we are in the EU to stay because that is in our interests'. Whose interests, precisely? The interests of politicians and the boards of multinationals, maybe but clearly not the interests of the vast majority of the subjects of Queen Elizabeth II. Why have 'our interests' never been spelt out so that we can clearly recognise them as such? Why have our politicians never been able to make a case for the injuries inflicted upon us by EU membership, many of which are all too obvious? Why do they not even attempt to defend those 'interests' for whose sake we have had to give up our ounces, and yards, and gallons? Why can't we see the benefits of having a system of laws which has taken hundreds of years to develop made subservient to a legal Code imposed on his people by a French tyrant and now to be administered Euro-wide by a Court reminiscent of Titipu?
As I write, our own Home Secretary is seeking to curtail the best guarantee of personal freedom that English law affords: the right to have one's guilt or innocence determined by a jury of one's peers. Taken in conjunction with a tendency, especially in matters connected with taxation, to view suspects as guilty unless they can prove their own innocence to the satisfaction of a detached specialist duly authorised by government, we are clearly on a slippery slope towards total subordination to political dictatorship.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that those of us who see through the EU and its Machiavellian manoeuvres can expect no help from most of the present crop of home-grown politicians. So when it comes to domestic elections, I urge all Englishmen who value their homes as their castles to put country before Party and to vote only for candidates who have signed a written declaration that they will, if elected, do everything in their power to maintain and enhance the personal freedom of the responsible English resident. In particular, they will vote against any further extension of EU power over English life, will vote for any and every proposal that would have the effect of getting England out of the EU, and will resign their seats before reneging on these promises.
A brief specimen form of Declaration is appended.
Declaration by a Candidate for Election to the Westminster Parliament
I hereby solemnly declare and affirm that: