This very week, the British have been lied to and cheated by their government in a way that is alien to our tradition, and I would previously have thought unimaginable. The matter may seem to rest on political procedures, involving technicalities that are rather complicated and of no general interest. But this really isn’t so. The nation and its future are at stake.
What happened is that the politicians who run the European Union in Brussels want a constitution to enshrine and extend their centralized powers. Such a constitution would convert the 27 member countries of the EU into a single empire, with foreign and domestic policies homogenized, and all enforceable in a single over-riding legal jurisdiction. Since whole areas of national sovereignty were to be given away, the British Labour government under Tony Blair said that the country would have a referendum on whether to accept this constitution, and the manifesto that the party published before the last election directly and clearly promised to hold one. The issue did not then come to a head because the French and the Dutch voted convincingly to reject this proposed constitution. That should have been that. However, the EU does not operate in an open and democratic way. The Brussels bureaucrats tried another tack, and have now presented their constitution in a virtually identical form, but relabelled as a treaty taking its name from Lisbon. It is just a play with words. Offered a referendum, several countries, perhaps even a majority, would vote as the French and Dutch did, and reject the confidence trick being played on them.
The British would most certainly reject this constitution, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Blair’s heir, knows it. He has therefore pretended that the Lisbon treaty is not the constitution in a disguised form, and so needs only to be voted on in the Westminster parliament where he can be sure of a majority. He has consigned his party’s promise to hold a referendum to the waste-paper basket. He also used all the traditional sticks and carrots to oblige his parliamentarians to vote to accept the treaty. 29 of them chose to defy their leader and party for the sake of upholding the promise of a referendum. All honor to them, but they were not numerous enough to save the day. Here is the extraordinary and ominous spectacle of a democratic parliament passing its powers to an undemocratic body without any legitimization from the people.
The last time anything comparable occurred was in July 1940, in the days immediately after the conquest of France by Germany. The French Assembly met in Vichy and voted itself out of existence. A handful of deputies voted against the motion, and one brave man shouted, “Long live the Republic all the same.”
What is hard to understand is the apathy of the British at the enormity of what is being foisted on them without their consent. Evidently they cannot trust a government that so lightly breaks its promises. If the past is any guide, on the shameful day when Brown whipped this treaty through Westminster, huge mobs should have been surging through the streets in protest. Perhaps the British are no longer the people they were, but I believe they are, and that they will rise up when they realise that the lying and cheating really isn’t a matter of political technicalities, but a cover for the surrender of sovereignty. This is a people that down the centuries has fought for its liberties. A historic nation state like Britain does not die easily. The EU, it seems clear to me and many that I talk to, is dooming us to future violence.