“My first guiding principle is this: willing and active cooperation between independent sovereign states is the best way to build a successful European Community” one soft-spoken British lady said in a speech 30 years ago that highlighted her growing discomfort at a morphing political project.
Margaret Thatcher, then the conservative prime minister, spoke about her scepticism about the European Union (then called the European Economic Community) in a prophetic speech in 1988. She understood what type of social reaction could be unleashed against a bunch of unelected, unaccountable elites.
“Working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy,” she said, and “To try to suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the centre of a European conglomerate would be highly damaging and would jeopardise the objectives we seek to achieve.”
Perhaps in what was the most startling foresight of it all, she said: “Of course, we must make it easier for people to travel throughout the Community. But it is a matter of plain common sense that we cannot totally abolish frontier controls if we are also to protect our citizens from crime and stop the movement of drugs, of terrorists and of illegal immigrants.”
Her final warning was, “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”
Last week, Theresa May, another British “conservative” PM, lost in one of the largest defeats in Parliament for a purported EU deal she made that was heavily opposed by pretty much everyone in the country. She arguably “negotiated” a deal to keep Britain in the single market of the European Union, in lieu of a backstop in the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland (which remains part of the EU, and over which the EU will have a veto).
Put simply, British borders would be at the EU’s mercy, and for the first time in more than 1,000 years, a continental power would have the right to dictate sovereign terms to the United Kingdom. It was a mockery of the Brexit vote and was roundly rejected in Parliament. Undaunted, she carried on with her robotic metronome, crying “Brexit means Brexit,” whatever that means, while tying Britain to the European super-state for eternity.
May Is Hardly A Conservative
I put conservative within scare quotes, because for anyone perceptive enough to see May is not a conservative by any measurable index. Her tenure has seen the largest influx of Romanian and Albanians to the United Kingdom, and an increase in criminal gangs. As prime minister, she proudly calls herself a feminist, and is determined to make “divorce without a cause” easier for couples.
Crime, stabbing, thuggery, hooliganism, and deviance are at record numbers in British cities, as well as homelessness due to crushing austerity. Public service, railways, the National Health Service, and the postal service are reeling from pressure and lack of retainment, and police cuts atop frivolous law enforcing mean police are mandated to focus on thought crimes on social media while ignoring actual crimes on streets.
The armed forces are at their weakest since the Napoleonic wars, and the Royal Navy is the smallest since the Spanish Armada. For a great power that is the fifth-largest economy in the world, and with its independent nuclear deterrence, Britain might as well be considered a quasi-failed state, the sickest man of the Anglosphere. It is all simply due to the incompetence and mismanagement and ideological dogmatism of the bipartisan ruling class. It logically shouldn’t be. Yet it is.
British people, just like their other Western counterparts, wanted to get out of this rut. They were told they can, and by God and St George, they did take the leap. But the British elite, overwhelmingly from academia, media, public institutions, and banks, regardless of the political parties, never intended to get out of the European Union.
While that might be a perfectly legitimate position, it is rule by elites, not the people’s consent. That got skewered when David Cameron, under a false sense of complacency, gave in to plebiscitary instincts. Just like the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of right-leaning governments across Europe, Brexit was a revolt of the masses, against rule by transnational technocrats. It was the first spark.
The ‘Resistance’ Kicked In
The people have spoken, but they didn’t say the words they were expected to say. So democracy must be delegitimized, through direct action and protests, nongovernmental organizations, and mass movements, bureaucratic subterfuge, delay, and denial.
The United Kingdom is, of course, no British Empire, and going toe-to-toe with the European Union was never an option, because EU is an empire in the making, with relative power and economy seven times larger than the British. But Britain had a few advantages. The reasons for Brexit were not racism, sexism, nor xenophobia, no matter how many times The Guardian reports it as such, but an overwhelming aspiration to break free of a political project that makes national sovereignty practically meaningless.
To make Brexit successful, Britain had to put those cards off the table and she chose not to, right at the beginning. British security providing British money for European funds, British Navy patrolling the Arctic and Mediterranean, and British troops and intelligence guarding Europe’s eastern frontier should have been on the line of negotiations.
Secret talks of bilateral deals with the rest of the Anglosphere, including the United States and Australia, should have been concluded by now, and channels of communication established with forces and powers that are on the forefront of this global shift and return to nationalism and sovereignty opposed to borderless institutionalism. Instead, it was an abject surrender from an awkward PM and her clueless comrades. It’s almost like in a bizarre spectacle: the great power, once famed for amoral, ruthless diplomacy, forgot how to make deals and ensure a balance of power.
Britain is a small fish, however. Sooner or later, the bigger inevitable confrontation will be between the United States and EU. For more than 500 years, the fundamental idea behind Anglo-American grand strategy was to ensure no single centralized power with hegemonic tendencies rules over the European continent. The logic behind that was simple divide and rule.
Anyone who lords over entire Europe would have enough manpower and trade power to dictate terms other sovereign nation-states. History and politics are fickle, and even a friendly continental hegemon can turn against allies, especially if one is a maritime power like the United States or UK.
Britain might have to choose––and frightfully soon––if it wants to be aligned with free market, sea-faring, sovereign-nationalist cousins across the pond, or operate under a new order established from Mittel Europa, under an increasingly hostile, centralized, ideological, and imperial supranational institution ruled by unelected elites, just as American conservatives will have to choose if they want to keep Britain as an ally, or lose her to a hegemonic EU.
Meanwhile, any dilution––or worse, denial––of Brexit will unleash political forces that British elites cannot possibly imagine, and could lead to the destruction of the British two-party system in a way similar to France and Italy.
This article has been corrected with respect to the former term for the EU during Thatcher’s tenure.