By D. J. Webb
NB – This essay does not constitute an endorsement or condemnation by the Libertarian Alliance of any candidate in the present General Election. SIG
I wrote on this topic recently, but have more to say as the topic is fast-moving. Do Europeans owe anything to Britain? That’s an important question. In the Second World War, Winston Churchill made clear that the war was being fought for the freedom of all European countries, and not for imperial conquest. In his “Finest Hour” speech to the House of Commons on June 18th 1940, he said:
However matters may go in France or with the French Government, or other French Governments, we in this Island and in the British Empire will never lose our sense of comradeship with the French people. If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye, and freedom shall be restored to all. We abate nothing of our just demands; not one jot or tittle do we recede. Czechs, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians have joined their causes to our own. All these shall be restored. What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.
It is noteworthy that Britain was fighting a war of choice—it did not seek terms with Nazi Germany—and was fighting, in fact, for the freedom of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. Was it worth it?
I do believe that historical perspective is important, and that we should deal with other nations on the basis of historical memory. For example, we recall in our dealings with Greece and Italy that these countries have been of vital importance to the historical development of civilization in Europe, and at a long remove, we should be cognizant of the cultural and economic advantages bestowed on the Roman province of Britannia by the Romans. At a minimum, they evoke in us a residual affection. Of course, as history recedes, the ability of these countries to demand a special status owing to their illustrious history has to decline too. But some recognition of the achievements of the most glorious nations and what they have done for all of European civilization is in order.
Britain is a special country—we are told in the media and in the schools today that this is not the case—but a cursory reading of history shows that we are of vital importance to Europe. Economically, we gave the world the industrial revolution and capitalism. Politically, democracy and human rights (even where absurdly misinterpreted) are among our gifts to the world. Culturally, literature, drama and film are among the arts to which we have made great contributions that remain to this day part of the canon of world literature. Scientifically, Europe looks to us for having provided electricity, railways, automobiles, planes, computers, the telephone, television and the Internet. It is not an exaggeration to state that the prosperity of the whole of Europe, and indeed of every country in the world, comes on the back our our ancestors’—and not their ancestors’—achievements. English children should grow up with a knowledge of and pride in this.
Geopolitically, we have always sought to prevent combinations on the Continent, and stood against the Habsburgs and Imperial Spain, Napoleonic France, the Kaiser’s Germany and Nazi Germany. We also made an outsized contribution in the Cold War. Numerous European countries owe their freedom to us. I do not deny that historical memory works both ways. Maybe—I say this for the purpose of discussion—the prominence of Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain provides us with good reason to take, if possible and where facilitated by Poland’s own foreign policy, a pro-Polish view of modern international affairs, and if we need immigrants going forward, we could well consider prioritising Poland, as well as Czechs, Belgians, Frenchmen, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, all represented in the Battle of Britain. However, there is no other European country that can lay claim to being the author of European freedom. True, Russian blood was expended to an immense degree in the defeat of Germany, but many European countries will be mindful that Russia was ultimately engaged in its own war of imperial conquest of Eastern Europe.
We are special, and do deserve recognition in Europe. Yet we get none. Or less than none, as all 27 EU countries have agreed to try to punish Britain for asserting its sovereignty. Would Luxembourg be free today without Britain? Jean-Claude Junker’s treatment of Britain is disgusting from a Luxembourgeois national. Does he not know that Luxemburgers huddled round the wireless in the 1940s listening to the World Service, hoping or praying that Britain or America would come to their salvation? I cannot abide the continental Europeans who refuse to acknowledge this. They will end up making an enemy of Britain, with long-term consequences.
It’s time to realise that the European nations we liberated were not worth it. They turned out to be ingrates. We need to face up to this. We wasted the lives of our servicemen for nothing. Who would wage war to liberate Belgium now?
The important point to note is the German drive to war, an objective and not a subjective drive in that many Germans would deny it exists. The poisoning of international relations led by the Germans flows from their international position. Everything Nicholas Ridley said about a united Germany has come true. Think of the nation that demanded during the Irish bailout talks that the Irish budget be submitted, not to the European Commission in Brussels, but to the German government itself for approval before being presented to the Irish parliament. Now we have the leaks against Theresa May co-ordinated by a German member of the commission. The determination that Brexit be a failure reflects German insistence that it be so.
Germany is also a country that owes its freedom to Britain, and indeed depends for its security, in part, on a British military presence. Who is to say where the poisoning of international relations will end? The German/French mode of exercising geopolitical power insists on humiliation of rivals (think of Versailles, of the behaviour of Nazi Germany, of the treatment of Greece and Ireland under Merkel). Britain has a different cultural style—and we often err by assuming our counterparts basically are the same as us, when they are culturally quite distinct—that favours a rational reaching of a compromise. The French have a sense of wounded pride to assuage. The Germans demand to have their pre-eminence acknowledged. They will not allow the reaching of a rational compromise that more or less meets everyone’s requirements.
I think we need to rethink NATO, and quickly. If all 27 EU nations clapped while agreeing Carthaginian terms for Brexit, that includes Estonia. But Estonia is host to British troops defending them against Russia. It’s time they made a choice: are they allies or are they enemies? If I were in power, I would adopt a stance of belligerent neutrality. NATO would go. The troops would be home from Estonia and Germany. I would spend more on the military, making clear to Germany that we have no intention of losing the next war.
As for Macron’s assertion in the French presidential campaign that he would close down the UK border in Calais, we must respond by bricking up the Channel Tunnel. We have got to stop acceding to everything our “partners” want, because we are being taken for granted. If they want economic, military and political relations with us, they need to start acting like allies, and quickly.
I do not deny that Britain has not always behaved well. The treatment of Iceland in the last financial crisis was a disgrace: UK depositors lost their money in Icelandic banks, which were not covered by a deposit guarantee. The UK and Dutch governments stepped in to provide a guarantee retrospectively, using their greater geopolitical power to force Iceland to pay for it. I would cancel all Iceland’s debts to the UK government immediately, in the interests of not behaving like Merkel and Junker on the international stage, and call on Holland to do the same.
Finally, there is an important point here. Germany is rising. There will be war on the continent one day, and we will not be allied with Germany. The stupidity of NATO is that it requires us to be anti-Russian, when Britain and Russia (look at the map!) are natural allies against Germany. If the Poles and Balts and other Europeans wish to throw in their lot with Germany, they may end up regretting it. I would advise Poland that the long-term risk to Poland is not just from Russia, but from Germany too, and that alienating Britain is not a fantastic geopolitical strategy. Certainly, Poland’s demand that we continue subsidising their farms even after Brexit is absurd and not the act of an ally.
There are times when it is important not to overreact. But when the tectonic plates are clearly shifting, the government must be nimble. Theresa May must note the rising tensions in Europe—which fully justify our exit and indeed underline our demand for it—and respond accordingly. Immediate refusal to pay any more money to Brussels even before 2019 is apparently the government’s “nuclear” option. I would activate it immediately and go for a quick Brexit. I’d guarantee the rights of EU citizens already here unilaterally, to avoid getting trapped in negotiations, and just accept that if the Spanish eject the British from Torremolinos, we will have to take them back. This is no time for a business as usual approach. Unfortunately, this issue means I will have to vote Conservative, as, despite her likely spinelessness, for now she deserves the support of every Englishman. Theresa, for God’s sake, don’t let us down. As we said in the war, “very well, then—ALONE!”