Brexit: These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

This is an extraordinary time. 

Ten days ago, Britain voted to leave the European Union, after 43 years of slithering down a glass mountain towards the formation of a monolithic superstate, something that was always the intention of its founders but which we had not realised until long into our descent. Already there has been far more interference with the internal workings of member states than the US Government would dare – when did Congress ever depose and appoint State Governors, as the EU has done with Greek Presidents?

Astonishingly, President Obama – whose forerunners have often been referred to as “the leader of the free world” – flew in two months beforehand to assure us that the EU “made us greater.” Had Prime Minister Cameron flown to the USA to urge a surrender of American sovereignty to an unelected council of Central American national appointees, we should not have expected his safe return.

At a single blow from the British people’s maul, the electorate and both major political parties have been cloven. We are in constitutional crisis. Half the country hates the other half with spitting venom, Parliament is revealed to be massively and unrepresentatively partisan for the abandonment of independence, the Conservative Prime Minister is a man gone but not departed, yet his pro-Leave colleagues have resigned and resiled even faster, and Labour MPs are desperately trying to buck out of the saddle a leader who was recently overwhelmingly chosen by their Party’s membership. Thousands demonstrate in London for the overturning of a plebiscite decided by millions in a turnout that exceeded that of the last five General Elections. Facebook is awash in emotional incontinence. Everyone is howling with their hands over their ears.

The last time we had such a choice, the EU was the "Common Market", a trading arrangement as we were told, though confidential legal advice to ministers in 1960 showed that the then Conservative government knew exactly what it was planning: Lord Kilmuir wrote to Edward Heath saying, “It would in theory be possible for Parliament to enact at the outset legislation which would give automatic force of law to any existing or future regulations made by the appropriate organs of the Community. For Parliament to do this would go far beyond the most extensive delegation of powers, even in wartime, that we have experienced and I do not think there is any likelihood of this being acceptable to the House of Commons.” [House of Commons Research Paper 10/79, Appendix 2]

In 1973 we were in, but without a referendum; that came two years later, after the Labour Party had campaigned for an exit while in opposition and then for ratification once in power. The Press were unanimously pro-Common Market and the Labour referendum leaflet told those who bothered to read it that the vote was for “FOOD and MONEY and JOBS.” After the threat, the assurance: “Fact No. 3. The British Parliament in Westminster retains the final right to repeal the Act which took us into the Market on January 1, 1973. Thus our continued membership will depend on the continuing assent of Parliament.”

Then came the Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992 and confirmed by the UK in April 1993 – MP Tony Benn said clearly that it was his “last speech in a free Parliament”; and the Lisbon Treaty, signed in secret by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008 after the other 28 leaders had been and gone.

For nearly 30 years and until constituency boundaries were redrawn before the 2010 General Election, I lived in an area that solidly returned an MP of one party, no matter what I did. This referendum is only the third time in my life that my vote reflected the American principle that “all men were created equal”, a phrase from a Constitution that was modelled on the Glorious British Revolution of 1688. The previous two occasions were the 1975 EEC ballot, and the 2011 campaign to make the voting system more representative, and in both of those the media and political parties colluded to heavily skew the debate and get the result they wanted. 

Some observers suspect that the revolution will be strangled at birth by a political class secretly determined to obfuscate and delay until the EU can resurge like Napoleon, who at Marengo, having lost the battle at five o’clock, won it back at seven. This is possible, because from April 1st 2017, new Qualified Majority Voting rules come into effect, requiring the secession of a member State to be supported by 14 others. The door of liberty will slam shut, with no handle on the inside.

I said before the Referendum that this would be either the first vote for democracy, or the last one against it. I cast my ballot with no expectation of success and woke to find a new country. Will it be stolen by crooks and crybabies?

Happy Fourth of July, my American friends and family.

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