This Island’s Nations

1280px-The_Battle_of_Britain_Monument._Victoria_Embankment,_London

This Island’s Nations

Stuart Millson believes that Brexit will rejuvenate Britain

In my anti-federal Europe days of 20 to 25 years ago, never did I believe that I would see a reversal of the European Union’s control of my country. Yet we are now at the exit door of the European project, an experiment that began for us back in 1972, when the then Conservative Government of Edward Heath effectively ended 300 years or sovereign constitutional self-government (not to mention the dissolution of our own economic single market – the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the Commonwealth). Today, a Conservative Government is once again at the helm, but it is executing what, for the liberal establishment, is unthinkable: the wholesale rejection of a system of supra-national administration by experts, the great-and-the-good, the elite, the politicians and Eurocrats who always know best.

The breath of relief from ordinary voters following our vote to leave the EU, has, however, been tempered by a sequence of difficult events, which, whilst not derailing the Brexit process, have made our progress towards national freedom more difficult. The legal action brought by an investment manager (representing a group of offshore, pro-Remain business people) appeared to block the Brexit juggernaut – albeit temporarily. Counting on the Government to consult Parliament before any attempt to leave the EU, the litigants hoped for a dilution of Prime Minister, Theresa May’s Brexit agenda – and even a possible semi-reversal of the referendum result from last June. Remainers also hoped that the devolved assemblies of the United Kingdom, particularly the SNP-dominated Scottish Parliament, might be given some form of appeal against – or say in – Brexit. But their hopes were confounded: the Tory and Labour parliamentary parties (sensibly observing the rule that in politics you do not deny the will of over 17 million electors – the number which supported ‘Leave’) voted to give the Prime Minister full authority to implement EU withdrawal legislation. The Supreme Court also ruled that the Scottish Parliament had no competence in matters relating to UK foreign policy – Scotland, of course, having voted in its 2014 referendum to remain part of the Kingdom (by a convincing ten per cent margin).

And therein lies the next constitutional and emotional obstacle in the Brexit saga: the barely-suppressed anger and refusal by the SNP Government to accept the democratically-settled status quo – with Edinburgh’s First Minister even demanding another “independence” referendum (in truth, secession from the UK linked to a bizarre embracing of the EU, rather than any true vision of ancestral Scottish sovereignty). Although the Scottish Government is correct in observing that Scotland’s voters wanted their country (and indeed the United Kingdom, come to that) to remain in the European Union, the First Minister seems to believe that these voters – by rejecting Brexit – automatically constitute an anti-British, anti-Westminster popular movement. It is highly doubtful if Scottish Remainers (or indeed their English counterparts) are supportive of the EU, or that Scots have any real axe to grind against UK membership. There are also no definite signs (at least, at this stage) from tests of public opinion north of the border that Caledonia wishes to bid farewell to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – and head for the meeting rooms of Brussels and Berlin. But still there seems a tension between Scotland and the rest of the nation, a loss of familiarity and friendship. The time has come – and people of goodwill from the SNP surely have a part to play here – to resolve the unhappiness and disjointedness of our present situation.

As the whole country now prepares for what could be years of difficult and tedious negotiations with the (unelected) leaders of the European Union, and as we contemplate the zeal with which the Scottish Government adheres to its idea of “independence”, is it time to re-create the United Kingdom – in tune with the ideal, enshrined in Brexit, of individual nations achieving self-government? Unlike Scotland, England has no Parliament of its own – no “First Minister”, no political definition at all – save for the feeble idea, created by the Blair, Brown and Cameron governments, of “English regions”. Wales, too, a fiercely individually patriotic country (but strongly supportive of UK Brexit) has long felt ignored or subsumed in a Britain that takes little interest in either its struggles or achievements. Perhaps it is now time for England and Wales to achieve parity with Scotland – many Scottish Nationalists, perhaps, not realising how lucky they are to have the self-government that I, as an Englishman, do not have.

Cornwall has also recently flexed its muscles. Like a storyline from the 1960s’ film, The Mouse that Roared, the ancient Cornish nation has achieved, through its flag (the Cross of St. Piran), and through a revival of its indigenous language and proud County Council administration, an almost national status. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland remains Unionist, despite signs that supporters of a more political form of Irish nationalism, through Sinn Fein and the descendants of the old SDLP, could – over the generations – form a majority in the Province. Although a true Unionist, I would (in this short article) like to think that a way out of this problem could be found – and that is why I ask the question: is Eire, the Republic of Ireland, really a “foreign” nation? Or is it, like Ulster, or England – or Scotland – a British nation, simply with a different temperament and ideals – and national experience? Could Eire ever become part of a new Union of the British Isles, which is what the United Kingdom in a century from now could become?

The Brexit vote last year enabled us to find our will to self-government, once again. The vote symbolised an almost wartime image of the nation standing alone, refusing to accept any longer the threat (and reality) of rule from a foreign capital – in this case, Brussels. We voted in the June 2016 EU referendum as one Kingdom, and we must also remember how, in 2014, Scotland expressed its desire to remain in that 300-year-old arrangement. But Britain, although wrapped in red, white and blue, is the home of regional, localised identities – and the time may have come to create a federal (but still united) country: with English and Scots meeting at Westminster for foreign policy and defence, but governing themselves – taxation, transport, environment – within their own nations. One thing, however, is certain: the people of these islands will no longer be ruled from elsewhere. Brexit has ensured that we will remain Britons, rather than “citizens of the European Union”. Now – as masters of our own destiny – we can revive and embrace an even wider and more democratic vision of Britain.

STUART MILLSON is QR’s classical music editor

 

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13 Responses to This Island’s Nations

  1. David Ashton says:

    A problem with the Irish border?
    Maybe redraw it along the River Bann, and impose a customs check?

    Control of our own laws, control of permanent immigration and control of our economic survival (including domestic ownership of our national assets)are the focal criteria. The first is (theoretically) simple, but the other two are more problematic than some Brexiteers suppose.

    Out of the Brussel frying pan today and into the Beijing fire tomorrow?

    • Thomas Moon says:

      Controlling immigration is only seen as a problem by those who (even if they claim otherwise) wish mass immigration to continue. What is the problem? Just tell them they can’t come!

  2. Thomas Moon says:

    “In my anti-federal Europe days of 20 to 25 years ago” rather implies that you have been pro-EU for the past twenty years. I know that this is definitely not the case, Mr Millson! I hope your optimism is justified and that enough of the old spirit remains for Britain to rebuild herself.

  3. Stuart Millson says:

    Thank you, Mr. Moon! I see what you mean – but was referring to those energetic days when I was actively opposing the Maastricht Treaty; and the “Eurosceptics” were a determined fringe, rather than the majority which they are today. At that time there was no Ukip, and a number of campaigns sprang up, calling themselves ‘Anti-Federal Europe’. (Alan Sked’s Anti-Federalist League eventually became the UK Independence Party.)

    I hope – as David Ashton warns, above – that we are not jumping out of the Brussels frying pan into a Beijing fire. It is really a pity that ‘Europe’ (the European Community/Union) did not content itself with being a cultural community, with a preference for home trade – but still trading with others, and allowing the member-states to be fully-functioning states with their own currencies. If we had just had a low-key Europe of nations, the Eurocrats such as “President” Tusk would not be in the position they are. The EU has pushed and pushed, and the result is disillusionment and rebellion.

    I hope that global Britain means real trade with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, rather than us being taken over by international banks or becoming an offshoot of Beijing! However, that does not mean to say that we can’t create some very productive arrangements with China and others – as long as we keep our soul.

  4. David Ashton says:

    Hope breeds eternal, dear Stuart, in Much Malling in the Marsh, but rescuing the United Kingdom from the “EU” is only 48% of the Battle for Britain. The 52% is preventing eventual “transgendering” of our primarily Anglo-Saxon nation, through compulsory state-enforced “equality & diversity”, into a largely Afro-Asian “community of communities” with a powerful Islamic presence.

    We are now told that immigration will in any case continue unabated after leaving. But the problem is not so much a few transient Lithuanian lettuce-pickers in Lincolnshire, as entire colonies of “asylum seekers” and “undocumented arrivals” from the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile Communist China remains Australia’s largest trade partner, and our industries and land are being sold off to foreigners.

    The great opportunity, advocated by Sir Arthur Bryant and others during the 1950s, to bring our Old Dominions into the Common Market and to help shape its institutions, originally designed to prevent another continental war, was neglected; and we instead then adopted the unedifying role of the short-sighted spinster suffragette throwing herself in front of the German horse in vain attempts to unseat its French jockey.

    In all this, however, we retain something in common not only with other western Anglophone countries but our related family of non-BAME nations from Belfast to Budapest. I see England, and New Zealand, not only as fully part of the European civilization, but our own people as exemplary members of it, especially as its leading empire-builders, inventors and poets.

    May I for now just bring a few quotations into the post-Brexit discussion?

    “Stripped of her Empire…deprived of the sovereignty of the seas, loaded with debt and taxation, her commerce and carrying trade cut out by tariffs and quotas, England would sink to the level of a fifth-rate power, and nothing would remain of her glories except a population much larger than this island can support.” – Winston Churchill, Royal Society of St George, 1933.

    “The capacity of a fully established society like ours to absorb immigrants of alien race and religion is limited.” – The Royal Commission on Population, 1949.

    “What if one day race war combines with class war to make an end of the white world?” – Oswald Spengler, 1934.

    SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE!

  5. Stuart Millson says:

    Well, David, here at Much Malling-in-the-Marsh, there may not be much of Malling left after this year, if the Borough Council gives permission for some 4,000 new houses (a disproportionate amount of the projected needs of the district) to go ahead. The likely suburban sprawl – though passionately opposed by the heroic local Lib Dems (I will forgive them, on this occasion, for their pro-Remain views) and the Conservative Borough Councillor (though a year or two back, he doubted if many new houses would be built at all) – will diminish our countryside and the village’s own little greenbelt. If the houses are built, it is likely that they will be lived in by the thousands of internal English migrants (from South East London) desperate to leave the depressing cities, and to be able to breathe (semi) fresh air. I feel sympathy for these migrants, but in coming down to the shires, they will begin to erode the very thing they seek: the landscape of England.

    On another matter, I came face to face with a diehard Remainer on Thursday at a (non-political) function. The person was perfectly pleasant, but I was so depressed to listen to their arguments – “we’re not good enough to survive on our own”/”the EU has made us more modern than we’d ever have been without it”/”we’re turning inward” (even though I pointed out that Britain is likely to trade again with the countries on the other side of the globe which we unceremoniously dumped in favour of the Common Market) etc. It is as if the Remain side has inserted a tape, or some form of microchip into its supporters, that makes them all trot out these arguments. Extraordinary to hear it all “in the flesh”, rather than via the BBC; how so many people in this country have given up on their own land – that it is “weak” or not good enough for them (not as exciting as being in Rome or Turin), and that we have to be governed by some magical problem-solving elite in a foreign capital. I can understand continental Europeans seeking some sort of salvation in the EU – after all, as Prof. Alan Sked has pointed out, the countries of the continent experienced so many invasions, revolutions, changes of government, that they now seek strong institutions to comfort and support them. But surely Britain – the nation that created the greatest trading empire since ancient Rome – is capable of living outside the European Union?

    I asked the Remainer: whatever did anyone do before the EU was ever thought of? At that point, the conversation really did stall!

    Like David, I very much believe in belonging to a cultural Europe, linked to the Anglosphere. But I fear that the EU is, in fact, a politically-correct organisation, with very little understanding of the need to secure the European “homeland”. Mrs. Merkel’s immigration policy gives little cause for confidence – although one could argue that our own Governments, since the 1950s, have thought little about the consequences of opening up the country to anyone who just wants to drop in and settle. Hence the new housing and development now ploughing through the soil of the Home Counties…

  6. David Ashton says:

    I agree with most of that actually. Housing demand results to a significant extent from PC policies on immigration and family life. Your local problems are a microcosm of the greater peril.

    Sadly England is not the same as it was in 1817 or 1917 or even 1947. The immigration dangers now facing France and Germany are similar to those facing us, although their historic responses are both different. We need a common policy to defend our shared civilization, from Quebec to Queensland, against both Marxists and Muslims.

    Vive la Generation Identitaire! The Anglo-Celts desperately need a “branch” of our own.

  7. Stuart Millson says:

    The anti-Brexit/Flat Earth Society BBC was trying to portray Mrs. May’s announcement yesterday of a snap General Election as “a broken promise”. “How can you trust her?” bemoaned the PM Programme’s presenter!

    I can imagine all the people at bus queues and in the pub wailing – “oh no, a snap election – and she said she wouldn’t call one until 2020. How CAN you trust her?”!

  8. David Ashton says:

    I fear they might be saying “Not ANOTHER election”. To ensure a total defeat of Comrade Corby and Revd Farron, she will have to give the health service, school-teachers and prison officers a boost in numbers. More that a voter draw – a national necessity. The smack of firm governess is not enough.

  9. Stuart Millson says:

    I cannot understand Tim Farron’s policy of holding another referendum on the final Brexit deal – particularly as it was Mr. Farron who emphatically supported Gina Miller’s legal action, resulting in the Government being required to bring Brexit before the Houses of Parliament. This the Government duly did (following the Supreme Court ruling) – with Parliament authorising Theresa May to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Finally, with decisive majorities, the Commons and the Lords voted in favour of the subsequent EU Exit Bill, unamended. So all that Tim Farron, the Lib Dems, the Remainers wanted – i.e. Parliament to give the Government the moral and legal authority to act upon Brexit – was honoured. And yet (despite their despising the first Referendum result) Mr. Farron and assorted Remainders still demand ANOTHER vote.

    Given that the latest opinion poll (as much as one can trust opinion polls) puts support for getting on with the Brexit process at 68 per cent, Tim Farron seems to have committed the Lib Dems – once the party of devolution and decentralisation – to a damaging and inconsistent pro-Brussels, pro-Remain policy. It would have been much better for the Lib Dems to say: well, we always supported EU membership, but the result of last June must stand, and it is our job to influence negotiations before the final deal. A much more principled position.

  10. Stuart Millson says:

    An extraordinary sequence of events during and after the General Election. Glad to see the parties of the Union surging forward, once again, in Scotland – and some astonishing results from the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. (Theresa May, it seems, wasn’t the only national leader to misread elements of the public mood: no doubt the First Minister in Edinburgh is also reappraising the lie of the land…)

    As for Brexit, I have been heartened by a general affirmation that the process is still moving forward and will be implemented (everyone it seems from Harriet Harman to Jeremy Corbyn to Tory Remainers are now of one mind – or, at least, they are no longer in denial about the Referendum’s significance and the inevitability of our detachment from Brussels). However, along the way, there are bound to be practical and pragmatic clause-by-clause considerations – which will shape our EU exit. Barry Gardiner of Labour, has been arguing (as I understand it) for Britain to have some form of associate status in relation to the Single Market, and Ruth Davidson has talked of an “open Brexit” (again, unclear, but suggestive of a more give-and-take approach). I feel that the post-election spirit is one of re-assessment and reflection, so it may be that an eve-of-Brexit summit of all the UK political leaders is needed – if only to show the public (and the Eurocrats) that the new Government is keen to listen and to bring the people along with it.

    I am sure that “Sir Humphrey” and his friends will work out some clever compromises during the talks, but perhaps – as in all things – we never quite end up with exactly what we set out to do. With an ounce or two of good will – and a recognition that the public wants to see this measure enacted, but not in a Government-knows-best fashion – I am sure Brexit will muddle through.

    Just one final thing about the election result: if you said to someone who did not know anything about our political system (or the reasons for calling the election) that – (a) the Conservatives had won 43 per cent of the vote at the polls, (b) that they were 50 seats ahead of their nearest rival, and (c) the Tory Prime Minister had returned to Downing Street, that person would probably consider the outcome a great success.

  11. David Ashton says:

    “Muddling through” is an alleged characteristic of the “English” who used to be the national majority in “England”, but not much use against the determined efforts of the enemies within – Money, Mob & Marxism.

    The New Left 50-year agenda-working through our institutions, from education to entertainment, legislation to fashion for its specific “race-gender-class” ideology, which has deliberately enlisted “minorities” and “students”, has been pretty successful so far. But the time is ripe for the aggressive push to implement to final category of “class war”.

    Hence McDonnell’s call to mobilise a million-person street demo against a weakened government, and the forthcoming riots and strikes, facilitated by modern media and mobile communications, stimulated by “Brexit” and Banker crises. “If we rely entirely on ‘conservatives’ to defeat the communists, then we will be defeated by communism” (O. Mosley).

  12. Stuart Millson says:

    Some appalling pictures in the Daily Mail yesterday of snarling, inner-city class-war/war-against-everything activists – shouting, face-to-face, at the police. I wonder what would have happened to a Countryside Alliance demonstrator or angry Brexiteer engaged in the same “civil disobedience”: doubtless they would have been carted away. (Happily, nearly every placard carried by the Left contained a spelling mistake. So much for the Inner London Education Authority.)

    It is extraordinary how so many middle-class people in this country have been seduced (or rather, scammed) by the “schools/hospitals/commuuunities/caring” agenda put forward by Corbyn and McDonnell. I was talking to two such people yesterday, in rural Suffolk of all places – well-meaning but deluded people who will, one day, be appalled when the class-war, megaphone-brandishing zealots scream and shout outside their detached houses.

    Meanwhile, aided by the outrageously biased BBC (the Anti-Brexit Broadcasting Corporation) our Government’s constructive and noble efforts to conclude a practical deal for our EU Exit are undermined and portrayed as “failing” or “unclear”. Sadly, the unnecessary General Election has emboldened the Left (even though the Tories gained a substantial 43 per cent of the vote) – with every BBC/ITV commentary on the election describing it as “a disaster for Theresa May”.

    My view (for what it is worth in this, our tottering state) is that Mrs. May must stand firm, and the Conservatives and Unionists in Parliament must maintain discipline and strength. Mrs. May needs to understand that this is not “ordinary politics”: this is a period (as you say, David) in which destabilising forces are now at work.

    For me, loyalty to Queen and country is everything. And I believe that the majority of people – beyond the “punished, anonymous landscapes” of our inner cities – share this view.

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