Brexit: A new awakening

August 28, 2018 13:22
By voting to leave, the British people voted for the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of the judiciary, for control of their finances, and for an end to EU regulation. Photo: Reuters

In last year’s United Kingdom general election, the Conservative and Labour parties both campaigned in support of the decision taken in 2016 to leave the European Union. Between them, they amassed 26,515,144 votes, which dwarfed the numbers cast for parties wishing to remain.

In the referendum itself, 17,410,742 people, or 51.8 percent of voters, had voted in favor of Britain taking back control of its affairs from Brussels, which broke all records.

However, in defiance of the clear popular will, there are still prominent people who, just months before the UK’s departure on 29 March, are still seeking to thwart Brexit, by whatever means. They are now pressing for yet another vote, which is a familiar EU tactic, when confronted with popular decisions it dislikes. Although they claim to be supporting democracy, they are the very same people who, over the years, have meekly surrendered huge swathes of parliamentary power to the EU.

Some years ago, my mother contacted her local Member of Parliament over an issue of concern. He replied that, although he sympathized with her point of view and disagreed with the law in question, he was powerless to act. This was because the matter was governed by an EU regulation, which Parliament could not alter.

This, of course, was symptomatic of a wider malaise, with the mother of parliaments, shorn of much of its sovereignty, having been reduced in many areas to little more than a glorified talking shop. As the EU’s areas of competence have steadily expanded, so Parliament has increasingly been required to rubber-stamp decisions taken by the Brussels bureaucracy, even when it disagrees.

Although, for many years, the British people have sought redress of their various grievances, the politicians have often found their hands tied. For example, their concerns over mass immigration, which has placed unprecedented strain on the education, housing and social welfare systems, were simply disregarded, as nothing could be done, given the EU’s open borders policy.

Once they were given the chance, therefore, the voters, not surprisingly, decided that enough was enough. Their vote was fueled not by nostalgia, but by a realistic appraisal of how the EU project was developing.

By voting to leave, the electors were not, as Remainers cynically claim, simply harking back to some golden age of the empire. They were voting instead for the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of the judiciary, for control of their finances, and for an end to EU regulation. A proud people, having been pushed to their limits, decided that it was time to reclaim their political birthright, and who can blame them? 

During the 1975 referendum on membership of the European Economic Community – now the EU – the British people were solemnly assured that all that they had joined was a trading bloc, no more and no less. They voted in favor on that basis, but the prospectus was fatally flawed. There was no mention of the political union which, as archival sources have now revealed, was the tacit objective of its founders, in the 1950s.

People were not told that approximately 60 percent of their laws would, either directly or indirectly, be made by the EU, as had happened by 2016, or that their Parliament would be neutered. That British judges, with their common law traditions, would become subordinate to the European Court of Justice, dominated by civil law jurists, was never once mentioned.

Still less were people told of the plans for an EU foreign service, an EU army, or for the abolition of border controls. Had the proposed direction of travel been clearly spelled out in 1975, the outcome would undoubtedly have been very different, but they were deliberately misled over the intended destination.

The mask, however, finally slipped in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty was rammed through Parliament, by the narrowest of majorities. The treaty confirmed that the EU’s plan was for “ever closer union”, including a common currency, a common foreign and security policy, and even EU citizenship.

In common parlance, a federal superstate was now envisaged, not a mere trading body. This, of course, was something for which the British people had never signed up, and upon which they were not consulted. They were denied a referendum, which suited the EU fine, as they knew full well what the result would have been.

In Denmark, however, the people were consulted, and they voted against the treaty, at least at first. They were then “persuaded” by the EU, using a crude cocktail of promises and threats, to change their minds, in a second referendum.

Once the then Prime Minister David Cameron finally allowed the British people a voice on their EU future in 2016, they replied with a roar that they wanted out. Having had the wool pulled over their eyes in 1975, they avoided making the same mistake again. By voting to leave, they showed other EU members, whose peoples have been denied their own say, that the EU is not all-powerful and cannot simply trample endlessly over national sensibilities.

Once people are pushed to breaking point, as is now happening throughout the EU, most notably in southern Europe, it is still possible to say “enough is enough”, and Britain has shown the way.

There may, of course, be difficult times ahead. However, everyone who cares for the country, including those on the losing side in 2016, should now rally round. Divorces can often be messy, particularly when one partner seeks to make things difficult, to deter others.

However, the real greatness of Britain in times past lay not in its empire or its exploits, but in its democratic traditions, its national values, and its can-do spirit. Once these qualities are again unleashed, the sky will be the limit.

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Leave Means Leave Ambassador Hong Kong