February 1, 2020
Author: Ralph Berry
‘Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.’
Tennyson, laureate of the great era, speaks for Britain as we leave the European Union. At 11 o’clock on Friday evening, we quit that union. Over all the land, street parties and private celebrations broke out, not least in 10 Downing Street, where it is credibly reported English sparkling wine was served. A cameo of our reasons for joy occurred in Brussels at the final assembly of the European Parliament, when the British M.E.P.s said farewell. Nigel Farage made an incendiary speech, when he reminded his sullen hearers that he had once predicted that the UK would leave the EU, and that he had been laughed at then. ‘Well, you’re not laughing now.’ He then produced a small Union flag, as did the other British M.E.P.s, which is strictly against the EU rules. His sound was immediately cut off by the presiding officer, the Deputy President of the EU. She has the evocative name of Mairead McGuinness—a hinterland there, I fancy—and she sourly told the silenced Brits to take their flags with them as they left. They did, singing outside a rude song. Notwithstanding the assurances from some remaining M.E.P.s that Britain would always be welcomed back if they changed their minds, this separation is permanent and irreversible.
The British public’s alienation from the EU—and never, ‘Europe’–has been exhaustively chronicled, but not enough attention has been paid to the sheer, unrelenting hostility and malice of the EU leaders. We have seen it daily on TV, as their potentates sneered at Britain and refused any concession that would make life easier for those trying to strike a decent Withdrawal Agreement. We have seen Theresa May snubbed and boycotted at a meeting of the leaders; nobody wanted to talk with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Today’s public have visual, personalized evidence of what the EU potentates really think of us. They do not like being lectured by a Luxembourgeois who has forgotten the day when British tanks rolled through Luxembourg to cheering crowds. And they are well aware that the purpose of EU policy is to punish the UK for its temerity in trying to secede from the sacred Union. It is long evident that the EU cannot conceivably offer Britain a decent deal, because that would be good for Britain and by definition bad for the Union. To speak, therefore, of ‘our friends and neighbours’ is an abuse of language. Diplomacy has its rules, but its words cannot be taken at face value. Simply, the EU leaders are no friends to Britain. The ordinary people of Britain have spotted this, and acted accordingly.
Britain is now set on reverting to its ancient history. The overlordship of the Continent was rejected in 1533 by Henry VIII, when he defied the Pope. The Act in Restraint of Appeals states: ‘it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire, and so hath been accepted in the world.’ Henry would have none of the Pope’s ruling, insisting that England is a self-governing state; the EU’s quasi-papal authority has now been challenged and defeated. The core EU policy is its Customs Union, better understood as the Zollverein. That Prussian invention was steadily augmented, taking in Bethmann-Hollweg’s Mitteleuropa, until yesterday, when the Customs Union included Britain. That has now ended, and we are turning away from the Continent to the Anglosphere and Commonwealth. This is the New World of which Boris Johnson speaks.
‘Ring out the old, ring in the new’.