One of the oddest things about Brexit since the mid-2016’s is how careful everyone has been not to say ‘traitor’ or ‘quisling’ to some Britons who argue that a foreign power’s interests need protecting against ignorant, nationalistic British demands. The T word, ‘treason’, is also absent, as if it was extremist to even think it.
To be fair, there are useful idiots, euro-Ponzi dupes, who want to ‘Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do.’ Some of these Lennonists (sic) daringly proclaim true British patriots want Britain to maintain its valuable role in the Euroblob, its ‘seat at the negotiating table’, its ‘place in the world’. They say this rather as if Britain needed cleansing of its sin of saving Europe more often than most countries have saved anything. No-one notices the EU is a desperate attempt by France and Germany to maintain their place in the world.
Pro-Brussels Britons seem convinced that Britain’s world standing is enhanced by Franco-German bureaucracy, unaware that Britain invented modern civil liberties, or that most EU nations are only tolerable places to live today because Britain has saved them several times from police-state governments.
Why is it such fun to deride Britons who proudly declare ‘we fought fascism’, as ‘fascist’ when many Germans, Frenchmen, Irish nationalists embraced 1930’s fascism with often-feverish enthusiasm? Yet now they bill themselves the sober antidote to Britain’s strange pro-freedom sickness.
Why? Something important happened to Britain between Margaret Thatcher’s last government and 2016’s referendum, some hidden shift in the balance of power.
It’s not altogether clear how, but a body of opinion in the south-east of England decided we are not a ‘good neighbour’ to our fun-loving friends on the Continent. Who decided this and how is still cloudy, but at some point in the late 1980s editors of quality newspapers and sage man-behind-desk shows on the BBC increasingly murmured that Thatcher was ‘confrontational’, ‘archaic’ and ‘rigid’.
Magically, as if answering an unspoken prayer, quieter smoother men emerged from the shadows, men like Ken Clarke, a gradually-mellowing Michael Heseltine, the blinking bespectacled uber-clerk himself, John Major. We saw Margaret Thatcher leaving Downing Street red-eyed in the back of a car.
A mood of subdued technocratic relief under Major gave way to noisy technocratic excitement as lovably youthful Tony Blair began gliding towards power in the mid-1990s. Major’s sponsorship of what became known as the ‘peace process’ was rebranded as Blair’s once ‘New’ Labour took power, culminating in an astonishingly generous deal for Irish national socialists to sign a ceasefire. We might ask why both Major and Blair have dragged Northern Ireland back into question since the Brexit vote, accusing British voters of endangering the Good Friday Agreement? Of course John and Tony endangered that truce, no-one else.
Is there some link, some connection we don’t yet see in full detail, between these seemingly separate events?
Were the fall of Thatcher, the IRA’s curious decision (Corbynista John McDonnell recently called it ‘brave’) to countenance a ceasefire in the late 1980s, a more pro-EU Britain… were these tied together in some way?
John Major eased through the Maastricht changes without any referendum. Talks with the IRA (British governments have been in confidential contact with violent Irish nationalist groups since 1880s Fenian bombings in London) moved up a notch. There is a little-heard counterview to the main narrative: the IRA, far from brave, sued for peace because the military tide had turned against them. The two previous years in the late 1980s were the first and second since the Troubles began in which more Republican than Loyalist paramilitaries were killed. If this is correct, the Provos sued for peace because they were scared, not because they were brave.
Blair in turn promised different groups of British voters different things. To some he hinted he would treat the EU more sternly. To others he claimed he’d be more pro-EU. On his watch several interesting things happened. One was the Good Friday Agreement in which Britain abandoned its resistance to the IRA just as Britain had started winning. On another front, the House of Lords was handicapped (‘modernised’) by removing most of the independently-minded hereditary peers likely to (1) stop the Iraq War, and (2) block the Treaty of Lisbon from entrenching EU federalism.
Blair’s replacement of the old-style House of Lords with a relocated Supreme Court (effective 2009) bore fruit this September.
That was when a set of judges, most of whom receive handsome stipends from European courts, gave an extraordinary judgment. They didn’t recuse themselves, as they obviously should have done, from passing judgement on Prime Minister Johnson’s lawful and Brexit-related prorogation of Parliament. Instead, they handed down a legal decision breaking the 1688 Bill of Rights (which explicitly rules out supreme courts judging parliamentary procedure). They decided on the basis of no statute and no precedent that Johnson’s conduct was unlawful. This amazing document culminated in a logical error when the judges uttered the non sequitur that they could not imagine what Johnson’s motives were in asking the monarch to prorogue, therefore his action was unlawful, a thrilling new legal Argument From Unknowability. Oddly, John Major prominently intervened in the case. He himself perfectly legally prorogued Parliament as recently as 1997 to sidestep discussion of a scandal.
The three years since 2016 had been puzzling. But when a Blair-empowered bench of ECJ-salaried justices arrived at a bogus judgment with Major noisily defending the EU, briefly the mists parted.
We were seeing a new constitution, a constitution introduced by stealth, now showing its hand. We saw three decades’ work revealed. We saw how laws had been quietly introduced to make absorption of Britain into federal European structures easier, clearing away pre-1997 institutions that could have stopped this covert putsch.
This is the ‘EU-conform’ apparatus that Johnson is now grappling with – the 1990s Major/Blair constitution. Its architects are of like mind with ‘Common Purpose’, which innocuously develops ‘leaders who can cross boundaries’. This low-key management-training charity has alumni as senior as David Cameron and Cressida Dick. 1988 founder Julia Middleton runs it still. Once editor of Marxism Today she is on the Orwell Prize board for political writing. Common Purpose graduates are internationally-minded, pro-EU, and now everywhere in British life.
The new British constitution, gradually installed by John Major and Tony Blair, reduces the royal prerogative, and lets a supreme court restrict it further. It attacks the sovereign entity, the crown-in-parliament (the government of the day), but calls parliament sovereign, especially if parliament transfers sovereignty to pan-European entities. It breaks traditions underlying Britain’s precedent-based common law, so Continental civil-code-style law can increasingly govern the UK.
Why have John Major and Tony Blair, two long-retired prime ministers, so angrily badgered Parliament to reverse the 2016 referendum result? Perhaps they both have something to fear personally from a WTO No Deal exit?
It seems unlikely so what could it be?
Mark Griffith is a financial trader whose weblog http://www.otherlanguages.org follows news on artificial intelligence, economics, and other subjects. He is researching a book about whether AI will change how people live.
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