A Brexpanation of the Mess in Westminster

This is, I think, a very good view of Britain as it prepares for what may thankfully be the last phase of Brexit.  It’s from Helen Dale writing in London for Law & Liberty. Let’s take a look.

At time of writing, Boris Johnson has opened a commanding lead in the race to be Conservative Party leader and thus Prime Minister, confirming one of my father’s bits of life advice: “always bet on self-interest, Helen; it’s the only horse that’s trying”. Whether Boris will have a country to govern come July 22 is, however, something of a moot point.

Let me tell you about Brexit Britain, which is in the process of breaking the Big Electric Trainset in the Palace of Westminster.

Since the 23rd of June 2016, when the UK voted to “leave” the European Union, colossal fissures — hitherto obscured from view — have opened in the body politic. More Conservatives voted Leave than Labourites, but Labour represents the most passionately pro-Remain constituencies in the country and the most passionately pro-Leave ones. This means both parties have taken to destroying themselves internally rather than dealing with the vote’s implications.

The Tories are more culpable because they formed government during this period. They stuck with Theresa May, a leader who lacks every leadership quality apart from perseverance and who managed to lose a 20 per cent poll lead against an antediluvian Marxist after calling a completely unnecessary general election. This election produced a hung parliament and forced May’s Tories into a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a Northern Irish outfit that is, to put it mildly, full of strange characters.

Thanks in part to the immense distraction of said unnecessary election, May and her Cabinet Office hangers-on made a complete hash of negotiating Brexit. They failed to appreciate — while slow and ponderous and beset with terrible problems of its own (Italy, Greece, Hungary, people in France attempting to re-run 1789, etc.) — the EU must defend itself on Brexit or risk being torn asunder.

There’s a lot in that. Because Mrs. May fiddled around while the Conservative party burned around her, the EU itself is backed into a corner. Back when the referendum passed, it might have been possible to let the UK go without too many repercussions in the EU itself, at least obviously, and like HMG, the people running the EU give no indication of being deep thinkers. But now, they have something of a continent-wide revolt on their hands, caused not least by Brexit, and so now everybody thinks they are fighting in the last ditch.

They may well be correct in that belief. It’s hard to see Britain surviving as a sovereign country if they take May’s Withdrawal Agreement, which to me (and to most of my British friends) looks slightly more harsh than Versailles agreement that ended the Great War did to Germany. It’s also increasingly hard to see the EU surviving the loss of its second largest contributor.

It is not Project Fear to point out that tariffs will make our goods unappealing to buyers in the EU; that is their point. A large number of British businesses will be affected and many of them will go bust. Industries that cannot relocate, such as Welsh lamb farmers — who depend overwhelmingly on exports — will go to the wall and they will not go quietly (nor should they).

On the other hand, shoppers will be free of EU tariffs on imports and will be able to buy generally superior Commonwealth (Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Canada) agricultural produce at a lower price. This is an undoubted benefit of leaving the EU properly but is also a reminder that neither EU nor UK agriculture is remotely competitive with Australian or Canadian agriculture.

That’s very true, and unlike 2016, the United States has a president that believes in Brexit and is willing to do a very good trade agreement, and our agriculture would make for overwhelming pressure on UK farmers, that’s one of the reasons that the EU’s agriculture tariffs are so high. But agriculture isn’t merely another business, aside from the fact that being able to feed yourself (or come close) is a strategic matter, for all of us agriculture is our base, it is how we grew our countries. That’s true for Britain, and France, and Germany, but also Canada and the United States, and Australia. It’s much more important to all of us than business, it’s very deep in our personalities.

One of the reasons the 2016 EU Referendum was so destructive of civil society is because Westminster is a system of representative democracy. We elect MPs to make law, and it is their role to deliberate in Parliament and make decisions on behalf of those they represent, but not at their behest. Over its long development, anything even vaguely populist was drained out of the UK’s constitutional architecture. Politicians are not supposed to keep picking at some electoral scab or another using direct democracy. 2016 was thus a horrible disruption of the constitutional order precisely because referendums are not how one does things.

A referendum became necessary, though, as the UK outsourced so many legislative competencies — most importantly trade and immigration — to the EU. Constitutionally, the electorate entrusts MPs with legislative power, but Parliament had no authority to give that power away; it required a popular mandate. Britain’s greatest constitutional lawyer, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, pointed out that a referendum should have been held in 1993 (before signing the Maastricht Treaty). His advice was ignored. Instead, former Prime Minister David Cameron, Bognanor’s most famous student, was forced by circumstances to lance the national boil in 2016.

UK politicians have legislated and governed within such a constrained field for so long they are now literally out of practice. Westminster is no more than a Big Electric Trainset. The concomitant loss of capacity among civil servants is notable. It is difficult, for example, to imagine the Home Office replicating Australia’s points-based immigration system, even if it wanted to.

And that is the baseline, I think. I can remember a very good friend telling me that the reason that every governmental function in Britain is Londoncentric is because there are no competent people in local government. I suspect he is correct. The problem now (that neither of us suspected then) is that there are none in Westminster, either.

Maybe Boris Johnson can find some, or Nigel Garage, or somebody. Because it is important that some develop from somewhere, or the whole thing is gonna fail.

Do read the whole article at Brexplaining the UK’s Future. It’s excellent.

Videos from the President’s Visit

The video album from the state visit and D-day 75.

And the return toast

This I totally missed, and like it immensely.

This is nice

A cheeky Brit; Good on him

Piers seems to have changed since he went home.

And the highlight, the president on Omaha Beach

 

NATO at 70

Walter A. McDougall has a superb article up at Law and Liberty, recapping the history of NATO. While it’s quite long as articles go, it is the best short form history of the alliance I’ve read, as far as I can remember, ever. So you should too.

In just a few days, delegations from the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather in Washington to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the longest-lasting multilateral alliance in modern history.

They shall recall how NATO fostered unity, strength, and will among Western democracies for 40 years and prevailed over the Soviet bloc without a shot being fired. They shall also congratulate themselves on the subsequent 30 years during which the membership expanded from 16 to 29, the mission expanded far beyond collective security, and the area of operations expanded as far afield as Afghanistan. But unchecked inflation is often a symptom of institutional senility rather than vitality.

Perhaps the Americans who steered NATO on its present course were simply anxious to provide new raisons d’être for an alliance whose real target disappeared with the Cold War. Perhaps President Donald Trump had a point when he called NATO obsolete. Perhaps the years of its life are “three score and ten, or by reason of strength fourscore” (Psalm 90:10), in which case, this decennial may be its last.

The threat that gave birth to NATO—the communist bloc—ceased to exist 30 years ago. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed two years after that, reducing Muscovy back to its 17th century boundaries. During the 1990s Russia’s economy contracted by 45 percent and has not grown much since. The Russian defense budget today is 72 percent less than the last Soviet one. And while Vladimir Putin pretends Russia is a world power, even he admitted in his Munich address of 2007 that the Cold War’s bipolarity had been replaced by a hegemony in which the United States is the “one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making,” and has “overstepped its national borders in every way.”[1] Most galling for Putin was the fact that the United States exploited Russian weakness to expand NATO up to and even into the boundaries of the defunct Soviet Union.

Nothing resembling the threat of Josef Stalin’s empire and Red Army exists today and Europeans are well aware of that, which is why only three European governments met the target—2 percent of GNP—for defense spending in 2017. Germans, French, and Italians simply do not feel threatened by Russia. Hence the “free rider” dilemma of a United States that accounts for 71.7 percent of NATO’s defense expenditures in 2017 has only become more acute, not less, since the end of Cold War.[2]

The voracious engulfment by NATO of nearly all countries west of Russia likewise risks its cohesion. The alliance motto, which looms on the wall overlooking the grand conference room in its Brussels headquarters, reads: Animus in consulendo liber (“A mind unfettered in deliberation”). But the fact is that NATO’s deliberations have always been fettered by its unanimity rule. Consensus was hard enough to achieve among the original 12, not to mention the current 29 governments each with own agenda . . . unless, of course, member states just surrender to the will of the United States.

It would appear that NATO today has become both “too big to fail” and “too big to work.” Some day, NATO’s credibility will be put to a test that its constituent states will be unable or unwilling to pass.

Empire by Invitation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, like so many initiatives identified with the United States, was a British invention.[3] In 1948, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin begged Americans to identify with the Brussels Pact, which Britain, France, and the Benelux countries had just concluded. Bevin’s premises were that Soviet obstruction had crippled the United Nations as an instrument for collective security; that Europe’s postwar democracies were too weak to defend themselves; and that the Marshall Plan could not succeed unless Europeans were assured of a U.S. military commitment.

There are lots of truths here, not least of them that, while I would not use the term empire, Europe has become an American (and to some extent, British) protectorate. Not so much because we wanted it to, as because it is certainly easier to let someone else defend you, especially if you are a believer in globalism. Most of Europe is, that’s why the European Union keeps talking about unity.

If the US hasn’t done anything else, we’ve made an intra-European war nearly impossible for the near future, they’ve all disarmed.

One of my friends is a British expat living quite happily in Siberia, I think from what we tell each other, he would agree heartily with the conclusions in this article, and I see much merit in them as well.

I can’t say that America really wishes Russia any ill, because I don’t think we, in general, do, but we often don’t think things through very well before we do stuff, often for domestic reasons, that may have adverse effects on others.

In any case, read the article linked above, and tell me what you think.

War

In many ways, I took Satchel Paige to heart. I rarely look back short term, for fear they may be gaining on us. But we’ve lost some real heroes along the way.  Andrew Breitbart is one of them. What he would have done to the press in the last couple of years is beyond imagining. For instance.

Andrew Breitbart loathed the mainstream media. If you have any doubt about this fact, watch the following videos. He was disgusted by them and wasn’t shy about saying it.

He called out the liars and frauds to their faces.

He knew, to his core, the mendacity pointed at ideological enemies of Leftist dogma. He ran flank for Tea Party leaders who were being investigated by every government department including the IRS, FBI, EPA, and more. He loved these people who the elites in both parties hated. He defended them.

He protected those who were willing to be apostates to the leftist cause including guys like Brandon Darby who thwarted a Lefty terrorist group who planned a bombing at the Republican National Convention, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a flamboyant anti-feminist gay man.

He promoted the brave and gave them platforms including Dana Loesch, Ben Shapiro, James O’Keefe, and Hannah Giles. He was famous for finding talented and fair-minded people and developing their gifts. [Full disclosure: He promoted my work and helped build my consulting business before I came to The American Spectator.]

Andrew was nothing if not righteously indignant. One of my most prized possessions is the galley copy of Righteous Indignation that he gave me to read before I helped him promote his work. It was my great joy to do so. A naturally talented writer, Andrew’s book is a story worth reading if you haven’t yet.

Most of all, Andrew was prescient. He saw the corruption in the media. He saw the utter malevolence of their intentions. He saw them as the enemy. I try to imagine the rage he’d be unleashing today, if he were here to see the media’s constant war against the truth. Andrew’s antipathy to the media was wholly rational. Many on his own side thought he was too extreme. They were wrong.

Andrew was right.

Why has it taken so long for the Right, and anyone interested in truth, to see the truth about the Lefty-dominated culture? Why are the purported “Bulwark” guardians of the Right defending the Left and the media, purveyors of falsehoods and slander?

One answer is that they hate Donald Trump. Even more, they hate the voters who voted for Donald Trump. In this way, their aims are perfectly aligned with the Left. Destroying Trump and his supporters is a shared goal, truth be damned.

Keep reading Andrew Breitbart Was Right About the Media, by Melisssa Mackenzie, watch the videos, Andrew was right then, and he is right now.

We, the conservatives are starting to win, in America, in Britain, in Brazil, In Italy, Poland, Austria, even in Germany. This is no time for cold feet. Andrew is still right.

War, it is.

A Historic Vote in Parliament

And so, tomorrow UK time, Parliament will vote on May’s Withdrawal Agreement, which isn’t. It’s an amazing document, given that its existence is premised on the authority of a passed referendum that asked,  “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

That is very clear and unambiguous, remarkably so, in fact. And so were the results, 51.9% of the electorate (in the largest UK turnout ever) said: “Leave”.

But the British swamp (pretty much the same players as the American swamp, but with a British accent) disagreed with the people. Loudly, coarsely, contemptuously, and disgracefully they disagree. It hasn’t been edifying watching as they attempted to spin, lie and otherwise weasel out of what the sovereign people said. This attempt is the keystone of May’s Prime Ministership, to undermine the will of the people. It’s a hell of a mess, perhaps worse than what Trump is fighting, not least because the people have few allies in Parliament, the Civil Service, or the City (that square mile, mentioned in Magna Charta) that has had pretensions to know better than anybody what is good for the UK, ever since.

If the domestic enemies of the people were not enough, then there is the EU. They are already on a bumpy ride to oblivion and fighting a rearguard action to preserve what is increasingly seen as das Vierte Reich, the fourth incarnation of the German Empire.

What May’s agreement does not do is withdraw from the EU, in fact, what it does is even worse than staying in, it removes any influence Britain has in the EU (not much) and strips Britain of voting rights in the organization. It is literally worse than staying in the status quo. It was evidently dictated to May by second level officials of the EU, not surprisingly, German allies of Merkel’s.

The other option is, of course, a clear exit on WTO terms, and then as is proper, to negotiate trade deals with all and sundry. Rumor has it that the US has one waiting that is very favorable to the UK, and it is likely that the Commonwealth does as well.

Would there be disruption? Perhaps, but its hard to see why. Trade is in everybody’s interest. Germany is still a metal-bashing economy, what they do best is make cars. The UK is comparable, maybe superior, as a twenty-first century economy to the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and an end to the EU asset stripping of manufacturing to relocate in Eastern Europe would enhance employment for regular people, as we’ve seen here in the last two years.

Greg Hands, the MP for Chelsea and Fulham, and a former Minister of State at the Department of International Trade wrote this for Conservative Home a few days ago.

[…]But most Brussels commentators maintain that Brexit details are determined by their respective number twos: Martin Selmayr (Chief of Staff to Juncker since 2014, and – controversially – General Secretary of the European Commission since March 2018) and Sabine Weyand, deputy to Barnier.

Both happen to be German. Indeed, Die Welt, the leading German daily, early on in the negotiations did a feature titled‘The top German players in the Brexit poker game’, with a certain pride, on their central role in the coming talks.

Selmayr and Weyand – the well-connected German officials, behind the scenes […]

In September 2017, Selmayr was reported to have blasted Brexit as “stupid”.  “He is a theologian who regards the British as heretics,” was how a former British ambassador to Brussels described him to The Times.

It is Selmayr who stands accused of having leaked the details of two dinners between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Although he denies this. The accounts claimed May “begged for help” and described May as appearing “anxious”, “tormented”, “despondent and discouraged,” and cruelly described how our Prime Minister appeared to be having sleepless nights.

Juncker – or more likely Selmayr – vetoed greater transparency in the Brexit talks and specifically recommendations from the EU’s official watchdog that Weyand’s role be more scrutinised and her meetings published.

What they now say about the Brexit Agreement: and why that should warn us, British MPs, in advance of next week’s vote

Since the Withdrawal Agreement was finalised in November, Selmayr and Weyand have left most of the public words to their bosses Juncker and Barnier, but behind the scenes various reports have emerged of what these two officials think. And these officials are the ones who know the detail best. Both have been clear that the Agreement is overwhelmingly favourable to the European Union.

There are credible reports that the British armed forces have already been assigned roles in the so-called EU army, often said under German officers, and that intelligence functions will be extended. This last is important, the premier intelligence operation in the world is Five Eyes: Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Britain is, always has been, a key player in this. This agreement will end this, and possibly NATO as well.

So that is what this vote tomorrow is all about. Perhaps the most important vote in the entire Anglosphere since the British decided (without public approval) to join the EEC, the predecessor of the EU.

We’ll see if Parliament has the guts to legislate for the (not very) United Kingdom, or is content to throw away a thousand years of history for the satisfaction of surrendering British sovereignty to German bureaucrats.

A proper British Prime Minister would simply tell the EU to sod off.

The date today could just as well be 10 May 1940.

After the Vote

And so, Theresa May won her no-confidence vote yesterday 200-117, getting a favorable vote from less than 2/3ds of Conservative MPs. So she may continue, embracing fascism to avoid the communism of Labour, while selling out the voters of Britain. I do note though, that when Maggie won her confidence vote, she (rightly) resigned within a week.

With regards to that Prim,e Minister who actually wanted the best for Britain, Steven Hayword of Powerline reminds us of better times, and a far better leader.

It certainly has proved so, but apparently not contrary to the interests of British politicians. Well, that’s how Macron got Yellow Jackets in the streets. Britons are a bit more reserved, but.

“My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

“You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

“But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ’em out if it takes you all day.

They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark. 
It’s the sport not the rabbits they’re after (we’ve plenty of game in the park).
Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man- at-arms you can find.

“Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts. 
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking, instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’
Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ’em a lie!”

But the fools of the bubble, have long since forgotten this in their quest to fatten on the Empire’s loot, while enslaving the people, for what else can you call it when the originators of freedom are deprived of it in their homeland.

But if there is one thing we know about the British it is that when things are at their worst, they are at their best, and so, while today dawned dark and tumultuous, I have not given up hope in Britain, I shall never do so. It is too bad though, that the lions find themselves led by quislingite donkeys.

And if all else fails, there is Sir Winston’s prescription.

But hopefully, we won’t see the English again dating that old sweetheart, Brown Bess.

IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise –
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes –
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
Half Europe admitted the striking success
Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
“Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
And I think am killing enough,” said Brown Bess.

So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
And nothing about her was changed on the way;
(But most of the Empire which now we possess
Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
But later, near Brussels, Napoleon – no less –
Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day –
She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
“I have danced my last dance for the world!” said Brown Bess.

If you go to Museums – there’s one in Whitehall –
 Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
You will find her, upstanding, her back to the wall,
As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.
And if ever we English had reason to bless
Any arm save our mothers’, that arm is Brown Bess!

But I note that today she is in Berlin, getting her instructions from consulting with that other paragon of the people’s ruler, the Kanzlerin.

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