At a church conference in Novi Sad, Serbia, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made the following extraordinary statement:-
Italy has a new government, but only after a great deal of wrangling. The principal reason for the impasse is that, like the Brexit vote in 2016, frustration with the European Union was an important motivation for the Italians’ decision to vote in large numbers for two eurosceptic parties.
The situations in the two countries at the moment are nonetheless very different. We are on the way out. True, many Brexit supporters are finding themselves increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations but there are good grounds for believing that we will leave – eventually., somehow.
Italy, by contrast, is still in the EU and there is no immediate likelihood of “Italexit”. Many inhabitants of this founder member of the European Union are distinctly unenthusiastic at the way EU membership has affected their country, but this doesn’t mean they want to leave altogether..
What both countries have in common is that they have come up against the dead hand of inertia. Essentially, big, bloated states and bureaucracies do not make decisions quickly. Stagnation is the inevitable result. Those of us who can remember the latter years of the Soviet Union will recall that by the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, it had lapsed into stagnation – unable to respond to events. The EU is in a similar position. No senior figure since Jacques Delors seems to have any vision for the EU’s future direction. The enlargement process, after the celebrations of 2004, seems to have ground to a halt.
However, just like the Soviet Union, the EU does not like anyone trying to take it in a direction in which it does not want to go. This piece by Norman Lamont claims that the EU is very uncomfortable with democracy when it produces a result it doesn’t like. Unfortunately for the Italians, the stagnation into which the EU has descended is going to make it difficult to sort out their country’s moribund economy. A well-informed website claimed that it was actually Berlin which forced the Italian President to reject the nomination of a Eurosceptic finance minister by the putative new government, forcing a climbdown and nearly precipitating new elections, the result of which would most likely have been a parliament containing even more Euro-critical MPs.
For us in the UK, this tendency towards stagnation has made it very hard for us to achieve a successful Brexit. Last week, Michel Barnier delivered a speech expressing his frustration at the slow progress of Brexit talks. In one sense, he has some justification – our side has been going round in circles ever since Article 50 was invoked. To leave the EU seamlessly requires a lot of research and an appreciation of the nature of the beast. It could be argued that our side has failed almost totally on both counts.
And the struggles the EU is going through, including the Italian crisis, are more than sufficient vindication of our decision. In a fast-moving world, the EU’s inbuilt bias to inertia makes it ill-equipped to respond to change. We could do much better as a sovereign state – the big problem is making our escape. A rocket needs a huge amount of power to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth and fly off into space. Our negotiators will need to try a lot harder if we are to escape from the gravitational power of the EU.
Because of my work, it was the European Common Agricultural Policy which puzzled me from 1972 onwards. The whole thing was so utterly strange in comparison to the common sense system we had before. It was not until 2002 when I received a copy of “European Economic Community”, published in Berlin in 1942, that I really grasped the ideological framework behind it. I translated the introduction and lead papers which form part of this pamphlet.
In 2017 I recorded an interview with Lord Walsingham, who was a Third Secretary in the Foreign Office of 1950 when Britain stayed out of the European project. He revealed that British Intelligence then knew of the hostile intent towards Britain of former fascists and Nazis in the post war French & German governments – their plan of subsidising each other’s heavy industries when in competition with Britain, to weaken our defence capability and assure their eventual ascendancy over the continent of Europe.
Like Lord Walsingham, the perspective of years leads me to the view that today’s EU is not “all a Nazi plot” but that it was heavily influenced from its beginnings by such authoritarian ideas and that has contributed to the alien ethos with which British people have never really been at home.
On a recent visit to Greece, I found that all sorts of people blamed Berlin rather than Brussels for the terrible austerity which EU policy has forced upon them. Back home, I wrote about this to a Greek colleague, a business executive, pointing out the ideas of the German government of 1942 about management of European currencies in the post war era. The exchange rate of the euro gives Germany the export advantage of a currency of relatively low value, compared with Germany’s highly capitalised, productive economy. For Greece and other “Club Med” countries with smaller, less developed resources, the euro exchange rate is far too high for them to be able to export their way out of their predicament.
My Greek friend replied “It is clear now to many Greeks and Europeans that Germany is responsible for the economic plunder of Greece. What happened to Greece was not an accident but a carefully made plan on the part of the always patient, ruthless and very scholastic Germans. It seems that they learned well their lessons from the two previous World Wars. This time Germany managed to conquer Europe without firing a single shot. Unfortunately Greece now (as it was then too) is suffering more casualties than any other European country….”
That is how things are seen in Greece today.
This piece, by Ray Bassett, was forwarded to us by the veteran Irish Eurosceptic Anthony Coughlan
Playing the EU’s Game on the Border Will Damage Ireland’s Interests, says former Irish diplomat in Politeia’s new analysis.
Dublin should accept UK border plan and work with Britain to make Brexit a success for both islands
The Irish border has become an obstacle to the Brexit negotiations. All sides want to keep the border ‘soft’ and friction free and preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement. But the EU and Dublin have rejected Britain’s proposals.
In Politeia’s next publication, Brexit and the Border: where Ireland’s True Interests Lie, Ray Bassett considers the border against the background and reality of Ireland’s economic and political interests, and the options for the UK government. A former diplomat, who served as Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada and was also a Good Friday Agreement negotiator, Dr Bassett explains that the Irish Government’s present policy is not in the country’s best interests. It leaves Ireland dangerously exposed if the border problem scuppers an overall EU/UK deal.
The author analyses the different options floated to ‘solve’ the border question. Politically the only possible solution is one based on technology along the lines proposed by the UK. This would be based on a trusted trader programme. Proven models, such as that in Australia, already exist from which some useful features might be adopted.
By contrast the EU’s proposals would endanger the stability of the island. Brussels should abandon its red line that anything on the island of Ireland must “maintain the integrity of the Union’s (i.e. the EU’s) Legal Order”. Bassett questions the wisdom of the Irish Government in aligning itself with Brussels at a time when the EU itself is undergoing changes, none of which are in Ireland’s interests. Moreover, a number of national elections across the EU have made clear a rising alienation of voters from the centralising policies of the present EU.
Irish leaders should change course and work to resolve the border dispute rapidly and towards a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. Given the historic, ethnic, cultural and economic links between Ireland and Britain, it is strongly in their country’s interests to do so. Ireland needs a successful Brexit.
The author concludes by proposing the Irish government should:
* Make clear both to London and Brussels that the Border must not be used as a weapon to thwart Brexit.
* Enter into immediate and practical bilateral discussions with London to resolve the border question.
* Work with the British government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to avoid any undue hardening of cross-border arrangements on the island of Ireland.
* Work with the British government to avoid any new barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
* Seek to join EFTA and leave the EU. EFTA membership would facilitate continued trade with the EU and allow a free trade with the from outside the Customs Union
Commenting on the legal framework, Professor David Collins explains that legally Bassett’s proposals would work well to Ireland’s interests. Liam Halligan explains why economically, Ireland cannot afford to play the EU’s game over the border, but should accept that Ireland’s economic interests demand that it should work with Britain to develop and put into effect the technological solution.
The paper was launched at a special meeting in House of Commons Committee on Thursday 17th May, with the speakers including the author, Ray Bassett, David Collins, Professor of International Economic Law, City University, and Liam Halligan, co-author of Clean Brexit with Gerard Lyons and Economics Columnist at The Sunday Telegraph.
Dr Ray Bassett has been a senior diplomat at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and has served as the country’s Ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas 2010-2016. Other diplomatic postings include Copenhagen, Canberra, Belfast (twice), London and Ottawa. He was involved in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations as part of the Irish Government Talks Team and participated throughout the discussions, including the final session at Castle Buildings in Stormont.
The first thing which you notice about the Greeks is their kindness and consideration to visitors. From the moment we were met at the airport, Ellen and I were well looked after. We had the sort of tour of Athens which is not available to the tourist, accompanied by the sort of information which is disregarded by the mainstream media.
Ours was a modest sort of hotel, not far from Syntagma Square where the rally was to be held and it was literally between two worlds. The hotel was spick and span: on one side was a handsome square with the great Church of St Constantine- imposing without and glorious within- as well as other handsome private and public buildings and shops.
On the other side were filthy streets with people delving into dustbins for anything edible or of possible value. This was an area of high illegal immigration and, whilst it might be easy for a wealthy Western liberal to condemn the Greeks for a lack of official compassion, one has to remember how greatly the Greeks too have been pauperised by the EU.
Those who attended our 2017 CIB rally in London will remember Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos telling us that his pension had been cut from 3,500 euros per month to 1,200 – and he is one of the fortunate! A leading lawyer told me that his wife, a civil servant of 18 years’ service with two doctorates, now receives a salary of around 800 euros a month – and she too, is fortunate. A senior insurance manager told me how he was unemployed for three years. State benefits and health service entitlement cease after one year. He now considers himself lucky to be working for the same salary which his secretary had ten years ago. Below the senior careerists of the international set, these are people who recognise that they are fortunate in comparison with very, very many of their fellow countrymen and women.
So we did not quite know what to expect, as we made our way to Syntagma ( Constitution) Square in front of the parliament building for the demonstration.
There was a stage and loud recorded music of folk songs with which those assembling joined. In between, an impressively energetic lady moved around with a microphone, inviting impromptu speeches, all of which were heartfelt and some clearly born of deepest despair but tinged with stern defiance. Then there was a live folk group and a much-appreciated performance of Greek dance by agile young men.
The crowd was slow in assembling and not in the hoped-for numbers. Not only had a media blackout been imposed earlier but the mainstream media was warning people to stay away because of possible trouble with a rival anarchist rally nearby. There was a fairly low-key police presence but I noticed several police vehicles around the square about the size of a regular bus, which probably contained reinforcements if needed.
When it came to the platform speeches, I could not follow much – my Greek only being adequate to ask the way or order a meal. However, the priest who spoke before me commenced with “Christos anesti” (Christ is risen) to which the audience responded. Several times in his speech he referred to “Orthodoxia” (Orthodoxy) and the Gospel (Evangelion).
Then it was my turn with the ever-vivacious Georgia Bitakou as interpreter. She was magnificent and I enjoyed double applause for many of the points I made – firstly from the members of the audience who understood English and then from those who followed her translation. That was quite a bonus!
When I came to finish, using quotations from the poetry of Byron, as Jim Reynolds did a while ago, she put heart and soul into it. I could not help reflecting that she was just the sort of lady who inspired Byron and would defend any barricade to the last.
Then coincidence reached out with a long arm. Manu Bennett, a Maori from New Zealand, was inspired to make his speech by the seven hundred of his kinsmen who lie buried in Crete, attempting to defend that Greek Island against the aggression of fascism. He was joined on the platform by an impressive gentleman in traditional Cretan dress which would be recognised by anybody who watched the film of the capture of the German General Kreipe.
Our family business used to buy large quantities of New Zealand milk powder before that was forbidden by the European Common Agricultural Policy. That betrayal of our friends made me angry in 1972 as it still makes me angry now.
Here are the words of the speech which was so well received:-
IT IS A GREAT HONOUR to be invited to speak here to our Greek friends who are fighting the same battle as ourselves to recover self government and independence for our countries. IT IS A PLEASURE to meet the tough, undaunted people who so cheerfully continue the fight in the face of the appalling damage which the institutions of the EU and the International Monetary Fund have inflicted on the Greek people – including the deaths of hundreds of thousands whose lives have been sacrificed on the altar of austerity, dead from malnutrition, lack of heating in winter and the plundering of resources from their hospitals and health service.
This process of plunder, including the forced sale of public assets and utilities, is portrayed as somehow helping Greece out – each additional tranche of unrepayable debt as somehow helping the Greek people, when all it represents is a transfer of liabilities from banks to taxpayers – privatising any profits and socialising the losses.
At the beginning, many people in Britain and Greece believed that the EU was a benign project, dedicated to peace and economic development – but it always was about power – power to in the hands of very few untouchable people. As early as 1947, A British politician, Peter Thorneycroft, wrote in Design for Europe “No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifice any adequate plan must involve. The British people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences”. Thorneycroft later became Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) and Chairman of the Conservative party. What an arrogant insult to a people who had just fought a world war to defend their democratic self-government – to lead them deceitfully into a new form of definitely undemocratic government, of which they were to be kept in ignorance.
In 1962 the leader of the Labour party, Hugh Gaitskell, warned that joining the European Economic Community would be for us “The end of a thousand years of history” – the time over which our constitution and self-government evolved. Greek democracy has a longer history but the modern independence, achieved in 1821, is, for the time being, extinguished. But not forever! If I judge your fighting spirit right, the fire of freedom will blaze again and not be long in coming!
General De Gaulle saw the reality of the European project. In 1965 he said “As for the Commission, it deserves to disappear. I want no more of Hallstein (the President)….I want no more to do with them…I want no more that the French government should have to do business with these types…. They are all enemies. They have been put there by our enemies”.
In 1990, Mrs Thatcher put it this way. “Mr Delors (President of the Commission) said ….that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body…He wanted the Commission to be the Executive and the Council of Ministers to be the Senate …. No! No! No!” which reminds me of the response of the Greek people to Mussolini which was also “No” and you celebrate the event to this day as a national holiday.
Today’s Mussolinis are less flamboyant and more subtle – people like Giuliano Amato, one-time Italian Prime Minister and Vice president of the European Constitutional Convention. He was interviewed by Barbara Spinelli who reported in La Stampa of 13 July 2000 “He said that sovereignty lost on a national level does not pass to any new individual. It is entrusted to a faceless entity… eventually the EU. The EU is the vanguard of this changing world… The new entity is faceless and those in command can neither be identified nor elected. As a matter of fact the metamorphosis is already here. All we need are a few corrections here and there along with a great deal of cunning”.
There is nothing much we can do to the successors of Jacques Delors and Giuliano Amato. They are largely faceless and immune. But they and those like them could never have the least power over us, if it had not first been surrendered by our own countrymen, politicians in positions of trust, bound by the most sacred commitment to uphold the integrity and sovereignty of the state. Those are the people who are to blame – regardless of party. Mark them well and make sure they never, ever hold office again!
We are seeing them now in Britain, trying to overturn the verdict of the people in the referendum because they have given their first loyalty to a foreign power, the European Union. Yet they look and speak like our fellow countrymen. One of the most odious things about this is that many of them claim to be acting out of concern for the powers and tradition of our parliament – something which never troubled them in the least when they were handing massive power to the EU.
General De Gaulle and Mrs. Thatcher were both betrayed by their own colleagues. Two of the strongest political personalities in Europe slowed down the European project for a while but could not stop it. Yet I am sure that our united peoples can do it, if we keep our wits about us. That and a sense of trust, of duty to our respective countries, inherited from one generation and handed down to the next in a lively tradition. We can learn from each other’s experiences.
So we also support the Greek people in their battle to secure the territorial integrity of their state in its rich regional diversity and cultural Hellenic unity. We look with concern on the political instability of this region, adversely affect by Western operations which have succeeded only in driving the movement of millions of migrants with unassimilable, unappeasable alien ideology through Greece and into Europe. This process of mass migration is deliberately supported and approved by the EU as a means of breaking up and destroying cohesive peoples and nations.
Our Secretary Jim Reynolds visited here a few years ago, initiating and strengthening our friendship and co-operation. I can do no better than he, in ending with some verses of Lord Byron:-
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung.
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.
The mountains look on Marathon –
And Marathon looks on the sea,
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
A demonstration is to be organised in Athens on 13th May to protest against EU-imposed austerity. Among the organisers is former Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, who spoke at last year’s CIB rally. CIB has sent the following message of encouragement:-
The Campaign for an Independent Britain salutes the struggle of the Greek people to be free of the oppression which they suffer at the hands of the European Union.
As democrats and patriots from all parties and none, we join in supporting the demonstration organised by “DIEXODUS” on 13th May to proclaim and reclaim the sovereignty, constitutionality and democracy which is the birthright of the Greek people.
Back in 1962, Hugh Gaitskell the leader of the British Labour party, warned that joining what was then the European Economic Community would be for Britain “the end of a thousand years of history” – the time over which our constitution and self-government had evolved. Democracy in Greece has a far longer history than that but the modern independence achieved in 1821 is now extinguished for a time. The fire of freedom will blaze again!
As early as 1965 General De Gaulle saw the reality of the European project. He said “As for the Commission, it deserves to disappear. I want no more of Hallstein (the President) ….I want no more to do with them …I want no more that the French government should have to do business with these types. The problem is this mafia of supranationalists, whether commissioners, deputies or bureaucrats. They are all enemies. They have been put there by our enemies”.
Neither General De Gaulle nor Mrs Thatcher, two of the strongest political personalities of Europe, could get rid of the EU. They were defeated by the treachery of their own political colleagues. But the people can defeat it! They did in Britain although we are still having trouble with politicians who seek to defy the people. The politicians have to be firmly reminded that they are privileged to be the servants of the people and are not the masters. We are sure that the Greek people will be able to teach them the same lesson.
We also support the Greek people in their battle to secure the territorial integrity of their state in its rich regional diversity and cultural Hellenic unity.
Before she was betrayed by her own colleagues, Mrs Thatcher replied to the demands of the EU No! No! No! The people of Greece did the same to the demands of Mussolini.
So we support the Greek people now, bidding stern defiance to the tyrants of today.
With the profound respect and goodwill of your British friends.
2 May 2018