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"Before the Revolution"

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David Pryce-Jones, the British author and commentator, has published 9 works of fiction, and 13 works of non-fiction. Born in Vienna in 1936, he barely escaped the invading German army when he was four. He went on to read history at Oxford, and served in the Coldstream Guards. His writing has clarity and wit. He has recently written a brilliant review of the EU called "Before the Revolution" (National Review, 14 July 08) -

These uncertain times all over Europe have a whiff of failure about them, a loss of confidence in democracy and identity reminiscent of the 1930s. The European Union is a project now 50 years old that is intended to recover lost power and prestige. The EU has the core belief that the nation-state is the cause of all contemporary ills, and it has been absorbing as many of them as it can, and hollowing out their identity in order to lay the foundations of nothing less than a new continent-wide empire. . .The Lisbon Treaty is supposed to be a final step, turning the European Union irrevocably into the United States of Europe, a legal entity with sovereign powers, and whose 27 constituent nation-states from now on would be mere regions. . .

The treaty's impenetrability is deliberate. Back in 2001 the unelected officials who run the EU in its capital of Brussels decided that a constitution was required to complete their work on the United States of Europe. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a man supercilious even by the standards of French presidents, was appointed head of a convention to draft this constitution, and by 2005 it was ready to be submitted to the people designated to live under it. Rather to his credit, Giscard has always made a point of admitting that these constitutional texts should be unreadable for the layman, and kept secret too, so that people find out what they are signed up to only once they can do nothing about it.

Horrors! Referendums on the constitution in France and Holland came up with massive No votes, and it was evident that Britain and other countries would do the same if or when they could. This might have been expected to kill the proposed constitution, but that is not how the political class in Brussels operates. The draft was simply rejigged under its new name as the Lisbon Treaty. . .

The High Court was misled by the rejigging, or blatantly ignored the evidence, ruling that Stuart Wheeler's case for a referendum did not exist because the treaty and the 2005 constitution were not the same. The idea that British sovereignty would be thrown away under either the treaty or the constitution did not interest them. But Irish judges were interested, as Pryce-Jones points out -

Irish judges ruled that the treaty transferred national sovereignty elsewhere, and the law required a referendum.

I looked at this statement with growing amazement at my own ignorance. I have been reading the British press faithfully, but I have never knowingly read the simple and devastating statement, Irish judges ruled that the treaty transferred national sovereignty elsewhere, and the law required a referendum.

All along I had been led to believe that the Irish referendum was a mere quirk of the Irish constitution, a bit like their preferring whiskey to whisky. Was it ever suggested that just as the Irish would lose their sovereignty, Brits would lose theirs? The British media's interest in long words like sovereignty is demonstrably nil, and sovereignty's vital connection to liberty and self-rule and a country you love does not warm the cockles of their hearts, but still. . .

As you know, the Irish voted no, and on his way to the revolution Pryce-Jones points out that -

Under the EU's own rules, the Lisbon Treaty has to be accepted by all 27 countries, and a single veto is enough for it to fall. The Irish have spoken, and one might thing that would be that. Not a bit of it. As they recover from their shock, European leaders are preparing to disregard the Irish vote - with the solitary exception of Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic and a man of integrity. "The Lisbon project is finished," he said firmly, "and ratification will not continue."

. . .It would be comic to watch these Eurocrats squirming and intriguing except that the consequences are likely to be tragic. People do not give up their national identities because others order them to do so. . .Is it arrogance, or cynicism, or mere lack of wisdom that is driving the leaders in Brussels to think it will be possible to rule an empire without the consent of the ruled?

It is a matter of historical record that everywhere in Europe the withholding of consent has always been the prelude to violence, and that is how its nations obtained their freedom in the past. . .


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