Brexit, Hotel California and another Bloody Referendum

By Julian French.

“The latest brainwave is to preserve part of the innovations of the constitutional treaty, but hide them by breaking them up into several texts. The most innovative provisions would become simple amendments to the treaties of Maastricht and Nice. The technical improvements would be regrouped in a colourless, harmless treaty. The texts would be sent to national parliaments, which would vote separately. Thus public opinion would be led to adopt, without knowing it, the provisions that we dare not present directly. This process of ‘dividing to ratify’ is obviously unworthy of the challenge at stake. It may be a good magician’s act. But it will confirm European citizens in the idea that the construction of Europe is organised behind their backs by lawyers and diplomats.”
President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Irish Times, 26 June, 2008
Hotel California Brexit
Alphen, Netherlands. 31 January. There are two sides negotiating Brexit and they both want to keep Britain IN the European Union – either in fact or in name only.  It becomes clearer by the day that the London Establishment and the Brussels Establishment are working in close harness to thwart Brexit.  This is an attack on the very fundamentals of democracy masquerading under the false flag of ‘getting the best deal’ for Britain.  For Brussels the prize is clear; a Hotel California Brexit by which we Brits can check out any time we like from the EU, but we can never leave. The plan is also clear – to create such fear in the minds of the British public that they will soon willingly accept the need for a second referendum on EU membership and, like sheep vote willingly for Brexit’s demise.  In other words, they will have been ‘done an Ireland’.
Even though I am a Big Picture Remainer, and I believe deeply in Europeans working closely together, my concerns about the EU and its attitude to national democracy go back a long way. Brussels is a theological capital brim full of a ‘we know best’ elite, driving towards a Babel-esque vision of ‘Europe’, reinforced by think-tank hangers-on, with a dismissive attitude to democracy that might lead to ‘heresy’. The EU, after all, for all the rhetoric about power is really about about power, a mechanism for the grand manipulation of the masses so that power is centralised inexorably on an elite few who are charged with taking the ‘best’ decisions for ‘Europe’.  Yes, the European Council represents the states but only one state matters – Germany, and if Germany, the Commission and the European Parliament are aligned on policy there is little place for dissent, even for a formerly great power like Britain.
‘Doing an Ireland’
There is a precedent for such manipulation. In 2008 and 2009 the Irish people voted in two referenda on the then unratified Lisbon Treaty.  As Giscard d’Estaing’s statement above attests the Irish people, along with the peoples of five other states including Britain, had been promised a referendum on the constitution-bending European Constitution Treaty (ECT). Tony Blair cancelled the planned referendum in Britain for fear of losing it, as did the leaders in the other states.
As domestic opposition grew to the ECT in Ireland grew the promised referendum was cancelled.  In the wake of rejections in France and the Netherlands the Constitution Treaty – part domestic law, part international treaty – was replaced with a treaty that was designed to achieve the same Brussels-centralising effect as the ECT. However, rather than going for a radical new ‘constitution’ which would have established the principle for the EU to become a European super-state, Brussels and the European elite backed-off and simply adopted a back door political approach to deeper integration.
Article 29 of the Irish Constitution stated that no law can be supreme over their own and the Irish would still not accept the over-turning of a fundamental principle in their national constitution whatever the name of a treaty or ‘constitution’. On 12 June 2008 the Irish people vetoed down the Lisbon Treaty by 53.4% to 46.6% on a turnout of 53% of the population. For the EU elite it was the ‘wrong’ answer to a question that should never have been posed in what was meant to have been a one-off yes or no referendum. And yet just over a year later, a few meaningless blandishments having been offered, on 2 October 2009 the Irish people voted ‘yes’ to an ‘amended’ Treaty of Lisbon.  It marked the end of any hope I had for a ‘Europe’ in which I had once believed and for which I had worked.
The Establishment is now ‘doing an Ireland’ on the British people.  In June 2015 Parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass the EU Referendum Bill by 544 votes to 53 votes and paved the way to the holding of a referendum on the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”  In June 2016 the British people voted in what was meant to be a one-off yes or no referendum by 51.9% to 48.1%.  A year ago Parliament voted by 498 votes to 114 votes to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to trigger Britain’s formal departure from the EU, due to take place midnight Brussels time on 29 March, 2019. In other words, both parliamentary and popular sovereignty has been exercised at every stage of Brexit.
May Day!
Then things changed. The day after the Brexit referendum the successful insurgent and populist ‘Leave’ campaign declared victory, packed up their collective bags, and went home. After they had overcome the shock of defeat the defeated Establishment ‘Remain’ campaign simply re-grouped, and began the long haul to ‘do an Ireland’ on the British people. That campaign is now reaching its zenith and has two main objectives.  The first would be to hold a wholly unconstitutional second referendum on EU membership, whilst the second would see Parliament vote down the final deal on Brexit via a so-called ‘meaningful vote’, in effect commit Britain to remain in the EU, and challenge Prime Minister May to call another general election on the issue.
This appalling state of political affairs was made worse by May’s disastrous performance in the June 2017 general election, an election she called. Her disastrous performance has since been compounded by her own indecision – Churchill or Thatcher she ain’t – and a Cabinet split asunder by Leavers and Remainders.  The now clear retreat from Brexit has been accelerated by a re-calibrated and re-launched Project Fear which is reinforced in turn by the serial leaking by either senior politicians or civil servants at strategic moments of ‘evidence’ purporting to show the dire consequences of Britain’s departure from the EU.
There have been two such demarches over the past week. First, there was a leak of a Cabinet Office document which purported to show that under any model the British economy would suffer egregiously upon leaving the EU. As with all such documents it was only the result that was leaked, not the methodology. If, as seems likely, Government economists used the so-called’ ‘gravity’ approach, the findings are as likely to be as wide of the mark as those employed by the architect of Project Fear the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
The other demarche involves the former boss of GCHQ Robert Hannigan and the former head of MI6 Sir John Sawers.  These are people that anyone interested in security should take very seriously, and I am decidedly not accusing them of any collusion with Brussels. This morning they told the BBC that post-Brexit Britain needs a deal with the EU on data-sharing to prevent damage to Britain’s economy and its security. At the same time they warned that Britain should not use its dominance (yes, dominance) in intelligence-gathering and analysis as a bargaining tool in Brexit negotiations.  At one level they are right. It would be unconscionable for Britain to be aware of a pending terrorist attack on a European state and withhold such information simply because of Brexit negotiations.  No sensible government would go there.
Vassal State?
Last week in a Parliamentary committee the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, an undoubted contender to pick up Theresa May’s sullied crown from the mud in which it now lies when she falls, warned of Britain becoming a “vassal state’ during the planned two year implementation/transition period between 2019 and 2021. My concern is that the way London is deliberately mishandling the Brexit negotiations Britain will in effect be reduced ad Perpetua to a vassal state of the EU – all pay, but no say.
The Hannigan and Sawers demarches reveals all-too-clearly that Britain’s negotiating ‘strategy’ is utterly self-defeating.  It is perfectly OK, it seems, for the likes of Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier to issue threats against Britain and the British people as part of the Brexit negotiations, but unacceptable for Britain to employ any of the undoubted levers it has at its disposal by way of response.  In effect, the British Establishment is tying at least one of its own arms behind its back, whilst inviting the European Commission and others to punch Britain in the face.  As negotiating goes it is like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Britain’s Perpetual EU Purgatory
So, what choices do the British people face now, if any?  Brexit is fast becoming like being a little bit pregnant; impossible.  Britain can either be in the EU or out of it, not both.  There is simply no middle ground that would not see Brexit denied.  And yet, it is precisely towards such a non-existent middle ground the London Establishment seems to be determined to steer Britain – a kind of EU purgatory between heaven and hell (I will leave you to decide which is which). The wheeze seems to be to create a deal that is so patently unworkable that the British people will in-the-end ‘decide’ to stay in the EU, either via parliamentary fiat or a second referendum.
Hold on a minute! The Masters of the Universe on both sides of the Channel need to be careful. Let’s say there is a second referendum and the Establishments successfully ‘do an Ireland’ on the British people. It is unlikely the European Commission would accept the pre-Brexit status quo ante.  The Commission is predatory and smells Britain’s weakness.  No doubt assurances have already been given that in time a Britain hauled back within the EU with its tail between its legs would join the Euro and lose all the other opt-outs hitherto ‘enjoyed’.  Worse, a Britain humiliated could marking the real beginning of the end for the United Kingdom. Why would the Scots want to stay in one powerless union, when another has proved its might by humiliating the United Kingdom, a state that a generation or two ago was one of the mightiest on the planet.  Hotel California re-confirmed?
Nor should Leavers dwell in nostalgia. Even if the UK successfully extricates itself from EU purgatory the future is unlikely to be the buccaneering, swashbuckling swathe-cutting renaissance beloved of Boris Johnson.  The simple truth is that in Britain’s unbalanced economy the City of London influences too much power.  What it wants is nothing to do with Britain and its people, but rather to be the money-making depository of billions of not-too-many-questions-asked dodgy ‘investments’ from all over the world.  The fact that Theresa May is in Beijing today kow-towing to President Xi suggests Britain’s future outside the EU could well be one of selling its body-politic to powerful states the world over in return for gold. There is another word for that.
Brexit, Hotel California and another Bloody Referendum
Why is the London Establishment actively undermining Britain’s departure from the EU?  It is not because they are all traitors – far from it.  They have undertaken pretty much the same analysis I have and reached pretty much the same set of conclusions.  In other words, the EU might be a grand manipulating, self-empowering, undemocratic Tower of Babel but it is, on balance, better for a weak Britain to be anchored to it than forced to make common cause with Chinese autocrats, Russian oligarchs and the like simply to get their money. Where I part company with much of Britain’s Establishment is that I still believe in my country, and many of them do not.  Indeed, I still believe that a well-led Britain could be an important, sovereign power in Europe and the wider world.  Which brings me to the real reason why Britain is in this mess – Britain’s high-bureaucratic Establishment have little faith in Britain’s high-political Establishment. Or, to put it more bluntly – Whitehall thinks Westminster is useless.
However, Brexit is now about far more than the collapse of effective government and governance in London.  Brexit is fast becoming a fundamental struggle over the future of democracy. Indeed, if there is a second Brexit referendum it will be just as bloody as the first and further weaken a country already close to breaking point. Therefore, even though I stand by my belief that Brexit at this time undermines the security and defence of Europe, in the event of a second referendum I would switch my vote to Leave.  And, I suspect an awful lot more of ‘we’ pragmatic Remainers would do the same because even though ‘we’ lost in June 2016 I will honour the then decision of the British people and refuse to countenance another example of grand manipulation by the elite of a supposedly ‘ill-informed people’.
If those seeking to over-turn the result of the June 2016 Brexit referendum are successful, by ‘dividing to unratify’ to paraphrase Giscard, it will reduce ‘democracy’ in Europe to little more than an exercise in voting for little people with little or no power over little of any import, whilst the big issues are confined to the musings of a distant ‘we know best’ elite. It will also, as Giscard warned “…confirm European citizens in the idea that the construction of Europe is organised behind their backs…”
President Putin?

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