SPEECH TO ENF CONFERENCE, 4TH DECEMBER 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen when Charles de Gaulle gave his famous “NON!” reply to the British Government’s applications to join the European Common Market, as the European Union was then known, he said:-
“England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions”.
Most British commentators since then have either ignored that comment or laughed at it. I however, as an Englishman, think he was right. In doing so I fit in with opinion poll evidence which makes clear, that people who think of themselves as being “British” are very likely to be Europhiles, whereas people like me who strongly identify with being English, are very likely to be Eurosceptic.
Let me now explain why I think I am right in thinking that Charles de Gaulle was right.
To do so I first need to explain why England is so exceptional and the uniqueness of the English Nation.
Of course a collection of eminent patriotic nationalists, such as we have here in this conference from other European countries revel in the uniqueness of their own country and their own nation and rightly so! It is partly out of a sense of English understatement and restraint and politeness that English people don’t emphasise the uniqueness of England, hoping thereby not to give offence. However it is because our uniqueness is what makes us so uniquely unsuited to incorporation into the European Union Superstate project that I must run the risk of offending but I hope that you will understand and forgive me because it is to educate English people that I need to say this. It will probably seem odd to many of you that I have to explain what may seem obvious but the UK State and the British political and media establishment are hostile to Englishness and want to break up England.
Most non-English people, just like President De Gaulle, are well aware of England’s uniqueness but English exceptionalism does need to be explained to English people. This is partly because of English insularity. It remains a fact that many English people have never been outside of England and so know nothing else other than English ways. Such people are singularly ill-equipped to judge what is special about England. As one of our famous 19th Century poets, Rudyard Kipling, wrote:-
“What should they know of England who only England know”?
There is also the problem that even those English people who have travelled outside of England have usually not travelled outside of the Western developed world. All Western countries have adopted large parts of the English cultural, political, legal, industrial, etc., contribution to the world. So such limited English travellers are inclined to imagine, as they only anyway get a superficial view of other countries, that the glimpst similarities, which they have only seen at a quick glance, show that all other countries, and therefore all human beings, are basically English with a few quaint or interesting customs thrown in! They do not see the deep differences that make each nation unique. As we say:- “They cannot see the wood for the trees”! This is what in psychology is known as “projection”. Most English people “project” that everyone has the same moral code as them and so projection may also be part of the multi-culturalist delusion that mixing everyone up could ever lead to harmony!
There are therefore only a few English people who have seen the unique contrasts and so have the perspective to understand the reality that English ways and culture are unique.
This lack of understanding is a pity, not only because English people should feel some pride in the achievements of our Nation, but also because an understanding of English uniqueness would help English people appreciate that not only should our own uniqueness be treasured, but so also should the uniqueness of every other nation on earth. Such an understanding would be a transformative inspiration leading to a better appreciation of the role of nations and of the need for respect of other national identities.
People who understand that idea would support the emergence of a world order, where nations are encouraged to be self-governing. The fundamental principle is that nations should be self governed. The borders of states would be encouraged to be reordered, where practicable, to re-unite divided nations and to facilitate the correction of past errors, many of which were made by British imperialists.
For example, part of what we are seeing in the turmoil in the Middle East now is the inevitable instability created by States seeking to maintain themselves as entities against the wishes of their constituent fragmented nations often where the boundaries were drawn after the First World War, without any respect for the various nations or communities within the Middle East.
Returning to England, to point out why the English Nation is so unfitted to be in the EU I shall go through some of the reasons why we are unique. The first thing to note is how ancient England is.
English is ancient
After the collapse of the Roman Empire what is now England was settled by the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, whose political systems gradually coalesced into the Kingdoms of the Heptarchy but already by 731 AD the Venerable Bede was writing about England and the English Nation. England would never have come into unified existence except as a result of the Viking invasions.
Alfred the Great not only started the fight back but set up many of the social, political and cultural institutions that have come to define Englishness as the mission for his dynasty, the House of Wessex. So successful were they that under his Grandson, the great King Athelstan, England was united on more or less its current borders. Which it has retained more or less uninterruptedly ever since the 12th July in the year of our Lord 927!
Another example of “English Exceptionalism” is that our aristocracy were never legally a separate Caste, unlike French aristocrats who before the French Revolution could not be required to pay tax but also not be either prosecuted or sued in a court of law. Our aristocracy has never been like that and indeed in 1760, at the very height of the Ancien Regime in France, Earl Ferrers was hanged at Tyburn having been convicted in an English court of law of murdering his steward.
Rule of Law
In 2015 there were some celebrations of another “English Exceptionalism” that of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede where England became the first country ever to make its King subject to the Rule of Law.
Compare that with Roman law, as handed down to us through the Institutes of Justinian, which is by comparison the law of tyranny, specifically stating that the ‘Emperor’s Will is Law’. Since 1215, the English King’s Will has not been Law in England.
Representative Parliament and Democracy
Although universal adult suffrage is relatively new in England, with all adult women finally getting the vote in 1928, our representative parliamentary system is much older. In 2015 there was some limited official recognition given to January 20th being the 750th anniversary of the calling of the first English Parliament by Simon de Montfort. The meeting took place in the still existing Chapter House of Westminster Abbey.
Even that anniversary somewhat understates the antiquity of English representational participation as the Anglo Saxon Kings ruled through their Witan, with participation from a representational sample of the great men of England, in a manner totally dissimilar to autocratic Roman Emperors or any of the other tyrannical states all across the globe and throughout history.
The Anglo Saxon Kingdom also had a highly significant array of courts and of local representative decision-making bodies which as a result included in decision making and implementation quite a large proportion of the adult male population and most of the free population.
Together with the Rule of Law this led very early to Englishmen having a clear idea of their rights and of what the Monarchy was allowed to order and what tradition did not allow. It was against this strong idea that King John’s autocratic idea of Kingship was wrecked. As Kipling wrote of the Anglo Saxon mentality:-
“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!”
The Church of England is unique amongst the Nation States of the world. The Church of England is part of the constitutional structure of England with its Senior Bishops having automatic positions in Parliament and the Queen being the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
England alone has a Protestant church which regards itself as Catholic in the sense of being for all People of England. This combined with our history led to a unique attitude to religion and had a big impact on other aspects of our politics and our economic development.
Because until 1829 people who were not Church of England could not hold official positions, non-conformist Protestants tended to focus on business and are disproportionately represented amongst the great historical entrepreneurs e.g. Cadbury, Rowntree. As attendance in the Church of England has declined this has led to the English Nation being one of the most secularist societies on earth.
English Politics were partly configured as a result of our history and our religion. With religious non-conformity being the root of our radical traditions and of the historical foundations of our political divide between historically conservative traditions and Labour non-conformist.
Also the fact that the English constitution has evolved over the last thousand years without being utterly overthrown by the devastation of invasion means that our political divide is unique in its ideological content.
So perversely for a nation which almost invented the ideology and practise of free trade capitalism, our Conservative Party fights to maintain the monolithic, statist, bureaucratic structure of one of the largest single employers in the world, the National Health Service (only just beaten in size by the Chinese Red Army!). Unsurprisingly no other country has thought to copy such an unmanageable behemoth.
England early had its mercantile revolution and English merchants were already trading around the world in the 16th Century.
England’s medieval open field assistance farming systems were early being transformed into commercially engaged enterprises, aiming to sell produce in markets from the middle of the 14th Century. It was this transformation that gives England its unique countryside, villages, farms and country houses.
By the beginning of the 18th Century there was virtually no subsistence farming left in England and almost all farming was commercialised and incorporated into national market commercial patterns. The hub of which early became the largest city in Europe, London, with its world trading connections and politically dominant role. By the Norman Conquest in 1066 London was already by far the largest city in England.
England had the Rule of Law and a legally enforceable array of individual rights, and of property rights, whereby anyone could own, buy and sell property in most cases by the early 16th Century. In principle all property was legally transferrable and the last of the restrictive medieval ownership patterns were abolished in the 1650’s.
It is partly as a result of this exceptionally early ability to transfer property that the English were the first people in all human history to have an Industrial Revolution. In England’s case it was not a product of State intervention but as a result of free enterprise.
To give an anecdotal example of how unusual this is, I was having a conversation with a Austrian a couple of years ago and explained to him that the English railway network was built by entrepreneurs and not by the State. He was amazed to hear this as, of course, almost all the railway systems of continental Europe were built by the State, often mainly for military purposes rather than commercial purposes.
England is the home and the source of most of the games which dominate in world sport today and the English wrote the original rules regulating them and first turned these games into mass spectator events.
The British Empire wasn’t a uniquely English phenomenon but the English had a big role in its creation and maintenance. Unusually for empires it had its roots in trade and commercial opportunism as Napoleon famously and rightly said “England is a country of shopkeepers (merchants)”. While the high watermark of empire was very short its impact includes English as the world language. English is now the largest language in all human history at over one million words.
Unlike most European Powers which had large armies, English security and power rested on the English Navy from Queen Elizabeth’s defeat of the Spanish Armada (latterly the Royal Navy) until after the Second World War. Our armies were usually small and were also usually deeply unpopular in peacetime.
The Evolution of our Unions
The Kingdom of England is particularly ancient but the first national union that took place within the British Isles was the Union between England and the newly constituted principality of Wales in 1536. That was a full Union whereby Wales was fully incorporated into the political, legal and religious structures of England.
The next Union is 1707, which was the Union between the Kingdom of England (which as I say included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. That Union was and is a partial union. The Scottish monarchy and the English monarchy, which were already the same person, changed its title, to the King or Queen of the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The Scottish and English legal systems and religious structures, the education establishments remained separate. In effect the main result of the Act of Union of 1707 was the merger of the parliaments of England and Scotland. This Union took place in response to war, with absolutist France under Louis XIV, and was not a popular measure in either Scotland or England but just part of the elite building up the constitutional infrastructure that enabled the creation of a world empire.
The next Union also took place against the backdrop of war and empire, this time against Napoleonic France in 1801 with the Union between Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. This again was a partial Union and in the case of Ireland did not even allow Irish traders to have full access to English markets.
In 1922 a further change took place to the structure of the multi-national state known as the United Kingdom, when Southern Ireland succeeded in obtaining its independence, leading eventually to the current constitutional structure known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I think this explanation is necessary to understand what exactly the United Kingdom is and therefore to be able to question whether it serves the best interests of the People of England and the English Nation.
Legacy of Imperialism
The Union of the United Kingdom was formed, as I have already said, in order to advance the Imperial project and as part of the struggle for Imperial dominance with France. Thankfully those days are over, but the legacy hangs on in Government. British Governments still wants to prance about on the world stage making out that we are an important power. That is the reason we got ourselves into the mess as of Iraq, Afghanistan and even more ludicrously and disastrously Libya. We are now faced with active involvement in the quagmire of Syrian Civil War. I would say let us revert to the traditional English virtue of minding our own business!
The existence of English National Identity
You may ask whether there is such a thing as the English Nation after 300 years? Well my answer to you would be to say yes of course there is and the simplest demonstration of that is the strong sense of national identity shown in the 2011 National Census Results organised by the Government’s Office of National Statistics. For the first time in it we in England were asked whether we felt that our national identity was English rather than just British or Irish or a foreign national identity.
The results horrified the British Political and media establishment because even including the very multi-racial London, over 60% (over 32 million people) of the population of England said that they were “English-only” and not “British”. A further just less than 10% said that they were “English and British”. That is 70% of the population of England including London saying that their national identity is English. Also there was less than 30% that said that they were in any sense “British”. The difference was made up of course by people who said they were of “Non-British” national identities.
Outside of London typically 70% of the population say that they are “English-only”. Adding those that say that they are “English and British” will usually take you up to somewhat over 80%.
So it is absolutely crystal clear that there remains a strong sense of national identity in England. Indeed, despite 50 years of increasing mass immigration it remains by far the dominant national identity in England.
However I mentioned the expression “English Exceptionalism”, of course, not only is England exceptional in its cohesion, Rule of Law, our representative parliament, our constitutional monarchy, our glorious history, the first agricultural revolution, the first industrial revolution and so many other achievements but now the English are also exceptional in having no English national parliament, no English national government and no English First Minister.
It is therefore not surprising that given England’s uniqueness and exceptionalism that it is uniquely difficult for us to accept the Statist, corporatist, bureaucratic structure of the EU that incorporates the 28 Nations forming the European Union (out of the 50 European Nations). Just as De Gaulle thought England is unique, quirky, often infuriating, but we English like it that way.
English nationalism is developing towards not only withdrawal from the EU but also from the other Union that we are involved with. That is towards ending the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
There is an excellent Eurosceptic reason for supporting the call for English Independence. If England left the United Kingdom it would be dissolved. The United Kingdom is the constitutional entity which joined the European Union and it is a fundamental Rule of Law that if the entity which enters into an arrangement ceases to exist then that arrangement ceases to exist.
That is why in the run up to the Scottish referendum, Senor Barroso, the then President of the European Union Commission, came over here to say that if Scotland voted to go, Scotland would not be an accession State and would be automatically outside of the EU. The same logic applies to England. It is therefore a complete solution to not only the imbalance of the arrangements within the United Kingdom Union but also the £18bn a year which England gives to the EU which would also automatically cease.
This logic will apply to other EU member states/dissident nations like the Flemish nationalists in Belgium and the Catalonian nationalists in Spain.
So our English ambition should be to turn Karl Marx’s comment:-
“England: The rock upon which all the revolutions of Europe are wrecked”
into a prophesy and make England indeed the rock upon which the EU revolution is wrecked!
And so Ladies and Gentlemen what I would like to see, and what the English Democrats campaign for, is for England to resume its place amongst the Nation states of the earth and to be able to become a modern, democratic, prosperous, independent European Nation State respecting the uniqueness of all nations and in friendship with our European neighbours in a Europe of Nations and of Freedom!
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.