Author, journalist and political commentator Frederick Forsyth gives his views on the Brexit issue
A long time ago a very wise old man advised me thus: “If ever you are confronted by a highly complex situation and a decision cannot be avoided, never rush to an early emotional judgment. Subject the subject to the four-pronged ARID. It stands for Analyse, Research, Identify and then Decide.
We all now face this decision: should we continue as obedient members of the EU or should we sever the link? Let me try to apply the old man’s advice.
Any country other than a shambolic anarchy must have a government. That said, most governmental systems end with the five-letter “-cracy” derived from the Greek for “rule”.
There are about 10.
We know about autocracy, rule by a single tyrant. There is theocracy, rule by the priestly caste, such as Iran. Add stratocracy, rule by the army (Egypt) and plutocracy (by the very rich). We have seen gerontocracy, with the reins of power in the hands of the extremely old – the Soviet politburo in its last days.
And aristocracy, rule by the nobles, long gone. But two are with us and visible. One is bureaucracy, government by the officials, the constant competitor for power with rule by the “demos”: the people.
Democracy. It is by far the hardest to establish. It is the most fragile, the easiest to fake with rigged elections, meaningless ceremonies and elaborate charades.
I estimate about 100 phoney democracies worldwide. But ours is parliamentary democracy so let’s give it a glance. Of course it is indirect. We cannot expect the electorate to go to the polls for every tiny decision. So we divide the country into 650 constituencies with one MP for each. The party with the most MPs in Westminster governs for five years. At the pinnacle is the Cabinet and, with encircling junior ministers, forms the Government, which I will call the power.
But there is more. The power is held to account, not five-yearly, not annually or monthly but every day. Doing this is the official Opposition but also the backbench MPs even of the government party. This “holding to account” is vital. Assisting these critics is hopefully a free and unafraid press. I have travelled very widely, seen the good, the bad and the very ugly and have come firmly to the view that with all its flaws the British parliamentary form of democracy is the best in the world. Not for those in power but for the people who between elections still have a voice. It is against this template that we can judge the system of the EU.
After the war a group of men, politicians, thinkers, intellectuals and theorists, formed around Frenchman Jean Monnet, became convinced that what they had witnessed at close quarters – the utter destruction of their continent in a vicious war – must never, ever, happen again. It was not a bad viewpoint, indeed it was a noble one. They then analysed the problem and came up with two solutions.
The first was that the various and disparate nations of Europe west of the Iron Curtain must somehow be unified into one under a single government. They accepted that this might take two, even three, generations but must be done. This was not an ignoble vision. It was their second conclusion to which I take exception.
The whole group was mesmerised by one fact. In 1933, the Germans, seized by rabid nationalism, voted Adolf Hitler into power. Their conclusion: the people, any people, were too obtuse, too gullible, and too dim ever to be safely entrusted with the power to elect their government. People’s democracy was flawed and should never be permitted to decide government again if war was to be avoided. Real power would have to be confined to a non-elective body of enlightened minds like theirs.
In the 70 years since, the theory has never changed. It remains exactly the same today. The British Cabinet has power and may delegate that power to a wide range of civil servants: police chiefs, generals, bureaucrats. But it itself remains elective. The people can change it via the polling booth. Not so in the EU. The difference is absolutely fundamental.
They realised, those founders, that there would have to be façades erected to persuade the gullible that democracy had not been abolished in the new utopia.
There is indeed a European Parliament – but with a difference. In London it is the Commons that is the lawgiver; the Upper House is the vetting and endorsing chamber. In Brussels the EU Parliament has no lower house, it is the endorsing chamber. It ratifies what the real power, the non-elective European Commission, has decided. The broad masses would also have to be convinced that the purpose of the Monnet utopia was economic and thus about prosperity. This untruth has prevailed to this day and is the main plank of the establishment propaganda in our present British decision-making.
In fact the final destination of the EU is entirely political. It is the complete political, legal and constitutional unification of the continent of Europe into a single entity: the State of Europe. This clearly cannot make war against itself, thus guaranteeing peace. Albeit without democracy. It is amazing how many intelligent people have fallen for this fiction. Thus David Cameron can tell us with a straight face that he repudiates the three pillars of the EU – the doctrine of even closer union, a single external border but no internal ones (Schengen) and a single currency (euro zone) – but still thinks we will sit at the top table. He believes the EU is about trade and tariffs. No, that’s what we thought when we joined.
Back in the 1960s, one British premier (Macmillan) after another (Heath) came to the view that with the empire departing into independence and the USA becoming more protectionist our economic days were numbered. If the world beyond the oceans was not communist it was Third World, meaning impoverished. Both premiers became convinced the future lay east across the Channel.
Back then the union was six countries: Germany, France, Italy, plus minnows Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Wealthy, especially Germany, booming. Just the trading partners we needed. So under Heath, we joined the Common Market. As a trading nation for centuries we were delighted to do so. Then the lies began. It would never go further, we were told. The Six became the Nine but all in Western Europe.
Heath lied to us. He said there would never be any question of “transfer of significant sovereignty”. He had read the whole Treaty of Rome. No one else had. He knew this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Then in 1992 came the Maastricht Treaty. We were told it was just tidying up loose ends. More lies. It was transformational. It created the European Union. Slowly, decree by decree, rule by rule, law by law, our ancient right to govern ourselves the way we wanted to be governed and by whom was transferred from London to Brussels.
Today 60% of all laws are framed in Brussels, not London. The lies multiplied. The entire establishment, much espoused of power without accountability, has become hugely enamoured of the new governmental system. Less and less need to consult those wretched people, the voters.
It is no coincidence that the five professions that worship power – politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats, quangocrats and lawyers, plus the two that lust for money, bankers/ financiers and tycoons – today constitute almost the whole of the stay-in campaign. Almost to a man.
And the lies proliferate. “There is no intention to proceed to a super state.” Really? Read the Treaty of Rome. That is the whole point of the EU. What is not said is that in a unified continent there can be no place for the independent, autonomous, self-governing sovereign nation/state. The two are a contradiction in terms. Only here in the UK is that denied. In Brussels it is accepted as wholly obvious. “The end of nation” is regarded as a work in progress. Endgame is foreseen as a decade, maybe two.
The referendum decision of June 23 will be the last ever, the decision permanent. So this is your choice. This is about the country in which we will spend the rest of our lives, the land we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. What kind of a country, what kind of governmental system?
People’s democracy or officialdom’s empire? Our right to hold power to account or just two duties: to pay and obey?
For me it is simple and takes just five words. I want my country back.