Bristling Brock speaks out...


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Well, the Brexit deal seems to be done.  There'll no doubt be much to finesse and round-off in the weeks ahead, but the principle of severance from the EU would look as though it has been achieved.

For those who supported the very concept of Brexit, its fundamental implications and the desire to allow Britain to once again be in charge of its affairs, this will all sound like good news after a heart rending negotiation that, at times, looked impossible to fulfill.   For those that opposed severance from the EU there will no doubt be some dismay and even bitterness that the final cutting of that political and economic umbilical has now been achieved.   So let us draw a distinction in these often fraught, polar views about how Britain should continue its evolution in the decades to come.   The EU started its life as an economic initiative with trade being central to its purpose.   In the course of time the union developed a political mind to move toward a federalist agglomeration of European states.  Security and being a mid-world powerhouse of business, finance and innovation were lofty aspirations that appealed to many - including Britain - at a time when the communist bloc was thrashing through its death throes and the emerging influences of a bruised Russia, a totalitarian China, a rogue nuclear North Korea and an opportunist enthusiasm for the Islamist vision all started to enter our consciousness.

There were moments when the EU ideal looked to be the better option to be within in the face of this disparate but dangerous clique of global saboteurs.   Yet regulation of the then 28 member states meant ever increasing control, interference and blockage of sovereign states individual outlooks.   The economic and political disparity between those newer members in the east and those in the west loomed large and we became a club of those that paid in little but received a lot versus those that paid in a lot and received little - all in the name of European solidarity.   But the raw truth of it is that European solidarity is a myth, a leviathan political institution that jaw-jaws in its lavish parliament but actually does nothing to establish a cohesive and multilateral sense of equality and security throughout its membership.   It has crowed about the preservation of peace in Northern Ireland, but has actually done nothing at all to assist in bringing that about; it failed to intervene in the implosion of Yugoslavia and watched with glassy, sightless eyes as genocide and war crimes were committed on European soil; it failed to mediate and act as an arbitrator in the Catalan dispute with Spain and again watched a brutal put-down of a genuine regional desire to have a greater say in its local governance; it watched Russia invade the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and did nothing; it watched the ever growing problem of illegal migrants entering southern Europe and contributing to the destruction of economies in Greece and southern Italy (in conjunction with impossible Eurozone demands) and again stood by, passive and unresponsive.   And so the list goes on and on.

This all says nothing about how the Continental members of the EU bent and skewed the rules to favour their own industry, trade and business interests - all counter to both the spirit and law of the EU - whilst dear old Britain played its cricket by the rules - and suffered mightily for such naivete.   

The arguments can continue endlessly in both directions, but Britain has now defined its position to act in friendly but open ways with not just the remaining EU bloc but with other free trade partners around the world.  That those agreements have been secured quickly beyond the impossibly legalistic EU rule book is testimony to the very reason why Britain has sought and achieved its independence.  We are an island race of free-traders on a global scale and we do not subscribe to the slow and restrictive ways of a political bloc that puts its political interests before its economic and social well-being - and therefore the well-being of its many citizens.   We are infinitely better off as a nation state outside of this organisation - still friendly and collaborative with it but - importantly - independent of it.

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The interminable Brexit process is being drawn out to its tortuous limits.  The complexities of this are no doubt enormous and beyond the wit of mere average mortals, but it is worth considering - purely for some sense of self satisfaction - quite why we are where we are with the EU.

There is something to be recognised in the fact that Britain and the wider UK are island states.  We are surrounded by water and therefore rely on a healthy maritime trade.  Nothing too amazing about that.  By contrast, the EU is predominantly a Continental land-mass with myriad land borders and a sensitivity to the vulnerabilities such notional borders pose.  After all, those borders have been seriously challenged over the last century or more.  So we might give Europeans just a modicum of understanding that they constantly keep an eye peering over their shoulders - just in case.  Security is a big thing if you have a bully boy living next door.   If we then look at how our nation states are made up, it doesn't take much delving to see that the folk who started the whole English-British-UK dynamic - Celts, Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans - created a very different national psyche to that possessed throughout Europe where there is an ethnic bias toward Gallic, Teutonic, Latin, Greco and Slavic races.  We thought differently throughout times past and we still do. 

We developed different values, different forms of governance and different strategic views of the world - as a small island race we had to be outgoing and often punching above our weight.  But perhaps most significantly, we recognised the worth of unifying tribal groupings into a nation state long before anyone in Europe (though even that continental entity really had no geo-political substance until the fifteenth century) had even considered such an idea - France, Germany, Italy and Spain were riven with vested interest groups that defied any vision or sense of unity in preference to personal glories and wealth.   So you might argue that the British have something of a longer and more worked out approach to how governance might work.  That's not to say our system is perfect - far from it - but let us say that we have a pedigree when compared to the majority of EU states.

Cutting a long story short, the upshot of this is that we could think of Britain as never really having been a part of Continental Europe at all - it was some 7,000 years ago when the Dogger lands sank beneath the expanding surges of the North Sea and separated us from those 'other folk' who talked differently !  The British are, by nature and circumstance, free-traders.   The EU represents a protectionist outlook, one that seeks obedience and subordination to the bloc's technocratic structures, underpinned by a fatalistic desire to prevent further European hostilities, to lump everyone together in the hope that that creates a common sense of well-being.   It's a model that is anathema to the British, not least when the French aspire to be the voice of the EU.  In that, why do the British and French have such an antipathy toward each other ?   Is it relevant to todays political wrangling ?  The answer, simply, is yes on both counts.  We cannot ignore the historical fact that we and the French have been at loggerheads for centuries, about ten of them in truth, a state of affairs driven by one unified culture sparring with a disunited and multi-directional culture and an ever changing land-mass boundary.   It's a record of very roughly a 60:40 ratio of British triumph compared with French triumph.   And the French hate that very statistic, for it paints them as the weaker geographical body and nation.  And that very simple analogy tells us exactly what is going on in Brussels right now.   The French, believing themselves to be the natural leaders of the EU bloc, are after vengeance upon the British.   Let us hope we stand resolute, as we have done this last thousand years, strong against the bully-boys.

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As the Brexit negotiations enter yet another crisis mode, perhaps we should reflect upon the likely winners and losers of this protracted battle.

Britain will regain its sovereignty, its national right to decree its own laws and processes.  Quite laudable if you’re a Euro-sceptic.  Over the Channel we have the vested interests of 27 other nation states.  It would be a mistake to imagine that those interests are common, for each has an agenda that focuses upon its own well being and prosperity.  You could say that’s a laudable position for them as well.  The EU, however, is a Continental Political Entity embracing those 27 disparate ambitions - some of which support a strong EU because they are net beneficiaries from its subsidies and largesse, and some that seek to be the captain of the European ship and its journey toward federalism.  In that, Bristling Brock looks at the machinations of French political positioning in particular.  It’s no coincidence that France has emerged as the agent of opposition to securing a Brexit deal.  Let’s assume that there are no history denyers reading this, but for the last thousand years the interests of this island and that of France have been at odds. It’s almost built into the DNA of our respective societies and national outlooks.  We both see ourselves as different and better than the other in an almost playground face-off between young belligerents.  At some level it is an amusing back-drop to ancient historical conflicts but the reality is that it is still an emotive and strongly held belief on both sides of the Channel that there should be some one-upmanship in play.  Brexit presents such an opportunity for the French.  With German moral and financial guidance wavering, France has quickly adopted the captains cap on the good ship SS Europe.  There are clear benefits to France in a no deal outcome - not least in the financial sector where Paris may well become the hub of investment activity for the entire bloc, London by then an outsider.  It’s a lucrative goal for France to pitch for, so the blocking of deal conditions is very much to their advantage.  And that’s the point - it is to France’s advantage, not necessarily the EU’s.  We have a classic example of national interest taking precedence over the EU bloc’s interest.  Read the history books, it’s happened before !

The Donald is still complaining of unfair electioneering.  Whether that’s a true assertion or not, it brings disrepute to the broader church of American politics, that arena of intrigues that has always been plagued by cries of ‘Foul !’ and wrong-doing.  In some respects it is the theatre that represents our views of much of America.  It is television and film fodder which, as always, portrays good triumphing over evil - often wonderfully entertaining but subliminally setting the notion across the world that this big superpower is as dysfunctional as any tin-pot dictatorship.  We cannot truly live our way of life without much of this American influence, and for certain aspects of that we should be grateful, but we should not bend our knee to this often bullying cousin.  Whatever sizes and global influences may be, we are our own people and with a new American administration approaching we should not be the expected supplicant.

Eton is in the middle of a row over the expression of free truths and opinions versus the wokish dogma’s of current day public life.  You can guess where Bristling Brock sits on this argument, an argument of puerility and political correctness that stifles the scope of young peoples thinking versus the argument of open-mindedness, freedom of thought and expression, of natural debate over all issues without constraint or fear of recrimination.  Let us hope freedom of thought and opinion win the day.  The alternative is dictatorial and wholly counter-productive.