Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The 7th Brexit in History

break-2025036_1280 How Many More Times?

 On 23rd June 2016 (St George's Day) the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union. This was an historic moment. We could say this was the 7th Brexit in history. And it is not complete yet, as we shall see.

In effect, this was not the first Brexit, not the first time that Britannia separated her destiny from that of Europe.

In 43 AD our island was invaded by Rome, and united to the rest of Europe, being absorbed into the Roman Empire as a province. There was staunch resistance, as by Boadicea queen of the Iceni, who is celebrated in a statue opposite Big Ben, but it was overcome by ferocious Roman military might. The subordination of Britain to Rome lasted for around three and a half centuries. Actually the European Union today is, in the minds of many of its proponents, an attempt to recreate "the glory that was Rome", when Rome ruled almost the entire known world. That is why the founding Treaty was signed in Rome, and in Rome's town hall, the Capitol, on the very site from which Rome governed its empire. José Barroso said the EU was an "Empire". Rome's Capitol was chosen again as the place where the draft European Constitution was also signed, by all the Heads of State and Government.

The first Brexit was in 410 AD when the Roman legions left, and that was the last time, up until 1973, that the country was governed from a location beyond our shores - Rome. For one and a half thousand years ever since then, this country was always governed from a location within the country itself. Even William the Conqueror left Rouen his capital in Normandy and established his seat of government in England, in London.

In the Middle Ages, England was a Roman Catholic country, under the spiritual supremacy of the Church of Rome. But in the early thirteenth century, the Pope was setting up a fearsome machinery of tyranny, the Holy Inquisition, in order to stamp out opposition - heresy, witchcraft and science. So in 1215, we had the second Brexit, when England defied the Pope's wrath and forced the King to accept Magna Carta. This limited his powers to punish his subjects at will. The rest of Europe however was made to accept the Inquisition.

The paths of development of our system of criminal justice and that of the Europeans diverged then and have never come together again since.

We must not forget that criminal justice is the "sword" of State power, which allows the State to use violence, legally, against its own people. In England this power is limited by Magna Carta's provisions for Habeas Corpus (art. 38), Trial by Jury (art. 39) and others. These safeguards are still unknown in Europe, to this day.

Henry VIII effected the third Brexit in 1534. He had broken with the Church of Rome, established the independent Church of England with himself as its head, and he passed the Act of Supremacy, under which

"no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ... within the realm" ..

After Henry's death there was an attempt to restore the authority of Rome by his Catholic daughter "bloody" Mary. This was rejected by her sister Queen Elisabeth I, who in 1558 reaffirmed the Act of Supremacy and in 1588 fought off the attempt by the Spanish Armada to bring the country back into subjection to a foreign authority. And it was under the first Elisabeth that the country turned its attention away from Europe to the wide open seas, founding colonies in the New World, with Sir Walter Raleigh in Virginia, and Sir Francis Drake circumnavigating the globe.

I would consider 1649 to mark the fourth Brexit, when our form of government became notably different from that of the rest of Europe. At that time nearly all European countries were governed by autocratic monarchs - we remember King Louis XIV of France who said, notoriously, "I am the State".

In Britain, in marked contrast, Parliament arose and asserted its authority over the king, with a civil war which ended by cutting off the King's head; but then 12 years later Parliament itself restored the monarchy with a settled constitution with checks and balances. The claim to absolute authority by Charles I was not repeated by Charles II, although his brother James II tried to re-establish Papal supremacy, and had to leave. The provisions of the Act of Supremacy and of Magna Carta were reaffirmed in 1688-9 with the Bill of Rights. Much of Europe however continued to have absolute monarchs, and later on dictatorships, until well into the 20th century.

At the end of the eighteenth century Europe was thrown into turmoil by the French Revolution, which overthrew the absolute monarchy of France, cutting off their king's head and thousands of others in the process. However the helm of their ship of State was swiftly seized by Napoleon Bonaparte, who imposed, not a reasonable, balanced form of government as had developed in England, but his own autocracy, and whose armies spread it to many other countries in Europe. He aimed to include Britain in his empire too, but was defeated, first at Trafalgar by Nelson, and then definitively by Wellington at Waterloo in 1815. So 1815 marked our fifth Brexit, or break with a plan to unite all Europe under one rule.

Britannia became now the chief industrial power in the world, and Britannia's navy ruled the waves, and thus grew up the British Empire in five continents. Notions of freedom and fairness were still amongst the guiding values of the British people, and so in the fulness of time Britain voluntarily granted independence to its former colonies, avoiding the bloody wars of independence fought by France and Portugal and Spain and others in attempting to hold on to their own colonies.

The last struggle between Britain and Europe, where a continental power tried to conquer and subjugate the people of Britain, was the Second World War. Here again we fought them off victoriously, and so 1945 marks our sixth Brexit.

And now we come to our own lifetimes. In 1973, under Heath's government, instead of conquest by force of arms, it was, in Shakespeare's prophetic words,

" With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. "

And the people were deceived and tricked by their own governments into accepting subjugation to a foreign yoke, when the primacy of European Community law was established over UK law, in the Treaty of Rome.

Yet once again, on 23rd June 2016 we effected our seventh Brexit. This time, it cost some toil, sweat and tears but luckily - so far! - it has been without bloodshed.

Of course the fight is not yet over, we are still "lions being led by donkeys". On Saturday 17th February 2018, 80 years after the appeasement of Hitler in Munich, a British Prime Minister went again to Munich to offer her "unconditional commitment" to sign a "Security Treaty" with the EU to keep us under the European Arrest Warrant and as members of Europol, ie under the sinews of the nascent United State of Europe.

We may yet see lethally-armed paramilitary European Gendarmes (see marching down our High Streets, ramming alien laws down our throats. At that point blood will doubtless be shed.

The 7th Brexit is by no means completed, despite the referendum result of now eight years ago.

As mentioned, we are still subject to the European Arrest Warrant. This means that any foreign prosecutor from any EU state can order the arrest of anyone in Britain and their forcible transportation to Europe, on a charge for which no evidence is required nor can be shewn nor debated in any UK court. This lack of any requirement for evidence directly flouts article 38 of Magna Carta which stipulates that nobody can be "put to the law" on the mere say-so of any legal officer, without "reliable witnesses who have already been brought for the purpose". This protection is not available in Europe, where people can be and are arrested and imprisoned "pending investigation", while the prosecutors seek evidence of guilt. This can take months, and even longer, while the unfortunate suspect languishes in prison with no right to a public hearing during this time. In Italy, for example, it has been reckoned that every year 1000 suspects suffer this fate. These are suspects who later are discovered, and declared, to be quite innocent. But meanwhile their lives and livelihoods are irreparably ruined by the long months of undeserved and needless detention.

It may be thought that the European Convention and Court of Human Rights (ECHR), to which all EU member states must subscribe, should provide protection and a remedy against this obvious violation of the citizen's most fundamental human right without which all other rights are at risk – the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one's liberty. However the Convention only says (art. 6) that a person has a right to a public hearing before an impartial tribunal within a "reasonable" time after arrest. It nowhere says what is "reasonable". For us in Britain, with Habeas Corpus, it is a few hours, or at the most days. In Europe it can be months or even years. In one landmark case (Luciano Ferrari Bravo vs Italy) a prisoner was kept in custody with no public hearing for nearly 5 years. He applied to the European Court of Human Rights, asking was this "reasonable" in terms of article 6? His application was rejected, on grounds that "detention is intended to facilitate the preliminary investigation" (verbatim).

A number of Britons have suffered needlessly from the European Arrest Warrant, as I shall relate in a later chapter. The media have taken a desultory interest in some cases. Most people are quite unaware of this immense arbitrary power which could be used against any of us at any time. As long as this power exists, and hangs over all our heads like a sword of Damocles, in the hands of foreign authorities who do not share our traditions and history, we cannot be said to be a free and independent people.

So to complete the 7th Brexit, Britain must break free from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Parliament must amend the Extradition Act 2003 to eliminate the list of "Category 1" countries – they just happen to be the EU member States... – which alone are exempted from having to provide any evidence of wrongdoing when demanding the extradition of anyone from British soil.

And as long as we allow a Court made up of the political nominees of 46 foreign governments (some with decidedly dodgy human rights records of their own) to decide for us what our human rights should and should not be, we cannot be said to be a free and independent people.

What is more, this Court is preventing us from controlling our own borders, thereby exercising our sovereign right of self-government.

In yesterday's General Election, only one Party proposed completing Brexit by exiting the ECHR and the EAW. This was the Reform-UK Party, heir to the Brexit Party which campaigned for, promoted, obtained and won, the referendum of 2016. This Party won just four seats, with 4 million votes, that is 1 million votes for each seat. In contrast, the vagaries of our electoral system ensured that the Labour Party, which won over 100 times as many seats and an absolute majority in Parliament, needed only 23 thousand votes for each seat.

However, Nigel Farage, leader and founder of UKIP, the Brexit Party and now the Reform-UK Party, was amongst the four MPs elected. In the beginning he was one of three UKIP Members of the European Parliament, but from there they advanced to become by far the largest contingent of UK MEPs, thus forcing Cameron to grant the people of Britain a simple IN/OUT referendum on our membership.

With a voice in Parliament, Reform-UK should now be able to spread its message farther and wider than ever before. The Tory Party is in serious disarray, and a vacuum is being created in the centre-right of the UK's political spectrum, which Reform-UK could fill.

Let us hope that a way is found to make Parliament take these final steps, so that we may become a free and independent people once again. 

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