Posts Tagged ‘Britons’

“Preserving the Liberties of EUROPE” – that’s what the Duke of Marlborough did

November 3, 2012

File:Blenheim Column of Victory.JPG

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The inscription on the triumphal column to the Duke of Marlborough, one of Britain’s greatest national heroes, says a purpose of his successful campaigns in the first decade of the 18th century was “preserving the Liberties of Europe.”

He was mainly intent on eliminating the threat of French hegemony in Europe. To do so, he engaged with like-minded continental allies. The inscription talks of “the Principal States of Europe being united in one common Cause” – the cause Marlborough pursued on behalf of Britain. His string of victories earned “The Admiration of other Nations.”

Today talk is of “repatriating powers from Europe” and perhaps even leaving the European Union altogether. The Government and a large part of the media pour scorn on all that is European and play up British particularity.

History should teach us this is dangerous and against our interests – quite apart from any obligation we may feel to behave responsibly and decently towards our neighbours.

After Marlborough engaged with Europe by forming alliances, Wellington did likewise to defeat Napoleon, as did British generals in World War I and Churchill in World War II

Each time, it was obvious the British had to. It is foolish to believe this is no longer the case. The rest of Europe wants Britain as a balance, and the experience of two World Wars should teach us that turning our back on these “faraway people about whom we know so little” is disastrous, not least for us.

In an era of spreading knowledge, Britons should look beyond their coasts and see what lies to the East, to the South and to the West. It is Europe. We sit on the same continental shelf and are part of it. Act European. Marlborough did.

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“Great Britain” – an old concept with a startling new face

August 13, 2012

The phenomenal haul of Olympic medals won by a team named “Great Britain” has changed the way Britons look upon themselves the morning after.

A year ago, a rioting underclass wreaked destruction across London. The notion of Scottish independence was seducing many Scots, and indeed English. “Great Britain” was a term used mainly by diehard nostalgics.

Last June however, the separate components of the United Kingdom hugely underperformed at the European Football Championships. By contrast, a united “Great Britain” has done better in the Olympics than any nation except the U.S. and China, which have much larger populations.

Who today is for a breakup of the United Kingdom, now that a “Great Britain” team has outstandingly demonstrated the effectiveness of internal coherence and mutual solidarity?

And what remains of the idea of the “underprivileged” after the popular British classes have set their stamp on the London Olympics with such panache? Who could imagine that a team drawing on all parts of society, from the lowest to the very top, could work so well together?

Britons can for a change be proud about citizens excelling in a peaceable activity. That’s a refreshing change from focusing on warfaring exploits.

Above all, Britons can celebrate a real achievement, rather than desperately blow on flickering memories of imperial power and victory in world wars.

Successful, classless, united, peaceable? Who knows how long this will last? But I’m abroad on holiday at the moment, and perhaps it’s time to come back.

Rude Britain: I’m on the side of the 26

December 19, 2011

I’m appalled at Britain’s veto of a new European Union treaty supported by 26 other states. It’s boorish and selfish. Like Britain, the 26 other members have their national interests to protect. But they chose solidarity at time of crisis, while Britain showed none.

The treaty’s declared purpose is to reinforce fiscal responsibility. Is that really something we should prevent? Protect the City of London? Maybe that’s worthwhile, but possibly also not. Remember 2008.

Doubtless this could also be achieved by normal diplomacy. Instead, Britain offers only the sharp elbows of the cocksure bully.

Having lived on various countries on the continent, I have become used to moving easily among peoples of different nationalities, languages and histories, finding common ground and common values with no great difficulty. In Britain, I regret that emotional xenophobes with fringe-island opinions are to the fore.

I’m proud to be British, but I don’t subscribe to the assumption that only Britons can be right. I’m British, but ashamed of the rude arrogance of those who represent me. I’m British, and very much European too.

I’m with the 26.


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