Very shortly, at 11pm Greenwich Mean Time - or midnight in the chancelleries of Europe - the United Kingdom will depart the European Union. This is not the no-deal "hard Brexit" I would have preferred: the Irish backstop is a provocation to sovereignty, and it remains to be seen whether Boris et al will break decisively with regulatory harmony at the end of the year. Furthermore, the Euro-corrosion of many pillars of the state (the judiciary, for example) will take years to reverse.
Nevertheless, de jure Britain is out. And so something the sophisticates said would never happen has come to pass: for the first time ever, a sovereign state that signed up for the European Union has quit it - and a major member of the club at that. The first of many such resignations, one hopes.
The European Parliament chose to mark the occasion with a rather odd rendition of "Auld Lang Syne". Rabbie Burnsian is not an official language of the EU, which may be why the assembled MEPs had to read from the lyric:
The fact that there is not a song this "parliament" can sing together is one small sign that the EU is a pseudo-polity. And, to be honest, Continentals who don't know how to link arms pretending to like Burns and George Eliot is all a bit fey and limpid for me. I prefer Mannekin Pis (above right), or Mrs Thatcher's famous "Just rejoice".
Still, the MEPs are taking it better than the BBC, whose three top Brexit headlines at the time of writing are:
500 Attend Pro-EU Meeting in Oxford
'No One Can Be Sure What Brexit Really Means'
London Mayor 'Heartbroken' About Brexit
Whine on, losers. Throughout my life, all the way to Hong Kong in 1997, I have watched the Union Flag lowered o'er palm and pine at colonial independence ceremonies around the globe. It is rather moving to see the exact same thing occur as the mother country recovers its sovereignty. This is the hideous European Council headquarters earlier today:
~Now that the UK has left, we're having a fire sale on all my old pieces containing the words "Eutopia", "Eupocalypse" and "Eurinal of history". This excerpt from my international bestseller America Alone focuses on what I regard as the principal design flaw of the Euro-behemoth. The EU were pioneer globalists, as we now say, and in favor of the European Unionization of the planet. You will note in particular M Juncker's indifference to election results: over three years he almost succeeded in applying that formula to Brexit. Almost, but not quite:
The construction of a pan-continental Eutopia was meant to ensure that Europe would never again succumb to militant nationalism of one form or another. Instead, the European Union's governing class has become as obnoxiously post-nationalist as it was once nationalist: its post-nationalism has become merely the latest and most militant form of militant nationalism—which, aside from anything else, makes America, as the leading "nation state" in the traditional sense, the prime target of European ire.
It's true that there are many European populations reluctant to go happily into the long Eurabian night. But, alas for them, modern Europe is constructed so as to insulate almost entirely the political class from populist pressures. As the computer types say, that's not a bug, it's a feature: the European Union is a 1970s solution to a 1940s problem, and one of the problems it was designed to solve is that fellows like Hitler and Mussolini were way too popular with the masses. Just as the House of Saud, Mubarak, and the other Arab autocracies sell themselves to the West as necessary brakes on the baser urges of their peoples, so the European leadership deludes itself on the same basis: why, without the EU, we'd be back to Auschwitz. Thus, on the eve of the 2005 referendum on the European "constitution," the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, warned his people where things would be headed if they were reactionary enough to vote no. "I've been in Auschwitz and Yad Vashem," he said. "The images haunt me every day. It is supremely important for us to avoid such things in Europe."
Golly. So the choice for voters on the Euro-ballot was apparently: yes to the European Constitution or yes to a new Holocaust. If there was a neither-of-the-above box, the EU's rulers were keeping quiet about it. The notion that the Continent's peoples are basically a bunch of genocidal wackos champing at the bit for a new bloodbath is one I'm not unsympathetic to. But it's a curious rationale to pitch to one's electorate: vote for us; we're the straitjacket on your own worst instincts. In the end, the French and Dutch electorates voted no to the new constitution. One recalls the T-shirt slogan popular among American feminists: "What part of 'No' don't you understand?" In the chancelleries of Europe, pretty much every part. At the time of the constitution referenda, the rotating European "presidency" was held by Luxembourg, a country slightly larger than your rec room. Jean-Claude Juncker, its rhetorically deranged prime minister and European "president," staggered around like a collegiate date-rape defendant, insisting that all reasonable persons understand that "Non" really means "Oui." As he put it before the big vote: "If it's a yes, we will say 'on we go,' and if it's a no we will say 'we continue.'"
And if it's a neither of the above, he will say "we move forward." You get the idea. Confronted by the voice of the people, "President" Juncker covers his ears and says, "Nya, nya, nya, can't hear you!"
Only in totalitarian dictatorships does the ballot come with a pre-ordained correct answer. Yet President Juncker distilled the great flaw at the heart of the EU constitution into one disarmingly straightforward expression of contempt for the will of the people. For his part, the architect of the constitution -- the former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing -- was happy to pile on: why, even if the French and the Dutch had been boorish enough to want to vote no to the constitution, they would have been incapable of so doing, as the whole thing was designed to be way above their pretty little heads. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," declared M. Giscard. During his labors on the constitution, he'd told me he saw himself as "Europe's Jefferson." By referendum night he'd apparently become Europe's Jefferson Airplane, boasting about the impenetrability of his hallucinogenic lyrics. .The point is that his ingrate subjects had no need to read beyond the opening sentence: "We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people."
After that, the rest doesn't matter: you can't do trickle-down nation-building. The British, who've written more constitutions for more real nations than anybody in history and therefore can't plead the same ignorance as President Juncker, should be especially ashamed of going along with this farrago of a travesty of a charade.
The above should not be construed as "anti-European". I eat French food, listen to German composers, hit on Italian women. None of that's a reason to be governed by Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk or Michel Barnier. As I wrote in the Telegraph on September 28th 2004:
In the current issue of The Spectator, Niall Ferguson argues that the Anglo-American "special relationship" is doomed.
"The typical British family," he writes, "looks much more like the typical German family than the typical American family. We eat Italian food. We watch Spanish soccer. We drive German cars. We work Belgian hours. And we buy second homes in France. Above all, we bow before central government as only true Europeans can."
He has a point, though cultural similarities are not always determinative: Canadians eat American food, watch American sports, drive American cars, work American hours (more or less), and buy second homes in Florida. But they still bow down before central government as only true Europeans can.
A shared taste in Dunkin' Donuts or Céline Dion CDs is no proof of geopolitical compatibility, and never has been: a century ago, The Merry Widow was both Hitler's favourite operetta and the biggest hit on Broadway.
If embracing Europe meant pasta, Mercedes and flaunting one's wedding tackle on the Côte d'Azur, who could object?
Unfortunately, embracing Europe means embracing German corporatism, French public-service ethics, Belgian foreign policy, Swedish tax rates and Greek state pension liabilities which, by the year 2040, will account for 24 per cent of GDP.
So, if Britons are becoming more European, they ought to stop, because it's a death cult. Fifty million Frenchmen can be wrong, and fifty million Britons joining them in their fantasy won't make it come true.
As I put it in America Alone, united they'll fall - but divided a few of them might stand a sporting chance. So today is a day to celebrate. But all the long-term problems remain:
If you were one of those "redneck Christian fundamentalists" the world's media are always warning about apropos America, you might think the Continent's in for what looks awfully like the Four Horsemen of the Eupocalypse - although in tribute to Euro-perversity they're showing up in reverse order: Death — the self-extinction of European races too selfish to breed; Famine — the end of the lavishly funded statist good times; War — the decline into bloody civil unrest that these economic and demographic factors will bring; and Conquest — the recolonization of Europe by Islam.
Happily, most Europeans are far too "rational" and "enlightened" and "post-Christian" to believe in such outmoded notions as apocalyptic equestrians. Nonetheless, in some still barely articulated way, many of them understand that their continent is dying, and it's only a question of whether it goes peacefully or through convulsions of violence.
On that point, I bet on form.
~from America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore.
If you disagree with Mark and you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, then feel free to have at him in the comments. If you're not a member of the Steyn Club, we'd love to have you. You can find more details here.
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: