It's the end of Britain as we know it
The Lisbon Treaty spells the end of a sovereign Britain.
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That 27 European nations are on the verge of being reconstituted as a federal European superstate is substantially the achievement of the fanatical French integrationist Jean Monnet, for whom the nation state was anathema.Skip to next paragraph
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When British Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the Common Market in 1973, the country thought it was entering a free-trade agreement. It hoped membership would sprinkle some European stardust on Britain's shipwrecked economy.
Mr. Heath, a passionate Europhile, assured the country that membership would not entail any sacrifice of "independence and sovereignty." Like Europe's fervent integrationists, whose plans for political union had always been disguised as increasingly beneficial economic integration, Heath maintained the fiction that he had simply joined a trading bloc.
Britain had been a highly successful nation state and global power. Now, it seemed, she needed Europe to reverse a relentless decline. Thus when the British were asked to decide on continued membership in the Common Market in a 1975 referendum, almost 70 percent voted to stay in. The "Yes" campaign swept to victory on a platform of jobs, prosperity, and peace. But the implications for the weakening of national sovereignty went unheeded.
Few recalled that in 1961 the Anti-Common Market League had warned that signing the Treaty of Rome (which created the Common Market) "would mean a permanent, irrevocable loss of sovereignty and independence" and that Britain's affairs "would increasingly be administered by supranational bodies … instead of by our own elected representatives."
Surrendering to supranational rule is hard for Britain given its celebrated past. Its European neighbors, by contrast, their histories indelibly stained by tyranny, military defeat, and imperial barbarity, seem eager to subsume themselves in a suffocating superstate.
The Treaty of Lisbon crystallizes the EU's core belief that nation states are every bit as defunct as Stone Age tribes. In the case of Britain, though, it would curtail the freedom of action and global vision of a nation whose people are far from convinced that sovereign independence is a badge of shame.
Britain could walk out of the EU today simply by repealing the 1972 European Communities Act. But political courage of that order is in short supply.
Perhaps only Queen Elizabeth II can rescue her realm from the baleful Treaty of Lisbon. She could veto it when it comes to her for royal assent and – sensationally – declare that she's not prepared to see her proud, independent, liberty-loving country swallowed up by an arrogant, authoritarian, and unloved European superstate.
She would be in excellent company. Queen Anne refused assent to the Scottish Militia Bill in 1708. And that was only about a bunch of musket-toting rubes of doubtful loyalty. This is about national survival.
Stephen Webbe is a British writer and historian and former Monitor correspondent.