Two hundred years ago, on June 18th, 1815, the British won the war against Napoleon.
Or so you thought. As is generally the case with Europe, it’s not quite that simple.
British troops were only 36% of the allied troops that gained the victory. Take away the Irishmen fighting in the British army, and the percentage of British troops was well below a third of those on the victorious side.
Other troops that fought in this allied cause, all wanting to end Napoleon’s domination of Europe, came from Prussia (eastern Germany) and what are today Belgium and the Netherlands. The battle took place on Belgian soil.
This is not to diminish the British contribution. One result of the battle was that the United Kingdom became a global superpower and was unrivaled in Europe for almost one hundred years.
But it’s a classic example of how British relations with Europe are never that simple. Also, of how the Brits can misread Europe, seeing their country as far more important than it really is.
Which brings us to the promised referendum on British relations with the EU, to take place in 2017.
There are 28 countries in the European Union, with more on the sidelines wanting to join the club. Britain is the third biggest economy in the Union. It is, right now, the most successful economy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to its shores every year. These are mostly from Europe and, it is thought, attracted primarily by Britain’s generous social support system. People from Eastern Europe can work in the UK and receive benefits for their progeny back home in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. These benefits enable them to provide quite comfortably for their families, even if they earn a very small income in London or whatever other city they reside in.
British people get angry at this as they are the ones paying for it in their taxes. But, as a member of the EU, the British government can do nothing about it. The EU guarantees the free movement of people within member nations.
London wants to change this. Most of the other members do not. The Polish leader made it clear to British Prime Minister David Cameron this is something he cannot change. And that is correct. If the UK stays in Europe, it won’t change. Mr. Cameron may hope it does, but it won’t – unless Germany is willing to change it, and that’s not likely.
Many (maybe most) British people are fed up with the EU, which they also heavily subsidize in other ways. They want to withdraw from the organization and go back to the way they were 50 years ago.
What they don’t realize is that they cannot go back to the 1960’s, to the pre-EU days.
It’s not an option.
Prior to entering the European Common Market (as the EU was then called), Britain had an extensive system of trade with nations farther afield. “Imperial preferences” left over from the days of the Empire, ensured close trade ties with the dominions of the Commonwealth: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These trade agreements were torn up by Britain when they joined Europe. It is unlikely that they can restore them more than 40 years later.
At the same time, in the 60’s, the British still had close trade ties with all their former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, the ACP countries. These gave Britain cheap food, while the British were able to sell manufactured products to these countries without the hindrance of tariffs.
After Britain joined the European Community, it was a matter of urgency to help these less developed nations. The Lome Convention was signed in 1975, taking effect in April 1976. It gave preferential access to Europe for member countries’ food and mineral exports. This treaty, agreed to in the capital of the former French colony of Togo, effectively embraced all former British, French and Dutch colonies. As this agreement was to help less developed countries, it did not extend to the British dominions, who were on their own.
Effectively, Great Britain, thirty years after World War II, handed over its former Empire to the European Union, now dominated by Germany. What a supreme irony of history!
There is no turning back.
This is not to say that Britain will be entirely on its own if it separates from the EU. Norway and Switzerland are two European countries that are not members of the EU. Both have a per capita income that is higher than the EU average.
But it won’t be easy for Britain, certainly not as easy as the anti-Europeans are making it out to be.
The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the original six members of the European Community, pledged member countries to form “an ever closer union.” The EU today is very different from the old European Common Market. It is far more intrusive and controlling than it was at the beginning. And it is already talking about greater cooperation, with an EU Army not too far ahead.
Bible prophecy shows that another superpower is set to arise, a European power that will be a revival of the Roman Empire. You can read about this new power in Revelation chapters 13 and 17. Note the following words from chapter 17:
12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev 17:12-14) Clearly, this is not talking about the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago, as this superpower will be in existence when Christ returns. The good news is that this “beast” power will not last long and will lead directly into the prophesied Kingdom of God.
Is Britain prepared for isolation, facing a German dominated European super-power on its doorstep, without any say in its composition and its purpose?
Interestingly, just four days ago, British defense chiefs warned that the country’s defenses had been so greatly diminished that the nation was now “feeble” on the world stage. As Britain no longer has a deployable aircraft carrier, only one ship, HMS Ocean, is equipped to host US Marines and their MV 22 Osprey vertical take off aircraft, in the event of military action by Russia. As Russia is rapidly increasing its military potential, warnings of a coming conflict between the West and Moscow are growing. The UK’s response is to go down the road of disarmament. The similarities with the 1930’s are quite blatant – Britain is once again disarming while Germany is rearming.
Berlin is spending an additional 8 billion euros (US 9 billion) on the new MEADS air defense system and the multi role combat ship 180. 3.9 billion euros ($4.37 billion) has also been set aside for four new battleships.
Germany is also working toward an EU Army, which will add to its military capacity.
Outside of the EU, Britain will have to fend for itself, something it seems ill-prepared for at this time. Even a Conservative government is clearly more inclined to cut defense over higher health care costs, at a time of growing international tensions.
Individual Britons need to think carefully before the vote in the referendum. There may be sound reasons to reject the EU, but there could also be serious consequences. Britain’s relationship with Europe can be compared to a marriage. It was certainly a mistake to marry in the first place, but divorce is not an easy option and needs to be considered carefully.