Tag Archives: European Common Market

QUEEN ELIZABETH LONGEST REIGNING MONARCH

Westminster Abbey's bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Westminster Abbey’s bells will peal, a flotilla will sail down the River Thames and a gun salute will ring out on Wednesday as Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving monarch in British history.

Today at 5.30pm British Summer Time, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, overtaking the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

She still has some way to go to pass the longest reigning European monarchs,   Austrian Emperor Franz Josef (1848-1916) and France’s Louis XIV (1643-1715).   However, the latter doesn’t really count as he was only five when he became “king,” meaning that his mother and Cardinal Mazarin ruled in his place.

Thailand’s current king was crowned in May 1950 so he’s been around even longer than the British monarch.

A PBS documentary on the queen aired last week.   The one-hour documentary is available on DVD.   It’s part of the “In their own words” occasional series.   There was one mistake in the program when a BBC broadcast announcing that “the king’s life draws peacefully to a close” was applied to her father, King George VI, who died in 1952.   The recording dates to January 1936 when his father, George V, was dying.   The queen’s father was found dead in bed on February 6th, 1952.   He had been out hunting the previous day. Elizabeth and her husband were in Kenya, on a tour of the empire, when he died.

The monarchy goes back over one thousand years.  It has evolved through the centuries into today’s constitutional monarchy.   The system has worked very well, giving Britain and the other Commonwealth realms (which include Canada, Australia and New Zealand) an unparalleled period of political stability, without which economic progress is difficult to achieve.

The very complimentary documentary highlighted Elizabeth’s role as constitutional monarch, using her influence rather than authority in chaperoning the country for over sixty years.   It’s been a time of unprecedented change, as was Victoria’s in the nineteenth century.

The program began with then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday broadcast from Cape Town, South Africa.   In her own words she pledged herself to serve “the great imperial family to which we all belong,” a reference to the Empire and Commonwealth, which included South Africa.

Immediately after these words were shown on the documentary, a royal expert then added a comment about her lifelong service to Britain.

There’s a blind spot here, which obscures Britain’s incredible decline during her reign.   As she is a constitutional monarch, the blame for this decline rests with the politicians, especially the twelve British prime ministers who have served under her.   Her Canadian, Australian and New Zealand prime ministers can also share some of that responsibility.

The fact is that the British Empire has gone and its successor, the Commonwealth (the “British” was dropped 50 years ago) is no more than a shadow of what it was.   It may not even survive the queen’s passing.   The queen remains Head of State of 16 countries and has 138 million subjects.   She is also titular Head of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 former colonies.   It remains to be seen if Prince Charles will be able to hold it all together after he succeeds his mother.

Sir John Major, her ninth British prime minister, said in the documentary that throughout all the changes of the last six decades, the queen has been the one “constant” in the country, giving a sense of continuity and stability during monumental and significant changes.   This is true, but it hides some painful realities.

The loss of empire saw a rapid decline in global power.   The country’s military capability is about one-twelfth of what it was at the beginning of her reign – and continues to decline even under a Conservative administration.   The queen’s international role remains at the core of British “soft power,” along with the BBC World Service and British aid.   This soft power has replaced the strong military power it used to have.

With the empire gone, Britain entered the European Common Market (now the European Union), which has progressively taken away the UK’s independence.   Under the EU’s freedom of movement rules, millions of people from other European countries have been able to move to Britain, changing the composition of the nation’s population.

Added to this has been mass immigration from Commonwealth countries like India and Pakistan.

The changes are so significant, it’s fair to say that the Great Britain she inherited in 1952 and the Great Britain of today are two very different countries.   It’s amusing to remember that in 1949, when she was Princess Elizabeth, she spoke out against the evils of divorce.   The nation would not take kindly to such comments today and the queen would not be qualified to speak on the subject anyway as her own family has seen a few divorces.

None of this detracts from the great accomplishments of Elizabeth II.   She has set an incredible example of service.   Her sense of duty is unsurpassed by anybody in any field.   In her own personal private life she has set a fine example, never putting a foot wrong.

In many ways, the world was a better place when the Queen ascended the throne on February 6th, 1952 (the Coronation was in June the following year).   At that time, she presided over the greatest empire in history.   As countries were given independence, all too often they were taken over by self-serving bad leaders who destroyed much of what Britain had accomplished, enriching themselves by stealing from their own people.   They were often from the lowest echelons of society, suddenly receiving absolute power, which they abused in every way.

I remember an incident 35 years ago at a time when Ghana, in West Africa, was going through a long period of political instability and economic chaos, I stopped to buy some food at the side of the road. When I opened my wallet, the lady who was selling me the items, saw a British bank note with the portrait of the queen on it.   The lady sighed and said:   “Ah, Queen Elizabeth.   She used to be our queen.   Now we have so many presidents, we cannot count them all. And we are in such a mess.   And England still has the queen.”   Stability is so important.

Two verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes illustrate this so well:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time —
For strength and not for drunkenness!”   (Eccl. 10:16-17.)

Britain has been greatly blessed with Elizabeth II as Queen.

As many are saying today:    “Long may she reign!”

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BRITAIN DISARMING, GERMANY REARMING: SOUND FAMILIAR?

David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012.  Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images
David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012. Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images

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.

UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question