I’ve always had a soft spot for the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” partly because of the catchy tune, partly because of the bracing atmosphere of freedom the song presupposes and evokes:
Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!
Runnymede. The defeat of the Spanish Armada. The defeat of Napoleon. The defiance and defeat of Hitler. The tradition of common law and economic freedom . . .
Say goodbye to all that. Last week, Gordon Brown’s government joined 26 other European countries in signing the Lisbon Treaty, i.e., a cynical reprise of the preposterous European Constitution that was roundly defeated by voters last year. It was one of Prime Minster Brown’s campaign promises to hold a referendum on the matter. What happened? Bureaucratic hauteur happened. It was quite clear that the voters in Britain would have rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Therefore, the voters must be ignored.
It is a sad moment for Britain. The lumbering machinery of the state has ridden roughshod over the people. But they no longer seem to mind. The journalist Rosemary Righter got it exactly right in tart leader for The Times:
Pass the hemlock. And the sick bag. The “European ideal” consists, it is now evident, of imposing on voters far-reaching changes to the way they are to be governed, without allowing them a look-in, or a voice. The “path of hope” beckons only to Europe’s most messianic federalists: it consists of a treaty clause that says that governments may in future cede powers to Brussels without consulting their parliaments, let alone their cussed voters.
History will indeed have a word for this: perfidy. Every single one of the 27 signatories of the Lisbon treaty is guilty of a breach of the democratic compact, monumental in its arrogance. Every one of them knows that, shorn of a few preambular paragraphs, chopped up and reassembled in a deliberately unreadable jumble of “amendments”, it resurrects the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters.
And what, Sherlock, of the dog barking in the night? There was no dog barking: no protest, no objection, just mute, supine acquiescence in England as on the Continent. The handover of freedom and self-government to a smug, self-perpetuating, unelected bureaucratic elite is now virtually complete, awaiting only ratification by the parliaments of the member countries. Will there be an eleventh-hour burst of sanity and self-assertion? I hope so. I like to think so. I am not banking on it. It’s no longer “Rule Britannia,” alas, but “Ruled Britannia.”