Britain has beaten Continental bullies before

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This article was originally posted in The Commentator

As we have done before, we will push past the bullies in Europe as a truly global trading nation, and we will emerge triumphant from the Brexit negotiations by defying threats, embracing our global connections, and believing in the Great British Public.

Britain today finds itself facing a continent dominated by a rapacious power intent on crippling its independence, in this case by hindering Brexit as much as possible. Our antagonist, the EU, is willing to use the threat of sanctions and a trade war to get its way.

A small sect is obsessed with doing Britain down and glorifying its opponent. We are led by a reserved, but, intense Prime Minister who has been reported as keeping her advisors unusually close – especially in the past. Our position is strong through trade, innovation and global connections, but many cannot see it. Historically, this is a more familiar situation than it may seem.

One could say this all began with England’s Brexit from the Papacy in 1531, when Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church in the face of massive opposition from the elite. He went on to take back control of our laws by breaking the power of the Church Courts and empowering the English legal system.

Numerous Catholics at home and abroad conspired to bring England back under Papal authority, or to yoke it to continental Catholic powers like Spain.

Threats and posturing from the continent culminated in the Spanish Armada launched against Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I. English ingenuity and courage saw it off, and saved England from becoming a puppet of Spain.

Fast forward to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which saw England overthrow grasping, authoritarian, King James II. During his reign King James had threatened the power of Parliament and made Britain a de facto puppet of France.

At France’s bidding, he had set England against its cultural cousins and one-time allies across Europe. His replacement was the reclusive King William III, a ruler who spent far more time with his advisors than his Parliament.

A coalition of Tories, authoritarians and Catholics wanted him back on the throne of England, and formed the Jacobite movement. When a French-backed King James invaded then-English Ireland — only to be smashed at the Battle of the Boyne — most Jacobite sympathisers got behind Britain. A hard core of Jacobites willing to work against Britain’s interests, come what may, remained, however.

Across the channel the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was intent on building a ‘universal monarchy’, or rather, a France dominating all of Europe. James had been subservient to his plans, but under William III, England stood up to him.

Through tactical brilliance, financial strength and smooth diplomacy, England would prove to be a critical part in overcoming the Sun King in the 9-Year War, which raged from 1688 to 1697, and the War of the Spanish Succession from 1701 to 1714.

France provided Britain’s second great foe as well — ‘Revolutionary France’ and its megalomaniac Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The French Revolution in 1789 led rapidly to war and tyranny, an environment which let Napoleon rise to power in 1799.

A man intent on uniting Europe behind him, crushing opposition and imposing a rigid, technocratic empire, he found many fans among Britain’s Liberals. Most of Britain rejected Napoleon’s advances, however. The Francophile Liberals were pushed to the side-lines by the reserved Tory Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, who served as Prime Minister from 1783 to 1801, and again from 1804 to 1806.

In an effort to make Britain regret its defiance, Napoleon locked Britain out of the ‘Continental System’ — a protectionist trade bloc covering most of Europe.

He underestimated how global Britain had become — even locked out of Europe, Britain still prospered, as its trade with the rest of the world flourished, just as it will after Brexit. The French economy, meanwhile, was badly damaged by locking out British trade, holding French industrialisation back decades.

Through appealing to the interests of other European nations, England was able to forge alliance after alliance in opposition to Napoleon. Global trade and financial dominance kept Britain afloat in the worst eras of the Napoleonic wars. In Napoleon, Britain and its allies overcame another Frenchman set on dominating Europe.

In the 1930s, Germany was poised to dominate Europe and cripple Britain. Politicians — from Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain to Labour leader George Lansbury — supported appeasement, and high society was riddled with Nazi-sympathisers like George Bernard Shaw.

Even when the Second World War had begun in 1939, many voices called for surrender — including Conservative leadership contender Lord Halifax. By ignoring these voices, with the support and trade of the Commonwealth and the United State of America, and aided by the heroism of its armed forces and intelligence services, Britain prevailed.

Of course, while the EU is turning itself into a bullying, ideological Super-state, we are not at war with it and it isn’t invading other nations. But perhaps the EU needs to learns more lessons from history.

Nonetheless, our situation when negotiating the terms on which we Get Britain Out of the EU, bears similarities to the struggles we have faced time and time again as a nation.

Eurocrats like Juncker think their victory is inevitable. The Government must overcome domestic opposition by those who work against the national interest in undermining our Brexit negotiators.

We are the fifth wealthiest nation in the world, a key military force and a diplomatic superpower, but many seem to struggle to understand our strength.

We will push through this as a truly global trading nation, and we will emerge triumphant from the Brexit negotiations, by defying threats, embracing our global connections, and believing in the Great British Public.

Alexander Fiuza is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out

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Published by Get Britain Out

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