Britain Is Being Defeated Because It Has Forgotten Its History
“An Imperial EU Wants to Squash Britain.” That was the title of my Trumpet Brief almost a month ago. Now that’s clearer than ever. The European Union is trying to impose a one-sided Brexit deal on the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May could not get the Brexit deal through Parliament, so last week she returned to Europe for help. It gave her none.
On Thursday, leaders of the 27 EU member states gathered for a private dinner, without Ms. May, to discuss her request. Here, wrote the Spectator, they “decided to pull the plug on cooperating with her, and instead removed supportive phrases from the draft conclusions of the summit so that it was clear that there was no longer a spirit of cooperation” (emphasis added).
There is “no longer a spirit of cooperation” between Britain and the EU. Instead, the EU is giving diktats and the UK is expected to obey.
“May hadn’t expected to return with everything improved and signed off,” it wrote. “But she had traveled to Brussels believing the summit would at least provide her with evidence that EU leaders were listening to the UK Parliament. This isn’t the first time May has been humiliated at such a meeting.”
She asked for help, and received humiliation.
Britain is under diplomatic assault from Europe. And from the mess here in the UK, it’s clear we’re losing.
There are a lot of important reasons, but here’s one many have not considered: We have forgotten our history.
Consider another low point of British diplomacy—the 1930s. It may sound like a stretch, but this period has more in common with the present day than meets the eye, and it teaches us some important lessons.
In the 1930s, Britain allowed itself to be defeated time and again in negotiations with a European power. Winston Churchill alone saw the folly in these negotiations, because he looked at them through the lens of history.
“Churchill’s living sense of history, especially his capacity to use apposite analogies from Britain’s past, served him and his country well,” writes Andrew Roberts in his new biography of the great statesman, titled Churchill: Walking With Destiny. “It allowed him to appreciate that the appeasers were acting outside the traditions of British foreign policy, which for centuries had been proactive, pugnacious and occasionally piratical in preventing any power gaining hegemony over the European continent.”
He saw the dangers that a single European power posed to the UK, because he saw those same dangers in history. In fact, he spent most of the 1930s writing about one such period.
Churchill finished his 1 million-word biography of his great ancestor the duke of Marlborough in 1938. It’s impossible to read it and not be aware of the time in which it was written. Churchill wasn’t just writing history but having a conversation with it.
“[T]he shapes of great causes and the destinies of many powerful nations” hung in the balance, Churchill wrote of Marlborough’s 18th-century world. “Europe protested against the military domination of a single power. The Holy Roman Empire pleaded for another century of life …. The Dutch Republic sought to preserve its independence, and Prussia its kingdom rank. And from across the seas in England, the Protestant succession, parliamentary government, and the future of the British Empire advance with confident tread.”
Marlborough was fighting against France; Churchill, against the Axis powers. But to Churchill, it was the same fight—to prevent a single power from dominating Europe.
It was the same fight Britain had always fought. The one the island nation fought and lost against the Romans 2,000 years ago; the one it had fought against the Spanish Armada, Louis xiv, Napoleon Bonaparte and Kaiser Wilhelm.
But just one man’s knowledge of history could not save the nation. He made the public feel they were fighting this same fight too.
Churchill made the British “feel they are living their history,” wrote Canadian diplomat Charles Ritchie. Churchill’s speeches were full of historical references. In September 1940, for example, he told the nation:
It ranks with the days when the Spanish Armada was approaching the Channel, and Drake was finishing his game of bowls; or when Nelson stood between us and Napoleon’s Grand Army at Boulogne. We have read all about this in the history books; but what is happening now is on a far greater scale and of far more consequence to the life and future of the world and its civilization than these brave old days of the past.
These historical speeches “were all the more powerful coming from a prime minister who was also an historian and biographer,” writes Roberts.
Britain did not listen to the council of history in the 1930s, but the knowledge was still there, ready to be evoked. Churchill was able to rally the nation this way “because the battles and struggles of the Elizabethan and Napoleonic wars were then taught in schools,” writes Roberts, “so the stories of Drake and Nelson were well known to his listeners.”
If Churchill were alive today, he could not rally the nation like this because we have not “read all about this in the history books.”
That historical perspective is what Britain’s leaders and public desperately need today in the diplomatic fight with Europe.
Some have this perspective to varying degrees. The Spectator noticed this in August, asking, “Why is it that so many leading Brexiteers studied history?”
Last week at the American Conservative, James Pinkerton wrote that “the dream of a united Europe will always endure, at least in the minds of would-be Charlemagnes. Of course, such an imperium requires a fist—the more mailed, the better.”
That’s becoming increasingly clear in Europe, as people vote, protest and even riot against the European Union. But it is also the clear lesson from history: If Europe is to be united, it has only ever been done with an iron fist.
“So as with the fate of Macron’s government in France, the future of the EU might well depend on the willingness of its rulers to get tough—that is, converting the democracy deficit into an outright tyranny surplus,” wrote Pinkerton. “Could they? Would they? The only thing we know for sure is that it’s happened before.”
Unfortunately, too many don’t know that.
A better knowledge of history would help inform Britain’s leaders and public about what they’re dealing with here—what’s at stake in our negotiations with the EU. That we’re dealing with a power that is going to try to gain and use every advantage it can against the UK. It will not act like the harmonious, gentle conference of nations that it pretends to be.
Instead there’s an ignorance from top to bottom in Britain.
The Bible describes modern-day Britain, and it employs some evocative metaphors. In Hosea 5:12, God says that He will be like a moth to Ephraim, which is England in Bible prophecy. “A moth-eaten garment looks good in the closet, but take it off the hanger and it falls apart,” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet Hosea—Reaping the Whirlwind. “God says Britain is like a moth-eaten garment. And Judah is infested by maggots. Even though certain things may look good on the surface, these two nations are ready to fall apart!”
Everything looks good on the surface. But when the nation is tested by actual events, like Brexit, it all falls apart. What a great description of how Brexit has made Britain a spectacle to the whole world.
The causes for this weakness aren’t immediately obvious. Everything looks fine—from a distance. A cursory look at the statistics reveals no nation-threatening problems.
But the Bible tells us not to look at the indicators of Britain’s future in its gross domestic product, the latest stock market reports, or other statistics. It tells us to look at the unquantifiable, harder to measure yet much more predictive areas of historical knowledge, sense of purpose, morals and sin—where the real dangers lie. It’s in moral decay. It’s in the nation’s sense of itself and in its own history. Even though these elements of national power are harder to quantify, there is no question that the fundamental structure is moth-eaten.
Britain’s historical ignorance is a part of that deep decay beneath the surface. This is a hidden cause of why Ms. May’s attempted Brexit has been such a debacle.
There’s so much the nation could learn just from the history of the 1930s. That history presents a powerful warning to our nations, but also to us individually. Learn more about how you can learn the lessons of history in your free copy of Winston S. Churchill: The Watchman, by Gerald Flurry.