When Britain Leaves Europe …

The withdrawal of Britain from the European Union will be a watershed event in the annals of Western civilization. Here’s why.
From the January 2008 Trumpet Print Edition

Soon, Britain will not be a member of the European Union. Many consider that prognosis unfounded, but it’s a reality that has come into sharper focus in the past six months.

The Trumpet has monitored Britain’s relationship with the European Union for more than 15 years, and we have explained why we believe Britain will eventually leave or be banished from the eu.

But even with defection or banishment becoming a possibility, many scorn the notion of a united Europe without Britain. It’s impossible, the Europhiles reason. London needs to remain a member of the eu so as to influence its policies in the interests of Britain. On the other hand, the Europhobes point to the steady erosion of British sovereignty as regulation after regulation has whittled away at the fundamentals of British common law and increasingly imposed the will of the technocrats in Brussels on British society.

Today the historically testy London-Brussels relationship is nearing combustion point within Britain’s populace. The government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown may argue that Britain signing the Lisbon Treaty in December indicates a healthy relationship with Europe. The fact is, the British public clamored for a referendum on the question of Britain’s signing that treaty but were rebuffed as the government weakly succumbed to the undemocratic processes of the eu. In November, the Conservative opposition leader in parliament, David Cameron, threatened to hold out for a referendum even after the treaty is ratified.

Britain’s six-month trek to Lisbon was the most recent episode in an arduous, gritty, fiercely and often—in particular during the Thatcher years—personal struggle between British and eu leaders, with each side having distinctly different perceptions of and motivations for Europe’s development.

From the time that Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath misled the British public in an effort to convince them that Brussels was only building a cooperative trade zone, with no aspirations to become a federalist power, the British have continued to be tricked into giving away, piece by piece, their own national sovereignty while signing up to a raft of regulations that in the process have decimated their agrarian economy, seen ancient British common law increasingly trumped by eu legislation, and allowed swaths of British industry (including some very strategic industries) to be handed to foreign control.

Now, with Britain signing the Lisbon Treaty on December 13, it has taken one more significant step toward its inevitable divorce from Brussels. The deep political and ideological fissures that have long plagued this relationship are being exposed to a British public, over 70 percent of whom do not want their government’s signature on the latest European treaty without a referendum.

It is imperative to consider the significant implications Britain’s separation from the eu may prove to have for Europe, and ultimately for all of Western civilization.

Thorn in Europe’s Flesh

Grasping the implications of this event is as much an exercise in studying history as it is in forecasting the future.

After Britain tried unsuccessfully for years to join the European Community, Prime Minister Heath finally made his way in on Jan. 1, 1973. Since then, 34 years of history have proven that day hugely significant, obviously for Britain, but particularly for the project of European unification.

On that day, a substantial thorn was inserted into the flesh of the European Community. From the moment it slouched into the ec, Britain has been a burden to the unification process, one never too heavy to tank unification, yet cumbersome enough to guarantee integration remained a spluttering, controversial process.

“There is little doubt,” wrote former European Union Commissioner Peter Sutherland, “that the rest [of Europe] would have advanced with European integration much further in the absence of the uk” (Financial Times, Oct. 16, 2007).

What Sutherland omitted was that Britain would have been far better off in the long run sticking with its traditional and vast market of trading partners of the British Commonwealth, particularly Canada, Australia and New Zealand, than contributing millions to a federalist enterprise with which it had no natural attachment in terms of ethnicity, language, law or commercial practice! Given this reality, Britain was bound, once having been accepted as an ec member, to become a thorn in its flesh, given that it had always seen its role as being the offshore masterful balancer of European power.

Arbiter of Europe

The Latin maxim cui adhaero praeest— “he whom I support will prevail”—is attributed to Henry viii. William Camden shaded it differently when he said that Britain was the tongue in the balance of Europe. The point being, for about 500 years, Britain has been the pivot on which the balance of power on the Continent has swung. When Louis xiv made his play for the Spanish Netherlands in 1701, it was Britain’s decision to join the side of the Dutch and Austrians that put an end to the War of the Spanish Succession. One hundred years later, Britain was the deciding factor in the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. During World Wars i and ii, Britain’s decision to throw its weight behind France and the Low Countries altered the course of the conflict.

For five centuries, Britain was seen, by the English as well as many of the Continental powers, as the arbiter of Europe—the illustrious island power responsible for checking the ambition of Europe’s larger nations and preserving the balance of power on the Continent.

Winston Churchill talked about this role in a speech before the Conservative Members Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1936. As the arbiter of Europe, he said, Britain had “preserved the liberties of Europe, protected the growth of its vivacious and varied society, and emerged after four terrible struggles with an ever-growing fame and widening empire.” Acting as the pivot of power in Europe had been the “unconscious tradition of British foreign policy,” he declared.

When Britain entered the ec in 1973, it perpetuated this tradition. For 35 years, it has held a pair of scales in one hand, with pro-unification states on one side and the less-enthused states on the other. In its other hand has been a weight, ready to be placed on whatever side of the scale Britain might choose.

London has been able to promote eu policies it sees as favorable and to water down policies that work against its own interests. In the process, Britain has both frustrated and facilitated Europe’s development through cautionary political maneuvering and well-timed bouts of foot-dragging, putting the brake, up to now, on full-speed European integration.

Britain’s resistance toward full-blown unification has been the check on Franco-German ambition and the fuel for controversy surrounding every eu treaty and agreement Britain has ever signed. When London finally signed up to the fateful Treaty on European Union, the Maastricht Treaty, in 1992—after German Chancellor Kohl threatened that Europe may be forced to unite the traditional European way (by war) if it didn’t do so by treaty—it was after years of Margaret Thatcher infuriating Europe’s leaders with her fierce opposition and staunch demands. After Thatcher was ousted by a cowardly Conservative coup, her replacement, John Major, led the British Parliament into passing the treaty, but only after it had secured concessions including approval to opt out of the Social Charter and the single European currency—and even then, the decision only grazed through Parliament.

The same reality prevails today. As we go to press, it appears Britain will sign the Lisbon Treaty in December, but this only after six grueling months of heated discussion, intense diplomacy and frustrated outbursts by European leaders, some of whom told Britain outright that if it wasn’t prepared to support unification, it should leave the project. Prime Minister Brown finally agreed to the treaty after Brussels had ostensibly conceded to his red lines, opt-outs and exemptions. The fact that these opt-outs will mainly appear as endnotes to the Reform Treaty gives little guarantee to them being treated seriously by eu leaders. In fact, some pundits have termed them “opt-ins,” as they give little protection to Britain in the steamrolling imperialism of the eu monolith.

However, beyond the political trickery designed to fool the British into thinking they got what they wanted in this latest of the seemingly endless rounds of treaties upon which this European empire is being constructed, the fact remains that Britain has always been the reluctant member within the circle of eu nations.

That’s the real point. Sooner or later, something is bound to crack in this uncomfortable relationship between a federalist, undemocratic European Union and the very nation that created the system of parliamentary democracy.

Britain’s reticence toward European unification has been the guiding motive behind its playing the role of arbiter within the eu. Yet the signs are that events are building toward a watershed. Either when a British government becomes completely frustrated in balancing British public opinion against further loss of national sovereignty with ongoing eu demands, or when its uneasy European bedfellows get tired of its nagging, Britain will either leave or be thrown out of this unwieldy mixture of iron and clay—this rising United States of Europe. That will be a real watershed in European politics! Without Britain’s foot-dragging holding it back, the Italo-Franco-German threesome will be free to pursue its imperialist agenda.

In her seminal work Statecraft, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher discussed the notion of European integration. “That such an unnecessary and irrational project as building a European superstate was ever embarked upon will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era,” she wrote (emphasis mine).

We believe the Iron Lady’s instincts were right. The irony is, soon, her nation’s withdrawal from the eu could actually bring the “greatest folly of the modern era” to its fullest fruition.

Impact on Europe

The lessons of history make forecasting the impact of a British withdrawal from the eu less challenging. If Britain secedes, or if it is pushed from the corridors of power in Brussels, the balance of power defining European geopolitics for more than a generation will be swiftly overturned.

Freed of the British thorn in the flesh, European unification will blossom.

The absence of a meaningful presence by Britain will lead to a power void inside the eu. Geopolitics abhors a vacuum. Britain’s absence will be the green light for the Franco-German axis in association with Italy, traditionally the eu’s prime movers, to push ahead with a two-speed unification process, leaving nations of lesser power to either put up or shut up. Given past history and the present dominance of Germany as the Union’s economic and, increasingly, political powerhouse, expect Berlin, situated at the heart of Europe, to take the lead in this process.

To be sure, some European governments will not be thrilled at an Italo-Franco-German axis dominating future efforts to build the eu into a supranational superpower at their cost. Some with a sense of history may even be frightened to their core at this prospect. It is these nations, some of which have relied on Britain in the past as an ally against imperial ambitions in Europe, that stand to lose the most by a British loss of power in the eu.

Not only will the political influence of the Slavic states, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, stand to be diluted without the dissenting voice of Britain slowing the pace of the Brussels steamroller, but a British withdrawal could also send real political tremors through many of Britain’s traditional allies in Europe, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Sweden.

Right now, the eu is a galumphing 27-member behemoth. But it will not remain this way. For decades, Herbert W. Armstrong warned that a German-led European superstate would emerge, and that it would be comprised of 10 nations or groups of nations. Britain’s withdrawal from the eu is exactly the kind of event that could transform Europe into a smaller, more streamlined and aggressive power.

Impact on Britain and America

This event will also have a significant impact on Britain—and will ripple across the Atlantic to affect America as well.

So far, Britain’s marginalization from the eu has been a measured process. This will remain the case as long as the benefits to Europe outweigh the disadvantages caused by Britain’s political roadblocks. Notwithstanding its refusal to sacrifice the British pound sterling to the euro, London remains the financial capital of Europe and a prime source of employment for European citizens.

But make no mistake: Britain will continue to grow politically and ideologically isolated from the eu.

Two assets that Brussels lusts after are British nuclear technology and North Sea oil. It is unlikely to give up its quest for these without a fight. If Brussels detects the prospect of acquiring favored assets from Britain slipping from its grasp, relations between the two entities could become acrimonious very quickly.

But there are other more significant implications to Britain’s inevitable divorce from the eu. The one Britain will feel the most, of course, will be the loss of geopolitical influence on the Continent. The leverage over mainland states it has enjoyed for 500 years as the arbiter of Europe will be lost. Britain will forfeit much of its ability to intervene in European affairs and to counter Italo-Franco-German ambition.

This will also directly impact the United States, which since the First World War has used Britain as a proxy in its own foreign policy in relation to Europe. It could certainly sound the death knell for that bastion of European security, nato.

Considered against the backdrop of European history—which is a tale of imperialist belligerence, religious turmoil and war—the sidelining of Britain from European affairs could produce a strategic and geopolitical nightmare. Without Britain’s presence and influence, that history, as Chancellor Kohl famously implied, may well be repeated.

Today, a few are beginning to recognize the ghastly potential of an imperialist eu. Analysts at the Heritage Foundation, for example, recently wrote that the eu “is morphing into a gigantic political entity with ambitions of becoming the world’s first supranational superstate” (Oct. 22, 2007). Up to now, those ambitions have largely been checked by Britain’s membership in the eu. But that will soon change; Europe’s transformation into a “supranational superstate” will intensify.

The one thing that Europe currently lacks, which was a major contributor to its repeated history of imperialism over time, is a strong, decisive, ambitious leader. Throughout the history of similar configurations of European unity (termed the Holy Roman Empire), it was Germany that provided such leadership. With a federalizing Europe of multiple highly industrialized states at its beckoning—including the most powerful currency in the world, a population of 430 million people and a combined military force of over 2 million personnel—can the German powerhouse resist the urge to once again assert its leadership over all of Europe? That is a consideration on the minds of the deepest thinkers in the foreign-policy arena. The “German Question” is returning, yet again, to center stage in geopolitics.

Divine Forecasting

By now, surely we can grasp the sheer magnitude of a future British withdrawal from the eu. Yet there is an even more spectacular, more fascinating, more personal angle to this event.

Prior to his death in 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong spent 50 years using biblical prophecy to forecast world events. For anyone familiar with his teachings, one prophecy stands out above the others; it could be considered his keynote prophecy.

That is the prophecy about a colossal religio-political superstate that would emerge from Europe as the central power in end-time events. This empire, explained Mr. Armstrong based on a prophecy in Daniel, would include five nations, or “kings,” from Eastern Europe, and five from Western Europe.

In 1956, with European unification gaining traction and Germany rising from the ashes of World War ii, he warned that a European superpower was emerging. “The stage is all set!” he wrote. “All that’s lacking now is the strong leader …. Germany is the economic and military heart of Europe. Probably Germany will lead and dominate the coming United States of Europe.”

“But Britain,” he wrote, “will be no part of it!”

Year after year, decade upon decade, this man explained, in the face of all who mocked, that Britain would never be a part of this final European power. So confident was he in the source of his insight that he refused to budge even as Britain’s relations with the European Community seemed to improve.

When Britain was invited into the ec on Jan. 1, 1973, he said that date would prove to be a “tragically historic date” for Britain, a date “fraught with ominous potentialities.”

Today, more than 50 years after Mr. Armstrong first made this forecast, and despite the best efforts of numerous European and British leaders to succeed in unification, this prophecy is poised to unfold in spectacular fashion!

The outcome is unmistakable. You can read it in the papers, listen to it being bandied about by politicians and journalists, see it on mass media telecasts: Britain is being systematically pushed out of the inner sanctums of the eu. It may yet take some time, but its impending divorce from the eu is already written on the wall.

The closer this situation gets to combusting, the more it will be discussed in the media. Soon, every newsmagazine and every news station will be running stories about the transformation of Britain’s relationship with the eu.

When this happens, take a moment to listen to that still, small voice in your mind telling you that what you are seeing and hearing has a distinct ring of familiarity. Recall how the Trumpet, and Herbert Armstrong before us, warned for years, even decades, that Britain would eventually be sidelined from this European superstate.

Then ask yourself: How could Herbert Armstrong have figured this out? Can you recognize this as more than a mere coincidence, a lucky prediction, or an act of profound intellect and foresight? The plain truth is, a higher power was at work behind the scenes, revealing through the pages of the Bible how the future would unfold.

If we can look beyond the geopolitical machinations of this imminent event, we will see an overwhelmingly positive, hope-filled vision that has everything to do with the future of mankind! We will see wonderful proof that the Eternal God is deeply involved with mankind’s affairs!

Herbert Armstrong’s forecast that Britain would never be a part of the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire is set to become a spectacular proof of an Almighty God, who declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand”! (Isaiah 46:10).

The fulfillment of this prophecy will also testify to the veracity of the message Herbert Armstrong preached, as he forecast this event more than 50 years ago. This should stir us to want to explore his work more. Who was Herbert Armstrong? What were his teachings? What other prophecies did he talk about, and are they also coming to fruition?

The Trumpet can help you answer these questions, for, as we walk in the footsteps of Mr. Armstrong, we continue his tradition of analyzing current news against the backdrop of Bible prophecy. To learn more about this history, and Herbert Armstrong himself—including his global work and the stunning, hope-filled, God-inspired forecasts about world events that are even now coming to pass—request our special Sample issue of the Philadelphia Trumpet, “He Was Right!”

Editor’s Note: The above article as originally published has been modified to correct a statement that referred to Hungary as a Slavic state.