Leavers who want empire back exist... as do those who think EU's run by lizards

WHAT is this Europhile obsession with the British Empire? Donald Tusk was at it again this week.

In his farewell speech as President of the European Council, before an audience of student Eurocrats, he bemoaned the “longing for the Empire” which, in his imagination, motivates Brexiteers.

I’m getting slightly tired of being told why I voted Leave by people who backed Remain...

DAN HANNAN You may find one Leaver who wants the Empire back… just as you may find one who thinks the EU is run by space lizards

Dan Hannan
15 Nov 2019
The Sun

WHAT is this Europhile obsession with the British Empire? Donald Tusk was at it again this week.

In his farewell speech as President of the European Council, before an audience of student Eurocrats, he bemoaned the “longing for the Empire” which, in his imagination, motivates Brexiteers.

Empire nostalgic Leavers exist — as do those who think the EU's run by lizards, writes Dan Hannan

I’m getting slightly tired of being told why I voted Leave by people who backed Remain.

For three years, now, I have had it explained to me — Remainsplained, if you like — that Eurosceptics want the Empire back.

These imperialist Leavers are never identified. It is simply airily asserted that there are lots of them about. In fact, I haven’t met a single Leaver — not one — who wants Britain to run big tracts of Asia or Africa.

And I spend a lot of time with Leavers. I set up the Campaign For An Independent Britain as a student 30 years ago.

I was one of the founders of Vote Leave. I was out campaigning almost every day during the six months before the referendum.

I have, in other words, met a great many Brexiteers, both Labour and Conservative.

Some disliked the EU because it was undemocratic, some because it was expensive, some because it was too centralised. But, to my knowledge, not one of them wanted the Empire back.


It is possible, I suppose, that such people exist. There were, after all, 17.4million Leave voters.

In such a vast number, you can probably find one or two Empire nostalgics, just as you can probably find one or two who believe that the EU is secretly run by space lizards, that the moon landings were faked or that Elvis is still alive.

But, as a rule, if someone in the Brexit debate starts banging on about the British Empire, I can pretty much guarantee you are listening to a Remainer.

Supporters of the EU are closer to the mark with their other favourite insult, “Little Englander”.

The so-called “Little Englanders” were the people who opposed the Boer War — one of our more foolish overseas adventures.

It later became a catch-all term for people who didn’t care about the Empire, being content with this island.

It’s fair to say that there has always been a strand in British Euroscepticism that is suspicious of foreign wars and entanglements.


Enoch Powell, for example, was a Little Englander in this sense. Sometimes, scepticism of overseas involvement is jus*tified and sometimes it isn’t.

But, right or wrong, it is the precise opposite of imperialism. Yes, many Leavers want to exploit the opportunities that come with an independent trade policy.

Yes, we want to reorient towards the teeming markets beyond the oceans. And, yes, some of these markets are in Commonwealth countries.

But the idea that it is imperialist to want a free trade agreement with, say, Malaysia or New Zealand is too silly for words.

We have a great deal in common with these counties — a language, a legal system, accountancy rules, compatible school curriculums — and these similarities facilitate trade, especially in an era when distance matters less than in the past.

That ambition is fundamentally forward-looking. It is intended to bring Britain’s trade policy into the modern world, a world transformed by low freight costs, cheap air travel and the internet.

To call it “Empire Mark II” as sneering Europhile civil servants do, tells you more about them than about the people they imagine they are mocking.


Which brings me to the final irony. The people who seem keenest to harp on about empires are the Eurocrats themselves.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the former head of the European Commission, talked approv*ingly of the EU as an empire.

Guy Verhofstadt told a London audience: “The world of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation states or countries.

It is a world order that is based on empires.” Britain would have to sit on the sidelines while Europe, America and China slugged it out.​

In his speech, Tusk himself quoted “an English friend” as saying that “Brexit is the real end of the British Empire”.

Assuming, for a moment, that this English friend is a real person, and was not invented for the purpose of the anecdote, he or she neatly makes the point that, once again, it is Remainers who obsess about the Empire.

Denis Healey had their number. Half a century ago, the bushy-browed Labour titan gave a devastatingly accurate assessment of the Euro-enthusiasts of his day: “Their Europeanism is nothing but imperialism with an inferiority complex”.

Spot on, Denis. Brexiteers don’t want our Empire back any more than they want to be stuck in a Brussels-run empire.

They want Britain to be a free, self-governing democracy, interested and engaged in the affairs of every continent, including Europe, but respectful of the sovereignty of other nations. Not such a difficult concept, really.

 Dan Hannan is a Conservative MEP for the South East.

The EU is the true successor of the British Empire

Ross Clark
14 November 2019
The Spectator

Donald Tusk has been ridiculed for suggesting that Brexit marks the end of the British Empire. But he has a point. The 31 January 2020 – assuming the date doesn’t move again – should finally bring to a close Britain’s involvement in colonial delusion. And that is exactly why we are right to leave.

Like the British Empire, the European Union is an exercise in patrician rule and one which is sustained by an unshakeable sense of moral and cultural superiority. How better to sum up its pretensions to be more than a mere trade bloc, or even a superstate, than the words of Tusk himself, in an interview with Bild newspaper in 2016: ‘As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilisation in its entirety.’

It is more than just a bunch of countries which have banded together for their own mutual interest, in other words: it is a civilisation. It is Maya, Babylon, Egypt, Greece or Rome – the source of all that is good and worthwhile in the world, set out to convert others from barbarianism. In the EU mentality there is nothing to be learned from the US, nor from the fast-growing economies of South Asia because it is Europe which has the high ideals. It is fine wine against chlorinated chicken, the social chapter against inhuman corporations.

The difference between modern Europe and earlier civilisations was that whereas they genuinely were the seedbeds of new ideas, it is becoming increasingly hard to sustain the idea that the EU now fulfils that role. Look at where the big technological breakthroughs have occurred in the past two decades: agricultural, medical and engineering innovations and the development of the online world, which has transformed how we do business and spend our leisure time. So many of these breakthroughs can be traced to the US. Where has been the engine of economic growth? China, and the rest of South Asia, excluding Japan. What has the EU given the world over the same period? The first idea which jumps into the head is regulation. While the US has innovated, the EU has regulated – although, as we know from the Volkswagen diesel scandal, it can hardly claim great moral authority in that area, either. If you are looking for things which will be looked upon in future as having changed the world, the fallen Soviet empire, which pioneered space travel, can claim a greater contribution than the EU.

I imagine Donald Tusk aimed his ‘British Empire’ remark at the occupants of residential homes in Bexhill who voted Leave in the hope it would enable the British Empire to be restored. Look at what you have done, he is saying: you have ended up finally destroying the thing you most love. But he has succeeded only in reminding us of the imperialistic delusions which lie behind the EU. We are better off out, among the barbarians, where we can do business and trade with the countries beyond Europe without looking down our nose at them.


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