On Thursday, June 23, Britons go to the polls to vote on whether their country will remain a part of the European Union. Based on the most recent opinion polls, it seems that the murder of Jo Cox has had the hoped-for effect, and turned the tide in favor of Remain. Both bookies and the financial markets are now weighing the odds against a Brexit.
Nick McAvelly has a reminder from history about the importance of independence, national sovereignty, and self-government. His observations apply not just to the UK and other member states of the European Union, but to any formerly free nation that now groans under the yoke of a distant, unaccountable, and tyrannical power.
The Issue at Hand
by Nick McAvelly
On the 4th of August 1941, Winston Churchill boarded the battleship Prince of Wales at Scapa Flow and, escorted by the Canadian destroyers Restigouche and Assiniboine and the British destroyer Ripley, headed across the Atlantic. This was an act of considerable courage, for as the journalist H.V. Morton wrote, they were sailing ‘through seas where U-boats lay in wait, not dreaming that the supreme prize of a pirate’s life lay upon these waters.’
Five days later, on the 9th of August, the Prince of Wales sailed into Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, and the first wartime meeting between Winston Churchill and the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, took place.
Roosevelt had already discussed making a formal declaration of his post-war aims with Sumner Welles, the Under Secretary of State. In the third volume of Churchill’s history of World War 2, Churchill stated that ‘the substance and spirit of what came to be called the ‘Atlantic Charter’ was in its first draft a British production’, but the request to produce that first draft came from the wily American President. This manoeuvre of Roosevelt’s ensured that the British could not disavow the President’s post-war aims later on. Note also that this first draft was subsequently altered, so that the final version of the document recorded the political aspirations of both the British and the Americans. 
Here are the opening three articles of what was to became known as the Atlantic Charter:
The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.
First, their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other.
Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.
Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.
The Atlantic Charter matters to us today, and not just because it is a written record of the principles we fought to defend during World War 2. The Atlantic Charter’s existence refutes the anti-democratic assertion that anyone who wants to be master of their own fate politically must be ‘right wing’.
If the Nazis were ‘right wing’, and the principles of the Atlantic Charter are diametrically opposed to what the Nazis stood for, then the assertion that anyone who believes in the principles of the Atlantic Charter must be ‘right wing’ is clearly an absurdity.
In truth, we should all take pride in the fact that our nations stood against Nazi tyranny, and we should be thankful that Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt took the time to write down exactly what it meant, in political terms, to do so.
The British historian Sir Max Hastings wrote that many of the people who lived through the war could only describe their experience by saying ‘all hell broke loose’. Our soldiers, sailors and pilots, together with our fellow citizens, did not go through all that for nothing. They fought throughout the war to ensure that all peoples would have the right to choose the form of government under which they are to live. And yes, that includes the descendants of the victors. If the British people exercise that right and choose not to support the aggrandisement of a European super-state, but to restore the sovereignty of the British nation state, by choosing self-government over subservience to a distant political power structure, then their actions will be in accordance with the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
So as the ‘Brexit’ referendum draws near, take no notice of the anti-democratic insinuation that anyone who wants the British people to be in charge of their own affairs must be ‘right wing’. That is an ad hominem insult which is not only false, it has absolutely no bearing on the issue at hand.
The most important aspect of any political system, so far as ordinary citizens are concerned, is whether they are able to terminate the career of a politician who uses his power badly. The aggrandisement of a European super-state, with its bureaucratic centres physically situated in other countries, has already made it next to impossible for a British citizen to exercise any control over European politics, and yet European politicians can exercise control over our lives with no trouble at all.
Ask yourself this: If the European political system does something you disagree with in principle, which affects your quality of life and damages your personal finances, can you do anything about it? Can the politicians you have elected at a national level do anything about it? If your answer to these questions is no, then you are not in control of your own affairs.
If you are confident that politicians will always act in your best interests, and on that basis, you believe that you no longer need to be in control of your own affairs, then this is your opportunity to test your beliefs. However, if your beliefs turn out to be false and the political situation turns bad, then you will have no option but to suffer in silence, because if you vote to remain in the European super-state, then you are handing political control of your own life over to another party, finally and forever.
On the other hand, you may hold the view that no one has any guarantee that a European political elite will always act in their best interests, and it is possible that at some point in the future, your freedom to live according to your own lights could be taken away from you, the life you have left could be degraded to the extent that it is unbearable, and your bank account could be emptied, because after all, someone has to pay for ruining your country and your life. And there will be nothing you can do about any of it.
The issue then, is not whether voting to leave the European super-state is ‘right wing’. As we have seen, the very notion is absurd. And pay no mind to any politicians who claim that unpleasant things will happen should the British people take control of their own affairs. Remember, we voted those politicians in to run our country for us in a way that allows us all to live freely and without fear. If they can’t do their job, then we can always vote them out and employ confident, capable people instead.
The issue at hand is whether you want to hand over responsibility for your own affairs to another party, in which case the vote you cast this week will be the last that will ever carry any weight, or whether you understand that no political state, now or in the future, can be trusted to act in your own interests, in which case you are going to have to take responsibility for your own affairs as much as possible, and keep what control you have over the agents of the British state, in the form of a vote that can actually make a difference.
The choice is yours.
|1.||en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Prince_of_Wales_(53)#Atlantic_Charter_meeting (accessed 21/06/16); Morton, H.V. Atlantic Meeting, Methuen & Co Ltd., p. 63|
|2.||ibid., p. 49|
|3.||ibid., pp. 82-89|
|4.||Hamilton, N. The Mantle of Command: FDR at War 1941-42, Biteback Publishing, p. 10, p. 16|
|5.||Churchill, W. The Grand Alliance, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pp. 346-347|
|6.||Hamilton, N. op cit., p. 25|
|7.||Hamilton, N. op. cit., pp. 35-36|
|8.||Churchill, W. op. cit., p. 352|
|9.||Hastings, M. All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945, William Collins, Kindle loc. 19