Adrian Hill, a former soldier and diplomat continues his series on the effect of Brexit on Britain’s Defence and Diplomacy. Disclaimer: This article is not an official Veterans for Britain paper, and so does not necessarily reflect the official view of Veterans for Britain.
Ignore all the briefings against Boris Johnson in the weekend papers. Concentrate your mind on who would have the most to gain from Mrs May’s foolish offer in a church in Florence. At least she spoke in the church where Galileo was denounced for believing the Earth was a ball that went round the Sun.
Thank goodness we have Boris on watch for slippery moves by Mutti and Mighty Mouse Macron. Ask any German diplomat and they’ll tell you that who they fear the most is Boris. As a friend of mine, formerly a senior officer in Germany’s secret intelligence service, put it last month, ‘ Europe doesn’t want to be ruled by France and Germany. We need you British as our camouflage – although we recognise that emotionally you were never comfortable as part of Europe.’
My German friend should have waited a couple of weeks. He’d be astonished. Mrs May is so uncomfortable as part of the Britain Isles that she cannot bring herself to support Brexit over the air waves and instead admits she is a remainer. Damian Green, her deputy prime minister, declares himself a devout remainer. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, lunches with his vorganger and within days Project Fear kicks off round two – Hillary Clinton, OECD, the Sainsbury socialists, all the regular doom watchers. Mrs May’s government is packed with hundreds of EU lovers in the Cabinet, Number 10, Treasury, Cabinet Office and FCO. They lead the chorus while the Cabinet Secretary sings. Nick Timothy, former adviser and master mind of the summer election disaster, has an obvious song sheet after his articles in the Daily Telegraph. He’s yet another of Mrs May’s advisers – so many of whom are still lurking beside the Number 10 dust bins and still want to lash us to the EU just as we at last start swimming away from the suction of a sinking ship. Their latest negotiating triumph is to allow the EU Commission to dictate how much food we can buy from our Commonwealth and American allies once we have left their yolk. A significant reason for leaving is to drop household bills by about 20% because we can buy from whom we please. Not surprisingly the Americans led the charge to block this stupid deal.
Yes, a wise person listens to those who disagree with them, not just those who do. Furthermore a sound leader prepares for all eventualities. Cameron and Osborne were advised by the same Cabinet Secretary as Mrs May. What I find baffling is that an intelligent woman always picks the wrong advisers and listens to their worst possible ideas.
Maybe it’s obvious.
One must look back at the history of our global diplomacy. There were four great offices of state until 1947 – the Foreign Office, the Dominions Office, the India Office and the Colonial Office – the latter taking the cream of Cambridge and Oxford. The Secret Service worked in Foreign countries and the Security Service worked throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. Nine years earlier the Foreign Office had believed their policy of appeasing the dictators had worked with the Munich agreement in 1938. Within two years most of Europe was occupied by the armies of Adolf Hitler. We had no embassies from the Pyrenees to the gates of Moscow apart from Bern and Stockholm. The Foreign Office next lost its posts throughout Asia to the Japanese. The Secret Service was hamstrung. New secret agents were needed, fast. Winston Churchill created SOE to get back into Europe, recruit agents and support the resistance. Bletchley Park was the other secret weapon in his fight against the dictators. Our diplomats had the Americans as friends but the special relationship was personal between Churchill and Roosevelt.
After victory in 1945 the Secret Service avenged their 1940 humiliation by disbanding SOE almost overnight. We could do with SOE today and I’ve written novels with this message. As the Empire became a Commonwealth of independent democracies so the Dominions Office, India Office and Colonial Office merged to become the Commonwealth Relations Office with the Overseas Development Agency added, reporting to the Commonwealth Secretary. The Security Service role focussed on liaison with the Commonwealth governments. After the Army I joined the Commonwealth Relations Office in summer 1963 when Churchill’s son-in-law was Commonwealth Secretary. My boss was George Price, a general and fellow sapper, who had served with General Pug Ismay in Number Ten throughout the war; my ‘ line manager ‘ was John Champion a former Desert Rat and lately colonial secretary in Uganda. My old CO, another sapper, ran the chunk of the Ministry of Defence dealing with most of the trouble spots. George knew everyone in Whitehall and they knew him. Louis Mountbatten, first chief of the combined defence staff, knew all of us younger ones by name. The Foreign Office found itself excluded from this Commonwealth focussed team with all the aid millions under its control and they had become obsessed with abandoning the Commonwealth for a more comfortable role in Europe where their support for appeasement was less resented.
After SOE the next target was us – supposedly because while the CRO existed Britain had two foreign policies. We didn’t, we just felt that our share was the continuation of five hundred years of history. Sadly, the diplomats won; Harold Macmillan who was still reeling from the Christine Keeler affair decided to merge the two offices. Had he not done so, of course, I would never have gone to Vietnam, married a Swiss girl, or played a part in an Olympic Games in Seoul! Nor served with so many civilised people, some of whom became life-long friends.
Another favourite line was that the Commonwealth had turned their backs on us – as though the old dominions were expected not to trade with other countries and ignoring that the Labour Party with the unions were responsible for the appalling state of industrial relations in British manufacturing, coal mining, transport.
There is an eighty years long thread running through this obsession with Europe and still driven by defeatist gloom and fear of the future. The officials writing papers and speeches for the Prime Minister, Philip Hammond, Boris, David Davis, Liam Fox et al are mostly either in the FCO or on loan from the FCO. Most of the Conservative MPs were selected by the same Central Office doctrinaires who did their utmost to block any candidate with doubts about the EU from selection. I remember well that Michael Fraser, the Party Chairman, and the MPs on the selection board wanted me to stand but the man from the Central Office warned me that he would stop any constituency from adopting me as their candidate. These souls are still in charge all over Whitehall and as brain washed Europhile as a Jesuit monk is Catholic. Playing off the Brexit politicians against the Remoaners and each other is because the ends justify the means when done for the counter reformation. The longer the transition period, the more chance of a Labour Government and the less risk that Brexit will have gone too far for turning around. A five year transition period with nothing changing would safely deliver a return to the EU because the voters by this time will be worn down enough to agree to anything.
The bill – so far – is put at £ 40 billions. It is more. Add another £ 400 billions for a continuing huge trade deficit with the EU. The City and CBI have secured their transition period from the voters’ pockets. Will the government spend this time bonus wisely? Will the customs install a super fast clearance system in time for 2019 or 2020 when we free ourselves from the slimy tentacles of the Brussels octopus? Indeed, will the government have the courage to institute a completely open economy and make our island the trading hub, the Hong Kong of this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Because there will be no deal with the EU now that Mrs May has offered them the money over which they have been sweating blood.
And this is where I find the Prime Minister just plain daft. Had she offered nothing until we know the trade deal on offer, the EU wall would soon fall, it’s already cracking. Just look at the German and Austrian election results.
All this talk from Barnier and Tusk about clarification is simply an attempt to blame the British for the next hold up while Mutti sorts out a new coalition government. My impression is that Mutti can only tackle one big haggle at a time. Mutti wants our money, not us. Germany rings up a trade surplus with us of £ 3 billions every month. We should make a clean Brexit and we should start preparing now. That requires leadership.
Theresa May appears to be protecting herself rather than the voters. She is on the ropes and sinking towards the canvass. We won’t pull off a clean Brexit with a weak prime minister backed by a Cabinet who mostly don’t want to quit the EU either but fear the public back lash. They obviously want Parliament burnt down by angry voters rather than repaired.
No wonder Barnier and chums are so relieved. They know we voted leave to give ourselves the competitive advantage that will allow us to zoom towards an economy more the size of Japan’s. Barnier and Merkel need only employ obstruction to stall the talks. They can’t turn the ship onto a new course anyhow with twenty-five passengers also clutching the wheel.
We only need EU-brainwashed officials in London for reaching a deal with Brussels. We should make rings round the lot of them, put somebody in charge who believes in this country and go full speed ahead for a clean Brexit.
Never mind letters sliding down from the stage scenery in Manchester. Mrs May clearly doesn’t understand what’s going on within the two-hundred yard circle around her own office.