Author: John Griffing
The readily visible collapse of Brexit negotiations echoes the most significant foreign policy blunders in British history, episodes characterized by the misplaced worship of process over principle and a pathological pattern of "surrender."
Such was the case with Neville Chamberlain, a man who genuinely believed a "piece of paper," would preserve peace in Europe.
While the British applauded the empty gesture as a triumph, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler told his Foreign Minister J. Von Ribbentrop, "Oh, don't take it so seriously. That piece of paper is of no further significance whatever."
In point of fact, at the meeting that would ultimately produce the notorious Munich Pact, Hitler told the prime minister he favored a world war and was completely un-serious about peace talks.
"I do not care whether there is a world war or not: I am determined to settle it and to settle it soon and I am prepared to risk a world war rather than allow this to drag on," Hitler stated.
A normal person would change tack accordingly, and stop futile exercises that amount to little more than checking off boxes. Not Neville. He dug in his heels.
Hitler uses the same tone to tell Chamberlain his true intentions that today is used to send an ugly date home. The next sentence usually involves some version of, "Your Uber is outside." Such blatantly transparent subtlety was apparently still too subtle for the prime minister.
As if struck by an epiphany, Chamberlain began to understand, qupping, "If the Fuehrer is determined to settle this matter by force without waiting even for a discussion between ourselves to take place what did he let me come here for? I have wasted my time." It appears Chamberlain finally realized the sinister German may not be entirely truthful.
Chamberlain's shockingly naive demeanor is further illustrated by his response to Hitler's demand that he be allowed to invade Czechoslovakia.
"Hold on a minute; there is one point on which I want to be clear … would you be satisfied with that and is there nothing more that you want? I ask because there are many people who think that is not all; that you wish to dismember Czechoslovakia," the prime minister insightfully inquired. Bravo, Neville.
Aside from temporary madness brought on by the stress of governing, one possible explanation for Chamberlain's behavior is that he truly viewed diplomacy as an end in itself, a blindness beautifully captured by the powerful new film, "Darkest Hour."
"Darkest Hour" is set during the Nazi invasion of France, the Netherlands and Belgium. It retraces the steps of Winston Churchill's heroic evacuation of 300,000 British soldiers at Dunkirk, with a makeshift fleet of private fishing boats and yachts.
But most importantly for our purposes, the movie depicts Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax advancing a plan to prematurely force British surrender to Germany shortly after Churchill was appointed prime minister.
Let that sink in: Britain almost never fought World War II, and very nearly became a German satellite state, the stated vision of Halifax and Chamberlain. Without Great Britain's contribution the war effort, the U.S. might have been overrun. The world could very well be speaking German and Japanese.
While promoting preemptive surrender to Nazi Germany, Chamberlain and Halifax blackmailed Churchill into initiating negotiations with Hitler, who only hours before invaded (and subjugated) France. Their rationale? "Peace at any cost."
If Churchill did not agree to disgraced ex-Prime Minister Chamberlain's surrender-disguised-as-diplomacy, Halifax threatened to mount a "vote of no confidence" in the British Parliament which Churchill was sure to lose.
History might look very different today indeed.
It is only by sheer happenstance, or possibly divine intervention, that these men were thwarted in their objectives. After all, Chamberlain was no longer prime minister for the very reason that his fanatical belief in formulaic diplomacy gave Hitler virtual carte blanche to invade the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia and later, Poland.
After signing his signature treaty with Hitler at Berchtesgaden, Chamberlain proudly declared, "We shall have peace in our time." The treaty agreed to almost all of Hitler's demands, an agreement no less absurd than the Iranian nuclear agreement negotiated by Barack Obama.
Chamberlain and Halifax were also would-be murderers; they vocally opposed the rescue mission to save 300,000 British soldiers (now considered one of the most awe-inspiring military operations in history), on the grounds that it wouldn't send the right signals to Hitler.
Churchill warned against such a scenario, a situation "in which we went to Signor Mussolini and invited him to go to Herr Hitler and asked him to treat us nicely. We must not get tangled in a position of that kind before we had been involved in any serious fighting."
Amazingly, such total insanity and naked treason was the near-consensus of Churchill's cabinet. The survival of the English-speaking world stood on a knife-edge, and British leaders were kicking the dirt in on themselves.
The lesson? Misplaced focus on process can easily become an obsession; good diplomacy must always make room for common sense and fresh air. Sometimes, "a" does not equal "b" for no other reason than the fallacies of human nature, and nowhere is this more true than the world of foreign policy.
While Chamberlain is certainly a cautionary tale, it took real stupidity, or deep-seated treachery, to strip Britain of what global influence it still possessed following the war, all to join the continental club.
There's nothing new under the sun, especially when it never sets. It is perhaps fitting that the same lunacy plaguing Brexit negotiations presently, also consumed the British delegation negotiating EEC entry in 1971.
Led by weak-kneed Sir Edward Heath, Britain agreed unreservedly to all French demands, including the requirement that the once proud seafaring nation reduce its global standing to the level of other European member-states as a condition of EEC membership. On what planet would Britain trade its unparalleled greatness, though bruised after a horrific world war, to join a club?
To join, Britain was told: no more Empire, no more Sterling as world reserve currency, no more special relationship with the U.S., and basically … no more doing anything better than the French, etc.
The goal was entry at any price, and the price was extremely high, a reality Sir Con O'Neill -- head of the British delegation -- described as, "Swallow the lot, and swallow it whole."
The minutes of Heath's "swallow it whole" talks with French President Georges Pompidou can be viewed in full, thanks to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Upon review of the declassified minutes, one thing is abundantly apparent: France never intended to make any concessions to Britain, and Heath uncritically accepted this outcome.
One communique quotes Pompidou as remarking, "I will consider with sympathy a problem which carries sentimental and political importance across the Channel, though it can only be solved in Brussels." The French president regarded British advantages in the areas of trade and finance to be "a relic of the British empire."
In any event, Heath made no attempt to counter demands obviously growing from French jealousy, stating that did not "feel sentimental about it."
Heath's transparent exercise in boot-licking borders on disgusting. "Historically, Britain had always been part of Europe. It was only during the past 25 years that it had come to seem as if our natural connection might be with the United States. But we were in fact still part of Europe," Heath remarked, earnestly seeking French approval.
Referring to British policies, Heath promised to "bring them into line with the European Community."
France owes everything to the British and American soldiers who landed at Normandy only a few decades prior, and no debt so precious as freedom bought with the blood of millions can ever be repaid. For that reason, Heath's hopping around like a trained seal is that much more nauseating.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) internal document released under the thirty-year rule shows that the British government was fully aware membership in the EU would mean the end of historic British nationhood, even before the Heath-Pompidou Summit:
"... we shall be accepting an external legislature which regards itself as having direct powers of legislating with effect within the United Kingdom, even in derogation of United Kingdom statutes, and as having in certain fields exclusive legislative competence, so that our own legislature has none."
Like Chamberlain, and later Edward Heath, many in today's British foreign policy establishment would willingly give the European Union everything it wants, in the blind pursuit of a so-called "good deal" for Britain after it leaves. The argument goes, "If we don't agree to everything Europe wants, then they won't be nice to us after we leave."
Such absurd circular non-logic defies the reason for leaving in the first place, since the act of leaving already presumes the intent to cut previous ties and accept any associated risks.
Moreover, the scaremongers who claim that continuing to enforce EU laws on immigration and other matters is "the only way" to avoid economic "consequences" after leaving are effectively re-litigating the thoroughly discredited claims of the remain campaign.
The EU is not in a position to punish Britain economically, and to do so would result in its own sanction by the World Trade Organization. Sadly, the willful ignorance of Europhiles is imbued with fanatical devotion.
For the sake of the halfwits populating the diplomatic corps, here again are the "remain" myths (followed by the facts) of Britain's economic relationship with the EU:
Europhile claim: the EU is 60 percent of the British economy. Exports of goods and services only account for somewhere in the region of 21 percent of "final demand." Since the EU accounts for approximately 48 percent of total exports, it follows that only 10 percent of actual GDP is the result of trade with the EU. In other words, nearly 80 percent of our economy is the result of British consumption of British goods and services.
Europhile claim: leaving the EU will spark a trade war. Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world. It has an outstanding trade imbalance with the EU of £61.7 billion. It is simply not in interest of major European partners to stop selling their merchandise to Britain. Also of note, is that the EU's average external tariff on non-EU imports is down to around 1.5 percent.
Out of the top ten exporters to the EU are: China, Russia, the USA, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, Turkey, India, South Korea and Brazil, and only one of these countries is part of the EU's "single" market.
Europhile claim: 3 million jobs will be lost. The basis for that figure is a 1999 National Institute of Economic and Social Affairs study claiming that 3 million British jobs are dependent on trade with the EU, but the Institute's own director retracted the study, calling it "pure Goebbels." The reality? 3 million jobs are dependent on trade, not trade with the EU.
To sum up, capitulating to the EU's perverse terms of continued uncontrolled migration for its Muslim rape mobs all for a single percentage point in tariffs is lunacy by any definition.
Europe's desperate attempt to con the British people into snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is bluff and bluster -- nothing more. When Britain is officially "out," watch how quickly the snail-eating French beg for normal trade relations to hock their overpriced dairy products and runny cheese.
Neville Chamberlain and Sir Edward Heath call out from the grave, "No doesn't mean yes, and leave definitely means, leave."