The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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'Protectionism': an elitist meme to silence the plebs

A humiliation worse than Suez, warns Jacob Rees Mogg. He was referring to the transition deal with the EU, which does not return a single power to Britain as we officially leave the EU in March next year. He could have used the same phrase for the passport fiasco, as our leaders have awarded the contract to a Dutch-French company instead of a respected firm in this country. To some this is nothing to write home about; to others it's an affront to national pride and the livelihood of British workers. In response to the controversy, George Osborne tweeted an Evening Standard article: 'Surely this is the kind of global free trade the Brexiteers said they were in favour of?' Indeed, protectionism obstructs the invisible hand of the market, and its emergence is being used as the latest attack on Brexit.

Again, the metropolitan elite don't get it. The traditional dichotomy of Left and Right in politics is becoming an anachronism in the current context of globalisation, multicultural society and national identity crises. The liberal establishment has been caught out, just as Hillary Clinton's progressive neglect was exposed by Donald Trump's appeal to American manual workers in the 2016 presidential election. No disciple of militant trade union barons, I found myself retweeting Len McCluskey's call for the passport decision to be overturned in favour of British jobs. The Labour Party leadership has shown little interest (Corbyn and his acolytes tending to side with foreigners over British interests), but several northern Remain-backing MPs asked why a perfectly good producer in Gateshead, an area of high unemployment, is being snubbed.

Meanwhile on the Right, some senior Tories have dismissed the fuss, while Guido Fawkes website supports this display of an outward-looking independent nation (although below-the-line comments suggest that regular readers disagree). True to form, Matthew Parris in the Times (24th March) disparaged the little Englanders who hark back to past imperial glory. A nasty authoritarianism lurks behind protectionist arguments, Parris argued. A claim to fame here. Parris's column was illustrated with a picture of Jacob Rees Mogg alongside my home-made placard: 'Our fish'. Rees Mogg was protesting against the EU retaining control of our coastal waters in the transition deal (I mentioned to him my draft Brexit opera 'Gutted in Grimsby', and our maverick hero mischievously suggested an application for Arts Council funding).

Many politicians couldn't care less about our fishing industry, or who produces our travel documents.But a vox-pop in the White Lion will convey a very different perspective. In the common sense of the hoi polloi, the passport position is ludicrous, and continuing foreign plunder of our fish an absurd concession (it was bad enough in the EU, but risible after Brexit). The Daily Mail may have gone over the top with its question for the ruling class: 'why do you hate our country, its history, culture and the people's sense of identity?' But its petition shows a growing sense of revolt. It seems to me that we are creating the same conditions here that led to the election of Trump.

I'm not making a case for British isolation. We will surely benefit from the global trade opportunities outside the suffocating Brussels bureaucracy. But just as the EU itself is a protectionist bloc (imposing tariffs on Africa and Asia to protect German and French jobs), we must not be naïve. China, for example, is a powerful player that always takes more than it gives (the Australians are belatedly waking up to this). Completely open commerce is as daft as open borders.

The problem is that the establishment, mainstream media and economists are portraying protectionism in the same way as immigration: you are either for or against it. Unlike thisfalse dichotomy, most people are sufficiently sensible to see that liberty has constraints, and that a nation has a duty to its citizens. The passport rollover and piscine permissiveness show the extent of postmodern reluctance of our masters to put British people first. Amber Rudd apparently had no inkling that her department's decision to favour the French would cause such a furore.

Contracts should be based on value for money, and there is a message to be made to simplistic socialists that wasting public funds in one place cuts spending elsewhere. But ministers and civil servants know the price of everything and the value of nothing. For them to be so unaware of the symbolic importance of our passports, and of the strength of sympathy for our beleaguered fishermen, beggars belief. How dare they steal our fish. 

Sovereignty Matters
Igor Gräzin addresses Bruges Group, 20th March 201...


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Sunday, 20 January 2019