cuts a dash at Palace Banquet.
Nor is it without irony that such graceful comments should come not from a Frenchman of long native lineage, but from the diminutive bantam cock of a son of a Hungarian-born father and Greek Mother of the Jewish faith who contrasts so strikingly with the lofty mien of his recent more haughty predecessors (excepting always Georges Pompidou who never managed to shake off the look of the onion-seller). Whilst remaining deeply suspicious of French motives in all things, we should not fail to appreciate his comments:
France hasn’t forgotten, she will never forget that when she was almost annihilated, Britain was at her side.
She will never forget the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish blood mixed with the French blood in the mud of the trenches.
She will never forget the welcome the British people gave General de Gaulle and Free France.
She will never forget the heroic resistance of the British people without which all would have been lost.
She will never forget the fine young people who came from all over the British Empire and laid down their lives on the Normandy beaches and in the surrounding bocages.
It is notable that Sarkozy also gave the lie to the myth upon which France has constructed a narrative for the last sixty-seven years, a myth which began with Charles de Gaulle’s claim on 18th. June 1940:
La France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n’a pas perdu la guerre.
[France has lost a battle, but has not lost the war]
This bold, but ludicrous, assertion was backed by the mantra of many Frenchmen who claimed : “On nous a trahi!” – “We were betrayed!”. Upon such soft sands France has built its alibi for the failings of its politicians and generals for far too long, an alibi that none of its modern executive Presidents has had, until now, the courage to disavow.
De Gaulle peddling the myth that
France was not utterly beaten, June 1940
Now Sarkozy spells it out for all to see: France was close to annihilation and it was Great Britain who remained constant in the cause of restoring her to her place from the first day to the last. The myth has stood obstinately in the way of truth for far too long and one must commend Sarkozy for spelling out the stark reality for once.
But what of the rest of his speech to our Parliament? There are three things which struck me as worthy of note.
In his opening remarks he said of us:
……it is an exceptional honour to address members of both Houses of the British Parliament.
It is indeed here, within these walls, that modern political life was born. Without this Parliament, would parliamentary democracy have ever existed in the world? Hasn’t this parliamentary practice, begun in this place, become the best guarantee against tyranny?
I wonder if he realised quite what he was saying. If we contemplate two facts: (1) that 70-80% of the laws which now enter into force in the United Kingdom every year emanate not from the elected representatives of the British people but from an unelected and wholly unrepresentative coterie of foreign civil servants; and (2) that with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon we shall yield up almost all that remains to us of our sovereignty to that same group who will thus acquire almost unlimited power to impose the Brussels Diktat upon our laws, is it not then right to assert that the ‘best guarantee against tyranny’ of which he spoke has been recklessly and casually thrown away? And has not thus Parliamentary Democracy, so long in the evolution, been in a few short years ruthlessly stifled?
For we should be under no illusion but that what we understand by Parliamentary Democracy, which is indeed a formidable (though not impervious) bulwark against tyranny and which we have now effectively abandoned, has been replaced by a formidable Euro-theocracy. And from them tyranny we shall have, the tyranny of laws to which neither Her Majesty’s Government nor our Parliament has assented as more and more ‘competences’ are given up to the thrall of Qualified Majority Voting.
Of Parliament and the other institutions which have hitherto been the very fabric of our nation Sarkozy observed:
The history of this institution today influences most contemporary political regimes. This Parliament has become what it is through the fight for the protection of essential individual freedoms and the principle of the consent to taxation.
These two fundamental conquests, which this Parliament was the first in the world to achieve, are still today the cornerstones of all our democracies. It is here that parliamentarians have gradually developed what is a party, an electoral programme and finally a majority.
It is through these institutions that the United Kingdom’s greatness has emerged. And I am so honoured to address you precisely because the political heart of the United Kingdom is beating under this roof.
I profoundly believe in the strength of politics. I profoundly believe in the ability of politics to improve the fate of the peoples. This is the whole purpose of politics.
Institutions, however much you upgrade them, exist only to serve the people. The strength of the British people has always been that of a free people who take their own decisions and are ready for the greatest sacrifices to defend their freedom.
It is precisely because we have always been a free people, able to take our own decisions, that we have become what we are. Now that very institution is, for all legal and practical purposes, subordinated to another sovereign power: how then are we to defend the freedoms so hard won and at such price? How then are we to preserve our way of life when others who are not of our kind shall have the whip hand over us? And how ironic that a foreign President should come to praise it at the very moment of its eclipse.
Finally I pick out one specific matter of policy which demonstrates the illusion that Europe is a one-size-fits-all panacea with singular clarity:
The United Kingdom wants a Europe which is capable of controlling immigration. France wants this too. It would be totally illusory to believe that we can still have 27 national immigration policies in the era of the great European market.
France and the European Union are well aware of this since we have developed exemplary bilateral cooperation, which I am proud to have contributed to when I was Interior Minister. And I am particularly well placed to know that, going beyond this bilateral cooperation, a European approach is needed for any effective and long-term solution.
This is why I consider it essential for Europe finally to give itself a common framework: this is the purpose of the European immigration pact which I wish to see adopted under French Presidency.
What a lot of nonsense this is. Our economy is, to put it mildly, utterly unlike that of any other EU member state and thus has a requirement for immigrant labour quite unlike any other. How can one possibly devise a common immigration policy that matches at one moment the disparate economic needs of all 27 member states? It is an absurd idea and one that is doomed to failure. But it is a measure of the ambition of the EU that it thinks it can impose such a policy upon us and a warning to us of how the EU will try, try and try again to force us into the strait-jacket of policies that are designed to reduce us all to the level of the lowest common denominator, however damaging economically and socially.
But perhaps we Eurosceptics should encourage this process.
After all immigration is a matter which all parties know is of considerable importance to the indigenous peoples of these islands, though some try to shout down anyone who has the temerity to think of restricting it let alone publicly advocate it.
There are few things which inflame the populace more than unrestricted and inappropriate immigration (just ask the ghastly Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, who has the BNP nipping at her heels because of this very issue) and if effective control of our borders (I speak of the theory, rather than the practice, for under Labour control of our borders has long been abandoned) is removed from British Ministers and handed to unelected Eurocrats, the flood-tide of immigrants which will follow upon such a move will harden the hearts of the people against those responsible for it.
Though it is a risky course, perhaps we should be carefully paying out as much rope as we can to the EU the more easily to hang it with. And at all times we must not allow Ministers to get away with evading (as is their wont) the true responsibility for and cause of all those things which are inflicted upon us not by those we elect but by those we don’t.