Glen Ruffle: Conservative principles and European failings

The European Election results, apart from being a triumph for the apathy party, showed a growing disenchantment between the voters and the elites leading Europe.

Despite this, the eurocrats have continued to act according to type, nominating Jean-Claude Juncker, the man who said of the 2005 French referendum on Lisbon "If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue'" and who in 2011 went on record favouring closed debates, as the new President of the European Commission. The deaf are indeed leading the deaf.

This refusal to listen to voters has contributed to alternative, darker voices arising in Europe. There are two points, from a conservative perspective, that are contributing factors. Firstly, there is the neo-liberal wing of the Conservative movement, which has, as philosopher John N Gray notes, in it’s excesses destroyed much of that which conservatives wish to conserve. There is secondly the assault from the European Union on the actual, standing order of what exists and gives meaning: the nation-state.

As philosopher Roger Scruton has shown, the existing order of political, legal and cultural institutions contains inherent wisdom formed in the process of centuries of compromise in the heat of real situations, as people reach the best agreements to govern themselves. These institutions and structures exist because they work, not because they are perfect. They have the advantage of actually existing, and the disadvantage therefore of being subject to criticism from those who sound convincing, but who have nothing to show as an alternative. This is what lies behind the assault on the House of Lords.

The EU is alien to this evolved culture. It was explicitly designed and enforced from the top-down, and brought into British life on the basis of incomplete information in the 1975 referendum, which promised a market but ignored the politics. As such, it has never enjoyed widespread legitimacy, being subject to reproach for how EU law has destroyed, in swift, broad blows, centuries of accumulated legislative wisdom arising from the interaction of real people via the common-law system, with laws dreamed up by Brussels-based Commissioners sitting in ivory towers.

By using the deference of English courts to Parliament, EU law has crept in and established a foothold without ever being voted on by the elected national parliament of Britain. Lord Blackwell has also shown how the European Napoleonic code system of law is a challenge to the UK’s tried, trusted, and proven common law.

The Lisbon Treaty itself is an example of this challenge to the conservative principles of Britain. It was largely based on the rejected EU Constitution, a document that was designed by an elite that sought to invoke their vague principles of what the future should be into a document that would establish new and untested institutions (like the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton) to replace those of nation-states in one fell-swoop. The incontestable failure of Catherine Ashton is a testament to their folly. The American Constitution was not dreamed out of nothing; it was a reaction to the events around it and building on centuries of British philosophical tradition advocating liberty over totalitarianism. The EU Constitution, on the other hand, was more in the tradition of Marx.

The rejection of the most basic conservative principles, those of protecting the present, recognising the contribution of the past, and acknowledging that what now is has more value than vague ideas of what could be, has landed Europe into the situation it finds itself in: disenchantment, apathy, right-wing extremist groups on the rise, and left-wing totalitarianism marching.

Continually eroding the nation-states of Europe, products of thousands of years of forging, with an idea that only enthrals the Euro-elite, is simply foolhardy. Once gone, what we have is often irrevocably lost. And Europe has nothing to offer in place of the nations it threatens: the voters have clearly signalled that.

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