Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Decline and Fall of the EU Empire

By William Rees-Mogg

The Lisbon Treaty was finally brought to ratification last week. The Conservatives decided not to call a referendum, which could not have blocked the treaty now it has been accepted by the Czech Republic. Illogically perhaps, Euro-sceptics ought to welcome the treaty, if only for its awfulness.

The treaty with its imperial ambition, its new status in law, its president, its bullying of Ireland and cheating of Britain, has all the characteristics of the penultimate stage of empire.

Just as a visitor to the Coronation Durbar in Delhi in 1911 might have known at a glance that the British Empire in India was on its last legs, so a cursory reading of the gobbledegook of the Lisbon text would tell one that the European empire was close to failure.

There have been empires before. Many people still alive have seen them fail. The Soviet Empire broke up as recently as 1989. The 19th Century was an age of empire-building and empire builders, the age of men such as Cecil Rhodes and Otto von Bismarck, but the 20th Century was one in which empires collapsed.

According to my count, there were no fewer than 13 empires that broke up in the course of the last century, against two empires that were created in that period and still survive.

The new empires are the American and the Franco-German empire of the European Union, of which Britain is an increasingly reluctant province.

The 13 empires that disappeared in the 20th Century included one Russian, one Soviet, two German, one British - but that was the biggest of them all - one French, one Japanese, one Ottoman, one Austro-Hungarian, one Spanish, one Boer, one Italian and one Portuguese. They all fell for much the same reasons; they rotted from within.

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