Rethinking Europe

Napoleon Alive and Well and Working in Downing Street

The UK needs to realize that cutting trade links with the continent has always been dumb — whether for Napoleon in December 1807 or Johnson in December 2020.

Credit: BackBoris2012 Campaign Team www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • The UK needs to realize that cutting trade links with the continent has always been dumb -- whether for Napoleon in December 1807 or Johnson in December 2020.
  • Napoleon’s announcement in December 1807 that he would cut trade with Britain was the beginning of the end of his domination in Europe.
  • Johnson has spent five years up his own blind alley of believing that the EU was on the verge of collapse. If anything, the opposite has happened -- Brexit has brought the EU together.

In December 1807, Napoleon grandly announced that there was no need to trade with Britain. In December 2020, Boris Johnson repeated his mantra that a “No Deal” future would allow Britain “to become better,” equipping it with a future that supposedly holds many opportunities.

Moreover, In 2016, on the eve of the referendum, the British prime minister told a cheering rally of anti-Europeans at London’s giant Wembley stadium that if Britain voted to leave the EU it would inspire “hundreds of millions of Europeans” to follow suit.

A pocket Napoleon

Boris Johnson, aka the UK’s pocket Napoleon, was as foolish to believe anyone in Europe (other than Marine Le Pen) would be inspired by his desire to break up the EU as the real Napoleon was to think he could block all trade with Britain and thus bring the British to their knees.

Johnson proclaims himself a student of — and expert on — the history of Ancient Greece and Rome. He keeps a bust of the Athenian sage Pericles on his mantel-piece.

He did study Latin and Greek and the history of both Hellenic and Roman civilizations for years at Eton and then Oxford, though he got a poor grade degree at the intellectual powerhouse college of Oxford, Balliol.

Caligula’s horses and Johnson’s dogs

However, Boris Johnson’s knowledge of European history seems to have stopped about the time Caligula was Emperor. He famously made his horse a Consul.

Johnson’s cabinet is known in Westminster as the “nodding dogs” cabinet. Yes-men and yes-women ministers he has appointed have handled the coronavirus Pandemic disastrously.

They have also presided over an unprecedented surge in government corruption. The New York Times has investigated the high level of contracts awarded to friends and cronies of Johnson ministers which smacks more of Venezuela than old fashioned honest Great Britain.

Johnson and Churchill

Johnson’s knowledge of European history was revealed in his 2014 biography of Winston Churchill. He provided the fast-driven account of a political adventurer, who switched political position, was disliked by the Tory party establishment, spoke and wrote with élan, drank like a fish and believed in an English-speaking world as the leaders of civilization.

In other words, Winston is none other than Boris — minus the compulsive womanizing of the current prime minister.

In his book, Johnson described a “Gestapo-controlled Nazi EU.” In his recent attacks on Brussels — and especially Michel Barnier the French political grandee, who heads the EU Brexit negotiating team — Johnson keeps insisting he is struggling to regain and assert the rights of Britain as a “sovereign state.”

In contrast, Churchill in 1948 challenged the Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who objected to a post-war Europe built on “any reference to the surrender of sovereign rights.”

”Enriched sovereignty

Churchill replied with his alternative of “countries acquiring an enlarged or enriched sovereignty through membership of a European Union.”

In fact, Johnson has harbored his Napoleonic belief that sovereign European states would buckle if faced with the prospect of losing trade with the UK. In this belief, he has spent five years up his own blind alley of belief that the EU was on the verge of implosion or semi-collapse.

If anything the opposite has happened. Brexit has brought the EU together. Of course there are individual governments that oppose what Brussels proposes.

But even the European nations like Poland and Hungary, today’s bad boys, have dropped talk of leaving the EU — and instead seek wriggle room for their illiberal nationalist identity of ideologies.

Warsaw and Budapest not joining an exit

But to join Johnson in saying Adieu to Europe just seems “une follie de grandeur” in Warsaw and Budapest that is worthy of a puffed up imitation Napoleon, not “un homme serieux” at the head of a once great nation.

Napoleon’s announcement in December 1807 that he would cut trade with Britain was the beginning of the end of his domination in Europe.

The pictures on British television news in recent days have been of motorways in the county of Kent (where Churchill lived) being choked with truck queues 20 kilometers long.

This is a mixture of Pandemic stock-piling, Christmas toy deliveries from China arriving late and preparation for the enormous increase in paperwork and customs controls which will be needed after New Year’s Day with or without a free trade deal.

No more ham sandwiches

The latest helpful advice from Johnson’s nodding-dog ministers is that truckers should not try and cross the Channel with their favorite cheese and ham sandwiches in their lunch-boxes as there will be strict inspections of all dairy and animal food products entering the EU single market.

Conclusion

Napoleon famously said his armies marched on their stomachs. As his latter-day successor in Downing Street tells British truckers they can’t munch a ham sandwich in their cabs, will the penny (or the cent) finally drop?

Britain needs to wake up to the fact that cutting trade links with the continent has always been dumb politics — whether for Napoleon Bonaparte in December 1807 or Boris Johnson in December 2020.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” published by IB Tauris-Bloomsbury, London, October 2019. Follow him @DenisMacShane

Responses to “Napoleon Alive and Well and Working in Downing Street”

If you would like to comment, please visit our Facebook page.