If you don’t count the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, which aren’t part of the UK anyway, 1066 was the last time the British Isles were invaded.
Some rulers tried, others wisely didn’t, much as they wanted to. Even though their armies vastly outnumbered the British forces, both Napoleon and Hitler could only eye the white cliffs wistfully from afar. They correctly surmised that the combination of the Channel and the Royal Navy presented an insurmountable obstacle.
Evidently it no longer is. Thousands of illegal aliens from the less desirable countries have managed to sail their dinghies to Britain, and our officials only sigh and say there’s nothing we can do about it.
Perhaps they are right, and I don’t have at my fingertips enough information to argue against their conclusion. However, my olfactory sense is still strong enough to discern dissembling, especially when it’s not particularly clever.
This morning a portly middle-aged gentleman in charge of such matters was interviewed on Sky News, and he got the softest ride possible this side of a full-sized American car. Nothing he said made much sense, and any interviewer worth his salt would have taken him to task.
For example, the portly official explained, unimpeachably, that the Channel is only 20 miles wide from Calais to Dover. True.
However, it’s not appreciably narrower than it was in 1806 or 1940, when both Napoleon and Hitler deemed it too wide to cross. Why, it wasn’t even much wider in 1588, when the last attempt was made to come to England uninvited.
I’m not saying that the Royal Navy should do to the dinghies what Sir Francis Drake did to the Armada, although some of my strident friends may think it would be a good idea. I’m only pointing out that the argument from width doesn’t wash.
Then the official tugged at our heart strings by saying that all those poor people, even if they are only economic migrants, come from awful places where their lives are likely to be unpleasant.
My heart responds on cue: I sympathise with them. Since I myself grew up in a murderous, impoverished hellhole, I know how they feel. So the argument from sympathy is unassailable. It is, however, irrelevant.
It’s a fair assumption that at least half of the world’s population of 7.6 billion would rather live in Britain than in their home countries. And their reasons for that preference would be as valid as those of the dinghy mariners.
However, neither Britain nor Western Europe nor even the West at large can possibly accommodate such numbers even if we wished to. Some restrictions must therefore be imposed.
Hence, much as we sympathise with those poor people, we could do worse than remember the words of John Quincy Adams. Speaking of America, he said: “She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
(Those Channel-farers aren’t really ‘poor’. When I left Russia, I had $100 in my pocket, and a $650 debt for the visa money I had to borrow from a friend. By contrast, these people pay £4,000 to £5,000 each for their crossing. So whatever they are in any other sense, they aren’t poor economically.)
Then the interviewee resorted to the time-honoured British sport: he blamed the French, who, according to him, do little to stamp out the organised crime behind such crossings. That’s probably true: France’s ardour is doubtless dampened by her experience of admitting vast numbers of culturally alien refugees. Let’s just say that the experience hasn’t been an unqualified success.
France’s desire to palm off those migrants, mostly Syrians and Iranians, on us is understandable. What’s less so is the migrants’ desire to risk their lives for preferring Britain to France or Belgium.
After all, the traditional practice (if not an ironclad legal obligation) is for refugees to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach. They clearly must know something I don’t if they believe Britain is much safer than France or even Belgium.
That issue never came up in the interview because Sky’s Niall Paterson was careful to avoid any potentially controversial angles. Thus Niall nodded compassionate understanding when his mark rued HMG’s utter impotence in stopping the crossings or sending the surviving sailors back.
They have the right to apply for asylum, he said, even if they are strictly economic migrants. And even should their applications be rejected, we can’t really deport them. If France doesn’t agree to take them back, which she won’t, they stay.
I have a couple of problems with that, one of which is lexical. Words like ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ refer to the legal status of those who have entered the country legally and are then granted the permission to stay.
If they enter the country illegally, they are law-breakers. And, when an official of HMG admits there’s nothing we can do about law-breakers, we are in deep trouble.
Such impotence is of recent vintage. For example, during the war, all refugees from Nazi Germany – including, incongruously, Jews – were treated as undesirable aliens and interned on the Isle of Man.
Have we forgotten how to do that? How willing would those mariners be to risk their lives in a dangerous crossing if they knew they’d end up in an internment camp, not at the Social Services? Not very, is my guess.
Then surely the Royal Navy still must have the capacity to stop those boats without resorting to violence, à la 1588. I don’t know how, but I sleep better at night hoping we have some people who do.
One thing we should have done was not play poodle to American neocons who in 2003 set out to bomb the Middle East into democracy. In that undertaking they predictably failed, succeeding only in sending wave after wave of refugees to engulf Europe.
That, however, is a separate subject. Today’s subject isn’t the past but the immediate future – when the population of Britain will hit 70 million, mostly due to culturally alien migration.