Britishness can’t be defined in strictly genetic terms (good job too, as far as I’m concerned). The concept is inseparable from the country’s unique system of justice that has evolved over at least eight centuries to mould the British character and be in turn moulded by it.
England is one of the few countries that have historically realised the ancient Roman principle protectio trahit subjectionem et subjectio protectionem (protection begets allegiance, and alllegiance begets protection), and no other European country has realised it so fully and over such a long time. An Englishman has his iron-clad rights (not to be confused with nebulous ‘human rights’), and he’s entitled to the protection of the crown for as long as he remains loyal to it.
Perhaps the most important of these rights is the inviolability of an Englishman’s person — he is protected from unlawful arrest and incarceration more securely than most other Europeans. This applies universally: not only does the Crown extend its protection domestically, but it has always been committed to looking after British subjects travelling abroad.
In practical terms, this commitment took the shape of cannon boats, sailing into foreign harbours and levelling their main calibre at the cities where Englishmen had been abused. Amazingly, such demonstrations went a long way towards foreign lands hastily admitting the error of their legal ways, and who says they can’t learn. There was also a strong preventive effect: when a British subject was once arrested in Turkey in the late 19th century, he was released with profuse apologies the moment his captors realised he was indeed British. One just didn’t mess with the British Empire in those days.
As I mentioned earlier, this unwavering devotion to protective justice has become an essential part of the British national character. If you agree with this, then logically you’ll also have to accept that this character is bound to become less British once such safeguards have been removed. As they have been in the EU.
Any British subject these days can be subject to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). That means the British government has to extradict any citizen wanted in, say, such known bastions of legality as Rumania or Greece on a charge that doesn’t meet the legal requirements that our own CPS has to follow. Specifically, the EAW has no requirement for prima facie evidence, without which no magistrate in Britain would ever issue an arrest warrant.
Once an EAW arrives at these shores, the British government is helpless to protect a British subject. All HMG can do is make sure that all the forms are filled in correctly and the name of the accused isn’t misspelled. If such minimum conditions are met, off he goes — in all likelihoood to face months in a rat-infested hellhole of a prison in a country that thinks habeas corpus is some sort of Roman temple.
That’s what happened to Andrew Symeou, a 22-year-old visitor to Greece, arrested in 2009 for a crime he didn’t commit. His two friends were beaten up by Greek policemen and forced to sign accusatory statements written in a language they didn’t understand. Symeou then spent a year in a hellish cell he shared with murderers and rapists, where his most elementary rights were abused every day. Protests, both by him and his government, fell on deaf ears. Greece could not possibly have violated anybody’s rights, HMG was reassured, because she had signed the 1998 Human Rights Act. Oh well, that’s all right then.
When Symeou’s case eventually went to trial four years later, even the prosecution demanded that he be acquitted. So justice was done in the end. Except that it wasn’t British justice that has historically tended not to destroy a young man’s life on flimsy or nonexistent evidence.
This is far from an isolated case. Other British travellers (for instance, Ben Herdman, 20, again in Greece) have been falsely accused and held for months in countries that don’t know what habeas corpus is. As France, where I spend several months a year, is one of those countries, you’ll know what has happened if you don’t hear from me for a few months. In all likelihood I’ll be arrested for expressing anti-EU sentiments, which will be a crime soon, if it isn’t already.
The EAW isn’t the only outrage that HMG has allowed the EU to inflict upon loyal British subjects. In fact, 84 percent of our laws now come from Brussels, and these have put in place such abominations as rules governing fines and freezing of assets, the European Investigation Order, to which our coalition government chose to ‘opt in’ as one of its first acts, and numerous other instruments of legal torture our own spivocrats have placed into the hands of their continental colleagues.
The astounding thing is the unity displayed in such matters by our three main parties, which after all are supposed to represent different sections of the British electorate and different political philosophies. But they don’t bother their pretty stupid heads about such matters: they are all solely motivated by power, and thus any accountability to the people is anathema to them. In that sense, the EU is a godsend for those spivs: while still in office, they can bypass the people who have put them there; and when finally kicked out, they’ll find a nice little earner in Brussels or Strasbourg.
The UKIP is the only party that consistently opposes the gestation of a European police state with its burgeoning sway over British subjects — and, if every poll I’ve seen is to be believed, it’s the only party that reflects the consensus of our population on this subject. But the UKIP will never form a government; single-issue parties just don’t. Its best hope is to syphon off enough votes from the Tory spivocrats to hurt them in the only area they care about: self-interest. Godspeed to the UKIP in this, though the harsh realities of life have taught me to be pessimistic.
Meanwhile, perhaps it would be a good idea if we stopped calling ourselves British. Nations can’t be deprived of their formative characteristic and expect to remain intact. Frenchmen wouldn’t be French without their cheese and wine. Italians wouldn’t be Italian without their opera and pasta. Germans wouldn’t be German without their music and household appliances. And the British wouldn’t be British if deprived of the greatest gift the country has given to the world: just and equitable government.