Such is an inescapable inference from the comments made by Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission and the new oracle of moral equivalence.
Though named after a British saint, it’s safe to say Ursula has little time for Britain. In that spirit she likened Russia’s genocidal war on the Ukraine to our historic rule of Ireland.
This reminds me of a story my late father-in-law told me. During the war he was sent to Belfast on some military business and naturally dropped by a pub for a pint of the black stuff.
His uniform acted on the locals the way a red rag acts on a bull. Though they didn’t gore my future father-in-law, they felt called upon to vent their criticism of the British army.
“British soldiers have killed our civilians, burnt our houses and crops, raped our women…,” they ranted, and my future father-in-law was both aghast and incredulous. That sort of behaviour wasn’t something he readily associated with the army in which he served.
“British soldiers have done that?” he asked, allowing some doubt to creep into his voice. “When?” “Under bloody Cromwell,” explained the historically minded drinkers, referring to the 1649-1653 reconquest of Ireland, during which the Irish indeed suffered an appalling loss of life.
Now, I realise some historical scars take time to heal. Still, going three centuries back in search of grievances strikes me as excessive. But note that those Irish pub-crawlers didn’t mention a much more recent conflict with Britain, the Irish War of Independence that had ended just 20 years earlier.
It’s a fair guess that, had the British matched Cromwell’s homicidal zeal in the war of 1919-1921, Cromwellian atrocities would have been overshadowed in the Irishmen’s minds. Yet it was that war that von der Leyen had in mind when indulging in her bit of ignorant and malicious moral equivalence.
Addressing the Irish Parliament in Dublin to celebrate some sort of EU anniversary, she said: “This country knows what it means to struggle for the right to exist. Today, another European nation is fighting for independence. Of course, Ireland is far away from the front line in Ukraine. But you understand better than most why this war matters so much to all of us.”
(I dismissed that EU anniversary as “some sort” although I know she was talking about the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s joining the EU. That was a typical federastic legerdemain. For the EU didn’t exist in 1972, what with the Maastricht Treaty still 21 years away. What existed was the European Economic Community, whose leaders were at pains to conceal their plan of creating a single European state by a series of incremental steps.)
It would be easy to accuse Ursula of ignorance, but that would be letting her off way too easily. The statement she was making had nothing to do with historical facts, which I’m sure she knows as well as I do, and everything to do with the vindictive EU attempts to punish Britain for the temerity of refusing to be bossed by the likes of Ursula.
In her eyes, Brexit makes Britain a terrorist, fascist state like Russia, and never mind the nuances. The syllogism is there for all to see. Thesis: Putin doesn’t like the EU. Antithesis: Britain doesn’t like the EU. Synthesis: Britain is as evil as Putin’s Russia.
The EU would love to apply to Britain the same punitive measures as it did to Russia, but it has to acknowledge that, unlike Russia, Britain has broken no international laws. And she is certainly not perpetrating genocide in Ireland or anywhere else.
Hence a package of wholesale sanctions and boycotts can’t be on the table. The table can only be set with stealth and perfidy.
Such fine stratagems are coded in the EU’s DNA, and it’s Ireland that the EU chose as a whip with which to lash Britain. Since the Republic of Ireland is an EU member, her border with Ulster has been turned into a front line of the EU’s punitive raid.
While tacitly encouraging the separatist tendencies in Northern Ireland, those that produced Britain’s surrender on Blair’s watch, the EU openly puts into effect border controls that are much more stringent than at other entry points. This, Ursula and her ilk hope, will drive a deeper wedge between the Republic and the UK, ideally leading to another Time of Troubles and the breakup of the United Kingdom.
I shan’t emulate Ursula by drawing historical parallels, although Prussia’s 19th century Zollverein is worth studying as a lesson in how economic levers can act as mechanisms of political subjugation.
Suffice it to say that her remarks betoken open hostility to Britain, an animus deep enough for the EU’s top politician to sink into the morass of unfounded, impassioned rants. These come at a point when Sunak’s administration is making overtures to the EU, hinting at a possibility of some sort of compromise.
We’ve walked over that terrain back and forth so much and so often, it’s densely covered with thousands of footprints. There’s always room for compromise in diplomacy, but national sovereignty is a binary yes-or-no proposition.
And here a parallel between the Ukraine and Britain is indeed appropriate – not one between Britain and Putin’s fascist state.
The Ukrainians are dying in their thousands to make good their clean break from their former masters. Britain merely risks some economic discomfort at worst to stand up to EU bullies, finally shaking the dust of that pernicious contrivance off her feet.
When one thinks of the sacrifices the country made during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe, one is reminded yet again that Rishi Sunak is no Winston Churchill. Mercifully, Ursula von der Leyen is no Adolph Hitler either.