Peter Hitchens On The EU and Brexit
On March 30th at the Institute of Economic Affairs in Westminster, NewsRedial’s Peter Stephenson sat with author Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday and asked him about the machinations of the Brexit pantomime.
I first asked Mr Hitchens if he thought the ‘out’ camp would win the referendum vote and if so then would the government carry out the will of the people?
Here is a transcript of our discussion:
PETER HITCHENS: First of all I’m against governments calls to plebiscites. I think they are an outrage and I don’t think any parliamentary country should have them. Secondly, I think this one was held solely to save the Conservative party. It was never intended to be held in the first place and I don’t think–there are no clauses in the act that would state what would happen. I very doubt that Parliament dominated by enthusiasts to stay in the European Union is capable of taking us out even if there is a vote to leave.
I think that what is more likely to happen, and no one can say for certain because there (unclear) . . be a vote to stay which will be declared an end to the debate and that we can all go home and forget about it forever and that is why I say that the referendum is a trap rather than an exit.
I think the only way you can get out of the European Union is to elect a government committed to secession from it, probably to elect it for two full terms which in my view (unclear name) was right in that it would take us ten years to get a major country such as this out of the European Union. And given the huge and extraordinary desire of the people who claim to be against the European Union to carry on voting for the Conservative Party which is probably the keenest supporter of the European Union in the country, I don’t think there is much hope of that ever happening.
The chances of developing a party that is in favour of national independence in time to achieve it simply means it is nil.
PETER STEPHENSON: So do you put your hopes more on UKIP or a reformed Conservative Party?
PH: I don’t put my hopes on anything. The Conservative Party is un-reformable. You might as well try to reform Typhus. I don’t put my hopes on anything. I regard myself as the obituarist of a dead country. I’m not joking.
PS: But you are also a Christian and don’t you believe in resurrection?
PH: Yes I do but of Jesus Christ, not of dead countries.
PS: Have countries with waning national spirits never revived?
PH: Possibly but I don’t think ours has the capacity to do so. Almost all our institutions have atrophied, national spirit of patriotism has atrophied, Christianity has practically ceased to exist. All the things which made us the country that we were have shrivelled away I mean also in terms of physical material resources – lack the ability to recover. We are so colossally in debt that I can’t see any way out of it and that’s in terms of both state and individuals. Our industrial capacity is small and falling fast. Our ability to defend ourselves in terms of our armed forces is currently pitiful and we have this ridiculous, supposed nuclear deterrent which is like spending all your money on insurance against alien abduction and so having none left over to insure yourself against fire and theft. We have no effective conventional armed forces at all.
PS: Your view on Britain’s state reminds me of the line in Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ “The centre can not hold”
PH: Well it’s a cliché isn’t it. But it’s not just the centre that can not hold. The country has, to all intents and purposes, ceased to exist. We are just in that stage in the cartoon where the Road Runner has come off the cliff waiting to discover that there is nothing underneath, after which . . . fyewwww, down it goes.
We are in that state of delusion where we still think we are a major country. We are still invited along to the big summits because for some reason or other people still take the pound sterling seriously, I’m amazed that they do and very pleased but I can’t quite think why.
PS: So you neither believe that we will win the referendum vote, and even if we do that the government won’t honour it?
PH: I think that’s more or less the correct summary of my position yes.
PS: Colin, you had a question?
CT: I was wondering what you thought ‘would’ happen if we vote to leave. What you thought David Cameron would actually do. Do you think he has a plan B?
PH: I think there is an interesting precedent in the Irish Republic’s vote. The Irish Republic used to have referenda under very strict rules. Their original constitution did so and they were probably more valid than other countries because of those rules and they voted against the Lisbon Treaty and the Irish government thereupon commissioned a group of psychologists and anthropologists to go out and they came back and said people had voted against Lisbon because they didn’t understand the question, so they’d hold it again.
I think you also have to note that in the British supposed Brexit campaign there are now large numbers of people, I think of Michael Howard and Alexander so called Boris Johnson who are not really particularly obvious supporters of a British exit from the European Union who I think have joined the campaign and placed themselves at the head of it precisely so that if there is any question of the vote to leave that they can then turn it into a negotiation in how to stay. Which I think would be the most likely thing to happen if there were if there were a vote to leave.
But if there were a vote to leave it’s unlikely to be particularly a large margin. And you still have to cope with the fact that Parliament is still sovereign. What is the Parliament dominated by people who are against leaving the European Union going to do about a vote like that?
PS: Do you think establishment figures like Boris wouldn’t even need a second referendum imposed upon them as they would impose it on themselves?
PH: I think the second referendum is very likely. It would be what they would work for. I think that is one of the reasons why people of that kind are joining the exit campaign.
There is also this great contrast between the different sets of people who are in the campaign to leave. There are people who have a continuing believe that we should be an independent nation and those people who see the European Union as an obstacle to total globalism in which we would barely exist as a place let alone a country. Those two are not compatible, the campaign is not coherent.
PS: You know Michael Gove more than Boris but is Michael Gove a true Brexiter?
PH: I have to say, I was surprised by his decision but I don’t know his inner heart.
PS: Peter Hitchens thank you very much.
PH: Thank you.
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