The robust Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary from 1979 to 1990, has an article (here) in the Yorkshire Post today, “Brexit is our chance to restore authority to the Mother of Parliaments.’ For any American who may wonder what Sir Bernard means by “Mother of Parliaments”, it’s the British Parliament. A view, it should be noted, once deeply embedded in the minds of the original American colonists. As Benjamin Franklin said (here) before the House of Commons on 13 February 1766 in the context of repealing the infamous and hated Stamp Act:
Q. In what light did the people of America use to consider the Parliament of Great Britain?
[Franklin]. They considered the Parliament as the great bulwark and security of their liberties and privileges, and always spoke of it with the utmost respect and veneration….
Q. And have they not still the same respect for Parliament?
[Franklin]. No; it is greatly lessened.
Sir Bernard makes an argument that is similar to the one Franklin made regarding the view British colonialists had of the British Parliament after enacting the Stamp Act. The European Union, like the Parliament for the American colonials, hasn’t proved to be a “great bulwark” in protecting traditional British “liberties and privileges”.
Unlike the United States – as President Barack Obama should acknowledge this week in advocating Britain’s continued membership – the EU is not fully democratic with a federal government in Brussels.
Nonetheless, it now generates most of the laws which the UK is required to observe and its courts have precedence over the UK’s. This situation is anathema to those who want to restore British sovereignty.
It’s an interesting turn of events that Britain today is fighting for many of the same “liberties and privileges” Americans fought for in 1776, albeit this time peacefully and through a ballot. In this context, Britain leaving the European Union becomes an act within the great tradition of freedom found in the English-speaking world. As Margaret Thatcher told an interviewer (here) during the 1989 celebration of the French Revolution:
Interviewer: In the margins we have read a great deal about sniping between you and the French which started with your remarks about the French Revolution. Do you think, on reflection, that it was perhaps a little unkind of you, it is the only Revolution they have got and they are very proud of it?
Prime Minister: No, nor do I think very much to your comment. I was asked about human rights and whether I thought human rights started two hundred years ago. Most certainly they did not and I gave the reasons why they go right back to Judaism, to Christianity, they go right back to Magna Carta, they go right back to our Bill of Rights, 1689 after we had our 1688, the American Statement of Independence 1776 was one of the most brilliant pieces of English literature in proclaiming the liberties of man and the government is there to serve the liberties of man.
We may be able to add soon to Lady Thatcher’s history lesson the leave vote in the European Union referendum in Britain.