The EU’s Napoleonic char­ac­ter at root of Brexit

Tur­moil of ideas Bri­tish first re­pelled in 1815

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - MARK SPROULE-JONES Mark Sproule-Jones, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor, McMaster Uni­ver­sity

The real threat to Bri­tish way of life comes from the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, which en­forces the pol­icy codes of the Com­mis­sion of 28 (and its Brus­sels bu­reau­cracy).

The Cana­dian me­dia ap­pears apoplec­tic. Some­how over 52 per cent of the Brits voted to leave the Euro­pean Union.

They ig­nored the ad­vice of the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter, the U.S. pres­i­dent, and, of course, the for­mer Bri­tish prime min­is­ter. Labour vot­ers ig­nored the stric­tures of their leader. Tory vot­ers did the same.

The me­dia seem to be­lieve that pros­per­ity fol­lows in the wake of large scale po­lit­i­cal unions (look at the U.S., for ex­am­ple). They seem to love a lais­sez faire ap­proach to labour mo­bil­ity (a.k.a. im­mi­gra­tion). Even the el­derly are ac­cused of ig­nor­ing the ben­e­fits of open borders for younger vot­ers to move off­shore.

Brexit vot­ers are la­belled xeno­pho­bic, or racist, or just ig­no­rant and ir­ra­tional.

In this tur­moil of ideas, the fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter of the EU is lost. It is not, nor ever has been, a cus­toms union. It is not sim­ply a co-op­er­a­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion of na­tion states. It is rather a gov­er­nance sys­tem that is an­ti­thet­i­cal to the ways that the Bri­tish and their for­mer colonies have op­er­ated. It has a Napoleonic char­ac­ter that was first re­pelled by the Bri­tish in 1815 and now, again, in 2016.

Let us re­mem­ber the fun­da­men­tals of EU gov­er­nance. It is an al­liance of 28 na­tion states that have lit­tle in com­mon with the U.K., apart from a her­itage of war­fare. Does Al­ba­nia pos­sess com­mon­al­ity with Bri­tain? Does Den­mark share sim­i­lar re­li­gious, so­cial and in­tel­lec­tual her­itage with Ro­ma­nia? Yet the EU asks th­ese di­verse states to gov­ern them­selves us­ing unan­i­mous con­sent at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. What emerges is a bla­mange of poli­cies.

But this is only one part. The real threat to Bri­tish way of life comes from the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, which en­forces the pol­icy codes of the Com­mis­sion of 28 (and its Brus­sels bu­reau­cracy).

The court em­ploys a ra­tio­nal in­tel­lec­tual method of decision-mak­ing to en­sure a sin­gle code of law is en­forced for all sit­u­a­tions in all mem­ber states. This is the Napoleonic uni­form method (of re­veal­ing the truth).

The Bri­tish and its Com­mon­wealth coun­tries have used a grad­u­al­ism that evolves from sit­u­a­tion to sit­u­a­tion. We know it as the com­mon law. It al­lows gov­er­nance to adapt across dif­fer­ent so­cial prac­tices and then to ad­just to on­go­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Canada never to­tally adopted this sys­tem of law due to the civil code used in Que­bec.

But the cul­tural sim­i­lar­ity of the ap­proaches has pro­vided the frame­work for se­cure pros­per­ity in many ar­eas of the for­mer Em­pire. It is a legacy strongly in­ter­nal­ized in Com­mon­wealth peo­ples.

So the me­dia and oth­ers got it wrong. They must have done well un­der quasi-Napoleonic ar­range­ments of the EU. They should not be sur­prised that the mil­len­nium of ex­pe­ri­ence of a dif­fer­ent gov­er­nance sys­tem should emerge and trump “the in­vaders.”

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