Good Fences

Robert Frost wrote in “Mending Walls” that “good fences make good neighbors”, and this week it appears that people in this country and the UK are chock full of citizens who agree. As I explain, the immigration crises both here and in Europe have underscored growing anger at the arrogance and incompetence of unelected bureaucrats and their rules.

The big election kerfuffle of the week was the Pope’s ill-considered attack on those who want to limit illegal immigration from Mexico by building a wall at the border. To many it seemed an attack on Donald Trump whose campaign against illegal immigration struck a receptive chord with voters. Many noted the hypocrisy of such a statement coming from the head of the Vatican state which is itself surrounded by a wall erected in the ninth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries to protect against pirates and invaders.

In a rare defense of the Church, the New York Times argued that the charge of hypocrisy was unwarranted. 

Tom Maguire was having none of it:

Those Ever-So-Clever Progressive Apologists

Those walls around the Vatican City aren't really walls, don'tcha know?

If the Times employed this sort of sophistry in defense of the Pope's anti-abortion stand their readers would burn the place down but since this nonsense is part of a Trump-basher it will be Hosannas all around.

I will cull this as the most offensive bit:

Today, the public can freely enter some parts of Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museum (which charges for the price of a ticket). Those areas receive millions of visitors each year who are able to enter and exit the tiny city-state as they wish.

Areas of the Vatican that are involved in the day-to-day governance of the church or that house officials, like the pope himself, are more difficult to gain access to, said Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, also a Catholic studies professor at Georgetown.

“That’s the same as any government structure in the world,” she said. “You can’t just walk into the White House.” ‘

"Any government structure in the world"? Wait'll she learns about these things called "Post Offices" or "Department of Motor Vehicles". Or "courthouses", subject to a metal detector check.

You can't just walk into the White House because it is against the law and the law is enforced, effectively or otherwise.

It is also against the law to enter the southwestern US from Mexico without passing through a border control checkpoint, but if one of our undocumented friends from the South wants to break that law, well, Obama sees an undocumented Democrat (the Chamber of Commerce Republicans see cheap labor) so hey, hey, whatever.

No coverage here about the number of migrant camps in Vatican City. Because there aren't any.

The truth is, you cannot have a nation that fails to defend its borders, and though “nationalism” is often blamed for the past world wars in certain internationalist circles, the charge is largely overblown. In Europe, fear of a resurgent, militant Germany led to the creation of the European Union and it and other international organizations set up to deal with these fears

are prey to the same power grabbing and lawlessness that characterized the worst of the heads of European nations which led to those wars.

The return to nationalist sentiment is not a solely American one. In the United Kingdom, efforts to withdraw from the European Union are mounting, inspired in large measure by the flooding into Europe of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East -- migrants who cannot truly be assimilated, affordably supported, or expected to share the nation’s ethos on things like religious tolerance, civil liberties, women’s rights, and even the rule of law. Just another example of how softhearted empathy for others clashes with reality.

Scrambling to preserve the UK role in the European Union, David Cameron finds himself at odds with the growing support for Brexit -- the movement to exit the EU. This week he announced that there would be a referendum on June 23 to determine wither the UK remains in the union or leaves it.

Six of his own cabinet ministers -- Michael Gove, John Whittingdale, Priti Patel, Theresa Villiers, Chris Grayling, and Iain Duncan Smith -- support Brexit. Opposing Brexit is the Britain Stronger in Europe group which claims that Cameron has negotiated a deal which is responsive to Brexit’s concerns,

Justice Minister Michael Gove, supporting Brexit, issued a strong rebuttal. I feel I cannot cut much of it, for I am in agreement with his full-throated cry against centralized government by unelected bureaucrats and his sharp disagreement with EU policies across the board:

I cannot duck the choice which the Prime Minister has given every one of us. In a few months’ time we will all have the opportunity to decide whether Britain should stay in the European Union or leave. I believe our country would be freer, fairer and better off outside the EU. [cut]

My starting point is simple. I believe that the decisions which govern all our lives, the laws we must all obey and the taxes we must all pay should be decided by people we choose and who we can throw out if we want change. If power is to be used wisely, if we are to avoid corruption and complacency in high office, then the public must have the right to change laws and Governments at election time.

But our membership of the European Union prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law and stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives. Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can’t throw out. We can take out our anger on elected representatives in Westminster but whoever is in Government in London cannot remove or reduce VAT, cannot support a steel plant through troubled times, cannot build the houses we need where they’re needed and cannot deport all the individuals who shouldn’t be in this country. I believe that needs to change. And I believe that both the lessons of our past and the shape of the future make the case for change compelling.

The ability to choose who governs us, and the freedom to change laws we do not like, were secured for us in the past by radicals and liberals who took power from unaccountable elites and placed it in the hands of the people. As a result of their efforts we developed, and exported to nations like the US, India, Canada and Australia a system of democratic self-government which has brought prosperity and peace to millions.

Our democracy stood the test of time. We showed the world what a free people could achieve if they were allowed to govern themselves.

In Britain we established trial by jury in the modern world, we set up the first free parliament, we ensured no-one could be arbitrarily detained at the behest of the Government, we forced our rulers to recognise they ruled by consent not by right, we led the world in abolishing slavery, we established free education for all, national insurance, the National Health Service and a national broadcaster respected across the world.

By way of contrast, the European Union, despite the undoubted idealism of its founders and the good intentions of so many leaders, has proved a failure on so many fronts. The euro has created economic misery for Europe’s poorest people. European Union regulation has entrenched mass unemployment. EU immigration policies have encouraged people traffickers and brought desperate refugee camps to our borders.

Far from providing security in an uncertain world, the EU’s policies have become a source of instability and insecurity. Razor wire once more criss-crosses the continent, historic tensions between nations such as Greece and Germany have resurfaced in ugly ways and the EU is proving incapable of dealing with the current crises in Libya and Syria. The former head of Interpol says the EU’s internal borders policy is “like hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe” and Scandinavian nations which once prided themselves on their openness are now turning in on themselves. All of these factors, combined with popular anger at the lack of political accountability, has encouraged extremism, to the extent that far-right parties are stronger across the continent than at any time since the 1930s.

The EU is an institution rooted in the past and is proving incapable of reforming to meet the big technological, demographic and economic challenges of our time. It was developed in the 1950s and 1960s and like other institutions which seemed modern then, from tower blocks to telexes, it is now hopelessly out of date. The EU tries to standardise and regulate rather than encourage diversity and innovation. It is an analogue union in a digital age.

The EU is built to keep power and control with the elites rather than the people. Even though we are outside the euro we are still subject to an unelected EU commission which is generating new laws every day and an unaccountable European Court in Luxembourg which is extending its reach every week, increasingly using the Charter of Fundamental Rights which in many ways gives the EU more power and reach than ever before. This growing EU bureaucracy holds us back in every area. EU rules dictate everything from the maximum size of containers in which olive oil may be sold (five litres) to the distance houses have to be from heathland to prevent cats chasing birds (five kilometres).

Individually these rules may be comical. Collectively, and there are tens of thousands of them, they are inimical to creativity, growth and progress. Rules like the EU clinical trials directive have slowed down the creation of new drugs to cure terrible diseases and ECJ judgements on data protection issues hobble the growth of internet companies. As a minister I’ve seen hundreds of new EU rules cross my desk, none of which were requested by the UK Parliament, none of which I or any other British politician could alter in any way and none of which made us freer, richer or fairer.

It is hard to overstate the degree to which the EU is a constraint on ministers' ability to do the things they were elected to do, or to use their judgment about the right course of action for the people of this country. I have long had concerns about our membership of the EU but the experience of Government has only deepened my conviction that we need change. Every single day, every single minister is told: 'Yes Minister, I understand, but I'm afraid that's against EU rules'. I know it. My colleagues in government know it. And the British people ought to know it too: your government is not, ultimately, in control in hundreds of areas that matter.

But by leaving the EU we can take control. Indeed we can show the rest of Europe the way to flourish. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the things we can’t change and growing resentful and bitter, we can shape an optimistic, forward-looking and genuinely internationalist alternative to the path the EU is going down. We can show leadership. Like the Americans who declared their independence and never looked back, we can become an exemplar of what an inclusive, open and innovative democracy can achieve.

We can take back the billions we give to the EU, the money which is squandered on grand parliamentary buildings and bureaucratic follies, and invest it in science and technology, schools and apprenticeships. We can get rid of the regulations which big business uses to crush competition and instead support new start-up businesses and creative talent. We can forge trade deals and partnerships with nations across the globe, helping developing countries to grow and benefiting from faster and better access to new markets.

We are the world’s fifth largest economy, with the best armed forces of any nation, more Nobel Prizes than any European country and more world-leading universities than any European country. Our economy is more dynamic than the Eurozone, we have the most attractive capital city on the globe, the greatest “soft power” and global influence of any state and a leadership role in NATO and the UN. Are we really too small, too weak and too powerless to make a success of self-rule? On the contrary, the reason the EU’s bureaucrats oppose us leaving is they fear that our success outside will only underline the scale of their failure.

This chance may never come again in our lifetimes, which is why I will be true to my principles and take the opportunity this referendum provides to leave an EU mired in the past and embrace a better future."

With few changes, Gove’s passionate protest against the EU echoes the plaints of American conservatives and libertarians against the increasing power and arrogance of our own federal government. While the immigrant crisis makes the Brexit move more popular now than it has been, it is only a catalyst for a rising tide in the West against centralized government by unelected bureaucrats.

It is unclear how the referendum will come out.

As for the steady expansion of the EU’s powers, there is a history suggesting it has grown increasingly unpopular.

On his part, in support of the referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron announced he had won certain concessions from the EU. Reading them, the argument seems unpersuasive.

Over at the blog EU Referendum, Richard North shares my skeptical view of the claim that Cameron successfully negotiated a “special status” for the UK:

He has cobbled together a pretend treaty combining a mish-mash of aspirations and political declarations, with no legal force whatsoever. Those parts which promise substantive change are dependent on treaty change at some unspecified point in the future, with no guarantees that they can be delivered.


Britain is still in just as much danger of being dragged along in the slipstream of the Continent's headlong rush to the formation of a new state that will crush what is left of our freedom and democracy. Having offered a new treaty in his 2013 Bloomberg speech, in which he first promised a referendum, and then promised a "full-on" treaty change, Mr Cameron has come back from Brussels with a pretend treaty which amounts to a fraud on the British people.


Yet, all the time, Mr Cameron's efforts have been a sideshow besides the main event -- the real renegotiation under way to transform the 19 members of the Eurozone into a single state. That is the EU real agenda not the stage-managed drama of the Prime Minister emerging blinking into the light and announcing he has secured our future for a generation.

Nor should we assume that the Brussels barons will treat us kindly if we vote to remain in the EU. They will brush aside future British protests, telling us that we have had our chance to do things our way and rejected it. Our prospects sitting uneasily on the margins of the emerging superstate will not be promising. Unloved, ignored and marginalised, we face an uncertain, even risky future, on the outskirts of the new European empire.

This is why, on 23 June, we have to vote to leave the EU. To buy into Mr Cameron's pretence is to give him and successive politicians a license to lie. If as a people, we accept this garbage, we will take anything – and deserve what we get.

At The Washington Post, Griffe Witte and Karla Adam agree with this assessment:

The deal, which followed two days of round-the-clock negotiations in Brussels, paves the way for a June referendum in Britain on the country’s long-ambivalent membership. If the country leaves the E.U., it would become the first country to do so, and its departure could trigger a broader unraveling at a time when the union faces greater challenges than at any point in decades.

Cameron had demanded far-reaching concessions from his E.U. counterparts, saying that he needed to prove to increasingly populist voters that an institution often seen in Britain as an overbearing infringement on national sovereignty could loosen its grip. But continental leaders, who support keeping Britain in the club, drove a tough bargain, and some bridled at what they regarded as a British attempt to blackmail the bloc into giving the country a special deal.

In the end, Cameron received significantly less than what he had initially sought. But he still claimed victory Friday night and immediately pivoted to what is certain to be an emotional and bitterly fought campaign over the country’s future in the body that has defined Europe’s postwar order.

Whatever happens on June 23, the thought that one of the EU’s major players might exit has to be creating fearful tremors in Brussels and throughout the EU. And to think that the lack of walls triggered a long overdue resurgence of nationalism is surely ironic.

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