Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Quote of the day 9th March 2016

A very great British Prime Minister said the words which follow as part of a very important speech.

As we prepare to vote on whether to remain part of what was then called the European Community and is now called the European Union, these words should be carefully considered as part of the context of that vote.

"Mr. Chairman, you have invited me to speak on the subject of Britain and Europe. Perhaps I should congratulate you on your courage. 

If you believe some of the things said and written about my views on Europe, it must seem rather like inviting Genghis Khan to speak on the virtues of peaceful coexistence!

I want to start by disposing of some myths about my country, Britain, and its relationship with Europe and to do that, I must say something about the identity of Europe itself.

Europe is not the creation of the Treaty of Rome.  Nor is the European idea the property of any group or institution.

We British are as much heirs to the legacy of European culture as any other nation. Our links to the rest of Europe, the continent of Europe, have been the dominant factor in our history.

For three hundred years, we were part of the Roman Empire and our maps still trace the straight lines of the roads the Romans built.  Our ancestors—Celts, Saxons, Danes—came from the Continent. Our nation was—in that favourite Community word—"restructured" under the Norman and Angevin rule in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

This year, we celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the glorious revolution in which the British crown passed to Prince William of Orange and Queen Mary .  Visit the great churches and cathedrals of Britain, read our literature and listen to our language: all bear witness to the cultural riches which we have drawn from Europe and other Europeans from us.

We in Britain are rightly proud of the way in which, since Magna Carta in the year 1215, we have pioneered and developed representative institutions to stand as bastions of freedom.  And proud too of the way in which for centuries Britain was a home for people from the rest of Europe who sought sanctuary from tyranny.

But we know that without the European legacy of political ideas we could not have achieved as much as we did.  From classical and mediaeval thought we have borrowed that concept of the rule of law which marks out a civilised society from barbarism.  And on that idea of Christendom, to which the Rector referred—Christendom for long synonymous with Europe—with its recognition of the unique and spiritual nature of the individual, on that idea, we still base our belief in personal liberty and other human rights.

Too often, the history of Europe is described as a series of interminable wars and quarrels.  Yet from our perspective today surely what strikes us most is our common experience. For instance, the story of how Europeans explored and colonised—and yes, without apology—civilised much of the world is an extraordinary tale of talent, skill and courage.

But we British have in a very special way contributed to Europe.  Over the centuries we have fought to prevent Europe from falling under the dominance of a single power. We have fought and we have died for her freedom.

Only miles from here, in Belgium, lie the bodies of 120,000 British soldiers who died in the First World War.  Had it not been for that willingness to fight and to die, Europe would have been united long before now—but not in liberty, not in justice.

It was British support to resistance movements throughout the last War that helped to keep alive the flame of liberty in so many countries until the day of liberation."
"This is no arid chronicle of obscure facts from the dust-filled libraries of history.  It is the record of nearly two thousand years of British involvement in Europe, cooperation with Europe and contribution to Europe, contribution which today is as valid and as strong as ever.

Yes, we have looked also to wider horizons—as have others—and thank goodness for that, because Europe never would have prospered and never will prosper as a narrow-minded, inward-looking club.  The European Community belongs to all its members.  It must reflect the traditions and aspirations of all its members.

And let me be quite clear.  Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.

That is not to say that our future lies only in Europe, but nor does that of France or Spain or, indeed, of any other member.

The Community is not an end in itself.  Nor is it an institutional device to be constantly modified according to the dictates of some abstract intellectual concept.  Nor must it be ossified by endless regulation.

The European Community is a practical means by which Europe can ensure the future prosperity and security of its people."

(The above words form part of the Bruges Speech delivered by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her speech to the College of Europe on 20th September 1988.)

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