Brexit: Michael Morpurgo and Robert Tombs have 'polite' debate
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And he also urged eurocrats to consider the consequences for the bloc as a whole of submitting to the will of the French President, whom arch-Remainer Alastair Campbell this week tipped to become the “leader of Europe”. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Professor Emeritus of French History at the University of Cambridge, a committed Brexiteer, said: “The former French ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, whose not very diplomatic book Goodbye Britannia has caused a stir, says that Brexit ‘has succeeded in bringing together a continental bloc of 27 countries. This was the famous blockade organised by Napoleon, and which England so feared.’
“So says one of France’s most distinguished diplomats.”
Prof Tombs continued: “The comparison of the EU with Napoleon’s Continental System is interesting not only for its threatening tone but for what it may say about the unspoken assumptions of the European elite.
“First, is the notion that, in a world of hostile blocs, the whole European economy is a weapon to be wielded against an awkward opponent.
“Clearly, too, a resurgence of the latent French belief that perfidious Albion is always trying to disrupt France’s obviously high-minded plans.”
He added: “Along with this comes the self‑pitying conclusion that Britain – or ‘England’ – is to blame for subsequent difficulties, and that if only we were not so arrogant, we would go along with what the French are trying to do. As Napoleon put it: ‘All my wars came from England.’”
The Continental System developed by Napoleon had been specifically intended to destroy Britain economically and ”bringing the nation of shopkeepers to heel” after France’s failure to defeat it politically, Prof Tombs explained.
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He added: “What of Madame Bermann’s Continental System? Presumably the intention is similar, otherwise there would be no point in the comparison.
“Aggressive interpretation of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement to maximise non-tariff barriers, extreme applications of the Northern Ireland Protocol to put pressure on the British Government at its weakest spot, the fabrication of health concerns to disrupt existing trade, even the assumption of the power to block vaccine exports: this is all part of the game.”
Furthermore, he suggested there was another parallel with Napoleon, referring to the Treaty of Amiens signed in 1802, which ended 10 years of war, and which Prof Tombs said French diplomats used to demand Britain “execute every jot and tittle” while they prepared for further conflict.
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He said: “Can this be the sort of relationship that proponents of today’s Continental System have in mind? If so, they should reflect on how the story ended.
“Napoleon’s attempt to subordinate the economic interests of the whole of Europe to his political aim of defeating Britain led to massive evasion of the rules. British goods, even in the days of sailing ships and horses and carts, reached the Continent by semi-legal and illegal means, to the great profit of those involved.
“People rebelled against the economic cost, even his own politicians. His great empire eventually fell apart.”
Prof Tombs asked: “Will Europe, led by an unyielding France, allow its interests to be subordinated to an ideological vision?
“Or will businesses and their employees accept that Brexit has happened and that a mutually beneficial relationship is in their interests?
“The French government today is similarly intent on benefiting the Parisian financial sector by forcing business away from London, even if this – by general admission – will cost other European businesses dear.”
Mr Macron is already preparing for next year’s French Presidential election, and writing for The New European this week, Mr Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, suggested the 43-year-old had big ambitions.
Mr Campbell said: “As Angela Merkel prepares to leave office after 16 years as German chancellor, most of them as indisputably Europe’s most powerful figure, Macron now sees the second-term possibilities of being not just a leader in Europe, but the leader of Europe.
“He is determined to build on progress made with Merkel on his ambitious plans for Europe’s nations to do more together on defence, technology and energy, integrate capital markets, streamline EU decision making, harmonise more rules. He has unfinished business there.
“Whoever succeeds Merkel as chancellor, in the Franco-German relationship Macron will take the position she had when he arrived in the Elysée – the one with the experience, the one with clear objectives long understood.
“Added to which, the potential of a British brake on some of his ideas will be gone from the European motor.”
He explained: “Our exit removes one of the bigger obstacles to his drive to a more political agenda for Europe.”
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