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* sentiments which she restated in her historic letter of 29 March 2017 to the president of the European Council


Author: T.E. Kebbel


It is most unlikely British diplomacy has the manipulative genius of Talleyrand given what was asked for publicly in the pre-referendum negotiations (though what was obtained that was not in the 'four baskets' of demands was pretty good).

So I am puzzled by voices in Europe warning that there will be no collective succumbing to any British policy of divide and rule in forthcoming Brexit negotiations. British representatives may talk to everyone but the idea of divide and rule is surely part of a dialogue of the deaf.

I would take the Prime Minster's words to the effect that Britain wishes the EU well and wishes it success* at face value because there are historical precedents .... such as after 1945 and after the Napoleonic wars.

Now I like Kebbel for his unabashed 'Tories can do no wrong' style of writing and his patriotism is nearly as emphatic as his Toryism so those on the Continent can take it with a pinch of salt but he is still well worth reading and here is part of his account of the period immediately after the Napoleonic wars:

We know, briefly, that there was hardly any settlement of Europe after the fall of Napoleon that Lord Liverpool [the Prime Minister of the time] would not have preferred to the resumption of hostilities. The war had been undertaken by England to save herself from a European dictator. The end accomplished, she asked for nothing more. She claimed no share of the territories which the great Powers, having rescued them from the original spoiler, now proceeded to to redistribute amongst themselves. On one or two points Lord Liverpool felt rather strongly. The dismemberment of Saxony was one of these. The union of Holland and Belgium, always a favourite idea with English statesmen, was another. [In fact, Talleyrand later negotiated an independent Belgium with the assistance of London.] But it is clear he did not think either of these objects of sufficient importance to justify our running any risk of rekindling the general conflagration. England having already made such vast sacrifices in the interests of collective Europe, was surely entitled to consider that she had done enough.

This was probably the sincere conviction of Lord Liverpool, whose object all along was to keep us free from continental entanglements as he could.

....The Holy Alliance, as many Radicals still seem in need of being told, was a perfectly harmless piece of folly, and wholly unconnected with the compact entered into by the Military Powers some years later for the maintenance of legitimate monarchy and the repression of popular agitation. The announcement of the first was acknowledged by the English Government with a polite smile and a civil expression of regret that the forms of the English Constitution did not permit the King of England to become a member of it. The second was repudiated by the Tory Party immediately and decisively. The Tory Party had done its work in Europe when Napoleon was finally overthrown. They would have nothing to do with the new-fangled doctrine of intervention, intended by the absolute sovereigns to stamp out the embers which the French Revolution had still left smouldering in their dominions.

So there is a strong historical streak of non-interventionist thinking in Tory foreign policy which we may be returning to.

The non-interventionist thinking also extends to internal policy to which we should definitely return (and which is leagues away from the purported laissez-faire of neoliberalism which as its name implies is a liberal doctrine).

Another passage that preceeds the one above by a couple of pages is gloriously partisan but shows this 150-year old history is still eminently readable:

Toryism, in one form or another, had now been pre-dominant for exactly forty-two years. Within that period the English Tories had lost America, but they had saved Europe. Had they not been thwarted by a backstairs intrigue, they would have probably composed Ireland. They had stood forward as advocates and representatives of Parliamentary Reform, Roman Catholic Emancipation, and Free Trade. The first had been postponed in consequence of the French Revolution; the second in deference to the Royal will, in accordance as it was with the public opinion of the day. The third had been to some extent carried out, and would have been carried out still further, but for the opposition of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons. They had placed the Royal prerogative on a rational and constitutional basis, restoring to the Crown such powers as could usefully be exercised under Parliamentary Monarchy, but rejecting the system which aimed at the dissolution of Party. Though the section that had been in power since Mr. Pitt's death had failed to appreciate the war policy of Wellesley and Canning, they had refused to listen to the despairing declamations of the Whigs; they had stood firm according to their lights, and were now about to reap their reward in a series of brilliant triumphs on which Lord Liverpool reposed for life.