Definition of sovereignty:
The authority of a nation to govern itself or another state.
The liberty and free will to decide one’s own thoughts and actions.
The act of a nation making its own laws and controlling its own resources without any coercion or interference from other nations.
It’s a contentious issue, the notion of sovereignty. Being non-tangible, the essence of sovereignty can therefore only be defined in emotive ways. The idea of sovereignty can be subjected to all manner of nationalistic and patriotic ideals, ranging from the extremes of anger and fear to the funny and silliness, from violence towards others to the pomp and circumstance joy of the Last Night of the Proms. No matter how much we try and push it to the back of our minds, the notion of sovereignty is vital as this forms a definition of self.
It is often said with age comes wisdom. Perhaps this should be wisdom comes more often with age? Even in my own situation I find this to be a universal truth. I was a part of the young adult generation who watched “Blackadder Goes Forth”, when it first aired on the BBC. Set in the trenches of the First World War, we the fans all waxed lyrical of how excellent the series was, how wonderfully hilarious it was, yet how tastefully the farce of war was handled right up until the final scene of the final episode, with the ending credit simply showing a field strewn with poppies. How we all laughed and pitied our ancestors, the British Tommies, lions led to the slaughter, to die in the fields of Flanders for a senseless cause not of their own making, having been led by idiotic foolish old duffers, those stupid old donkeys. This became the accepted view by many, including my own self I must admit.
I have always had a great interest in history. To mark the centennial anniversary in 2014 I was asked to research the names of the fallen at my local war memorial. While tracing the movements of these men and their battalions I came to understand how much more complex the Great War actually was when looked at in depth. To discover how Great Britain entered the war, not because some unknown in a distant land had assassinated an Archduke but how Great Britain was brought into the war having to honour a pact to protect Belgium from Germany. In 1839 at the Treaty of London, Great Britain signed a covenant swearing to protect and uphold the neutrality of Belgium. To protect the sovereignty of Belgium and the other nations in Europe including its own self, Great Britain sacrificed the lives of over 730,000 in the armed forces, with over 1,600,000 military wounded. Civilian deaths were in excess of 120,000. In lives and monetarily Great Britain paid a heavy price for taking part in the Great War.
Throughout history Britain has fought on the seas surrounding Europe and fought on the soil of mainland Europe to protect British sovereignty and the sovereignty of other nations within Europe. Be it at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Britain’s Vice Admiral Lord Nelson fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy of the First French Empire and the navy of the Spanish Empire, or the Peninsular War in Iberia which saw the British armies of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington fight alongside Bourbon Spain and the Portuguese against Bonaparte’s France and Spain. All of these actions culminated on Sunday, 18th June 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. Again this saw Wellington’s British armies alongside the other nations of Europe, the Netherlands and the pre-German kingdoms of Prussia, Hanover, Brunswick and Nassau take on the might of Napoleon Bonaparte’s French armies. All the while, defending the sovereignty of these European allies against Napoleon, Britons fought with honour and pride, they bled and laid down their lives for “God, King and Country”.
In today’s modern society to fight and lay down one’s life for “God, King (Queen) (the Crown) and Country” may seem totally archaic and obsolete. We now tend to live in a secular, agnostic society, more republican in thought rather than displaying signs of monarchical loyalty and as for country? There are those who wish for devolution, to break up the Union and to extricate Scotland and Wales from Great Britain. There are also those who would be content to sacrifice their sovereignty, for Britain to be dissolved into nothing more than a European State, little more than a principality.
After Waterloo the next time Britons sacrificed their lives on the soil of Western Europe was the Great War. Germany, a nation in its infancy, not yet fifty years old by 1914 and whose kingdoms had stood beside the British at Waterloo now stood against the British. Germany had believed Great Britain would not go to war over a mere “scrap of paper” but they found the British honours covenants and vows of sovereignty.
Sadly, only twenty one years later, honouring another covenant to help protect Poland’s sovereignty, Great Britain was at war with Germany. Yet again British troops were on European soil defending Western Europe, this time against the might of Hitler. British troops bled and laid down their lives in attempting to preserve the sovereignty of those nations, defensively fighting on the back foot all the way to the Dunkirk evacuation. By the end of June 1940 France and the Low Countries had fallen to Germany. Free Europe had fallen to the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy.
Great Britain, an island, stood alone, under siege but the sovereignty of her nation’s peoples held firm. For the duration of the war the Royal and Merchant Navy fought the dangers of the Battle of the Atlantic to keep a supply line open to Great Britain. While mainland Europe lay under the shadows of the Axis Powers, Great Britain with the aid of her Empire was much more than a small island. The island of Great Britain was a static giant aircraft carrier, a troop ship, an ammunition dump and a supply depot all rolled into one. With a far reach into the Atlantic Ocean, resupplied by convoys, Great Britain was able to withhold the Axis Powers indefinitely. So much so that Britain was able to fight and expand the theatres of war in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Britain and her Empire also fought in the theatre of South-East Asia against the Axis Power of Japan. Again British troops were defending the sovereignty of her colonies and other nations. If Great Britain had fallen to the Axis Powers in 1940, without multiple theatres of war Germany in all probability would have defeated Russia. Without Great Britain the forces of the USA would never have been able to launch the D-Day Normandy invasion. Without Great Britain and the resources of her Empire, the USA acting alone would have had to have gained a foothold in North Africa before launching an assault in the Mediterranean. If Great Britain had fallen there is every reason to believe the Third Reich would have endured, possibly to the present day.
Ironically by holding out and winning the war, one of the biggest overall losers was Britain, losing her gold reserves, greatly in debt Britain lost swathes of her Empire, granting those nations autonomy and self determination. Again, recognising the importance of sovereignty Britain relinquished her overseas territories. The only things Britain gained from being on the winning side of World War II was the satisfaction of being there from the start; being the only nation to withhold the onslaught and keep Axis troops from landing on sovereign soil; being one of the few nations who foretold and predicted war with Nazi Germany; and the only nation who could claim a moral victory of fighting in the name of freedom, self determination and sovereignty.
If you just consider all those Britons who have bled and paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War I and World War II, who died on the land, on the seas and in the air for the freedom of their fellow Britons, all those Britons horrifically scarred and injured physically and mentally, all who paid a price so that theirs and future generations could live in freedom, in a sovereign nation with self determination and a national identity of self. Now if it were at all possible, tell them, tell those Britons to their faces that their sacrifices were for nought, utterly in vain, that they may have died for your freedom and sovereignty but you don’t care. Tell them you’re only too willing to betray their memories, that you shall be content for Britain to be slowly but ever so surely absorbed into a federal state within the EU, no matter the price which your ancestors have paid for the butcher’s bill to give you freedom, you’re more than willing to sacrifice your own national identity, your own sense of self, your own sovereignty purely for economic reasons. How cheap do you hold the nationality of your own self, or that of your children, grandchildren and future generations? Will thirty pieces of silver purchase the betrayal of your ancestors who fought and died for your freedoms and sovereignty? You decide that on Thursday 23rd June when you vote.