NELSON MUST BE TURNING IN HIS GRAVE.
By Tom Utley
At daybreak 200 years ago this morning, the people of
By nightfall on
The crushing victory inflicted on Villeneuve's combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar had set history on a new course that would guarantee Britain's independence for as far ahead as men could see. It was Trafalgar that established Britannia as the undisputed ruler of the waves, Trafalgar that cleared the seas for the greatest trading empire that the world has ever known.
In not much more than five hours of battle, Nelson and Collingwood had made their country a superpower and ensured that Britons would continue to be ruled by governments of their own choosing for more than a century and a half to come.
A game that historians have always liked to play is What If…? It is usually a silly exercise, involving a great deal of guesswork. But we don't need to indulge in much fantasy to answer the question: "What would have happened if Nelson had lost Trafalgar, and Napoleon had been able to launch his invasion of
It is safe to say, for a start, that the French invasion would have succeeded, with the Royal Navy out of the way. The Grande Armée was the most efficient fighting machine in the world at the time, and these islands were ill prepared to meet the threat that it posed. Within a matter of weeks, Napoleon would have established himself in power, perhaps crowning himself or one of his relations as King of England.
One of the new regime's first acts, apart from sending any organisers of resistance to the guillotine, would have been to sweep away the Common Law, and to establish in its place the Napoleonic Code. Like so many dictators - from the Roman emperors to Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao and Pol Pot - Napoleon was a tidy-minded rationalist who believed in universal laws, applicable to all mankind. From a dictator's point of view, the trouble with
We can be quite sure, too, that Napoleon would have imposed on Britain his uniform system of decimal weights and measures - his absurd metres and centimetres, based on mathematical calculations (which have since been shown to be wildly inaccurate) of the dimensions of the earth. Another safe bet is that, before long, he would have imposed a single currency on
Unlike the earlier French revolutionaries, who thought that
Readers will already have seen the direction of my thoughts: on this bicentenary of Trafalgar, the similarities between Napoleon's vision of
Like Napoleon, the champions of the European Union believe that one law, one currency, one system of weights and measures, one centralised authority should be imposed upon all the peoples of Europe, whether they like it or not. Like him, they see no place for the nation state in the modern world. They insist that European law should always take precedence over the laws of national parliaments - and to hell with the principle that people should be allowed to choose for themselves how they are governed.
One of the great triumphs of the Europhiles has been to plant the thought in so many people's minds that
In fact, nothing could be easier than withdrawal. Parliament could achieve it in a single afternoon's business, simply by repealing sections two and three of the European Communities Act, 1972. These are the pernicious clauses that provide for the supremacy of European law over British law. Nor is there any reason to believe that the British economy would suffer from withdrawal. On the contrary, as my occasional colleague, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, points out in his brilliant pamphlet for Politeia, Voting on the Constitution, there is every reason to believe that our economy would prosper, freed from the daily increasing burden of European regulation.