(25/11/18) By our branch blogger, 'Little Englander'. Blogs are the views of the authors only and are not necessarily representative of the views of branch members.
It is often said that we learn from history. I would argue against this, based on how Brexit is turning out.
When I think of the state of Brexit and the great Brexit Betrayal that is unfolding in front of our eyes, I recall the Romans’ Varian Disaster of 9AD when a large Roman army of three legions and auxiliaries was betrayed and led into an ambush and annihilated by an alliance of German tribes in the Teutoberg Forest in Lower Saxony. The Romans were led by Publius Quinctilius Varus but were tricked into an ambush lasting many days by Arminius, a Germanic officer serving in the auxiliaries. Arminius had acquired Roman citizenship and had received a Roman military education, which enabled him to betray Varus by leading his extended column of soldiers into dense forest which favoured the attackers and their local knowledge.
Roman casualties are estimated to have been as high as 30,000 dead, with many officers taking their own lives by falling on their swords in the approved manner in preference to a worse death at the hands of the German barbarians.
Despite brutal Roman retaliation in later years, the humiliating and pivotal outcome effectively resulted in the end of Roman expansion into northern Europe. It is said by many historians that the lack of Romanisation of Germany and resulting cultural barrier led to the great divide between Germany and the lands to the West and South. The creation of the modern German state in 1871 led to three wars with France of which two were World Wars.
On hearing of the defeat, Augustus is reputed to have spent several weeks in a stupor, continually exclaiming "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“ ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!').
To me, the slow but inevitable ambush of Varus’ columns and ensuing disaster is a metaphor for the long drawn-out Brexit negotiations which have resulted in one of the most humiliating non-military defeats for Great Britain in history.
For the treacherous Arminius, think of Oliver Robbins, May’s Europhile negotiator. For the hapless Varus, think of Prime Minister May. For the Germanic tribes, think of Germany and its alliance of 26 other ‘tribes’ in the EU. For Emperor Augustus, think of the British people.
Be in no doubt. This political and diplomatic defeat will be worse than Munich in 1938. Worse than Suez in 1956. Much worse than the IMF crisis in 1976 when the UK had to borrow $3.9 billion ($16.8 billion in today’s money) to stop us going bankrupt.
The only silver lining of Munich is that seven years later we were supreme in Europe, albeit with American and Russian help. Since then, despite winning the war, we have lost the peace – ironically to Germany. Today we do not have the option of war to put this sordid Withdrawal deal right.
We cannot predict or control what happens if May’s deal is rejected by Parliament. But we know what will happen if it is approved. We have less than three weeks to prevent the biggest humiliation of Britain since 1066. We face becoming a vassal state once again to a European superstate.
So I say, “Theresa May, give us back our Brexit!”
It is worth noting that in AD 21, Arminius was murdered by opponents within his own tribe who felt that he was becoming too powerful.