There is a delightful sketch in today’s Daily Telegraph on which I would like to build just a little. Michael Deacon is always good value and has picked up on the venue chosen by David Cameron for his speech today that threatens war if we vote Brexit. Cameron’s speech advocating that we remain in the EU was done to the British Museum as a backdrop. No doubt this was intended to emphasise learning and erudition although I might argue that it also reflected the UK establishment that almost certainly has its hand held out for EU cash supplied by UK taxpayers before it is shipped out to Brussels every week. The amusing aspect of the backdrop, discovered by Michael Deacon, is that it was within a stone’s throw of the statue of Rameses II, also known as Ozymandias.
Rameses II was an Egyptian Pharoah, living from 1303 BC to 1213 BC. His father was the Pharaoh Sethi I. Rameses II was named after his grandfather Rameses I. Rameses II grew up in the royal court of Egypt. He was educated and brought up to be a leader in Egypt. His father became Pharoah when Rameses II was 5 years old. At that time, Rameses II had an older brother who was Prince of Egypt and in line to become the next Pharaoh. However, he died when Ramses II was 14 years old, leaving Rameses II in line to become Pharaoh of Egypt. During his reign as pharaoh, Rameses II led the Egyptian army against several enemies including the Hittites, Syrians, Libyans and Nubians. He expanded the Egyptian empire and secured its borders against attackers. Later, it was to decline and die. Ozymandias was the Greek name for Rameses II.
Which brings us to Percy Bysse Shelley, an English poet (1792-1822) who wrote a poem entitled Ozymandias. Here it is:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
This is the irony. Those who seek to build empires may not live long enough to see them decline but decline and fall they will. Greece, Rome, France, the Third Reich, Russia and Britain all grew, thrived for a while and finally declined and fell. The EU is no different. It does not share the evil ambitions of Napoleon, the Kaiser, Lenin or Hitler – at least, I don’t think so – but it is equally insidious and dangerous. In fact, probably more so because the EU has been successful in concealing its inner ambitions rather more successfully.
To create a United States of Europe out of 28 very different states in terms of their economic, social, cultural, military and historical backgrounds is a hugely difficult task but it is one on which the Brussels bureaucrats are set. To achieve this, they have only one course of action. It is to move to an ever closer political union, leading to supreme control by a bureaucratic and unelected elite who are increasingly unaccountable to and distanced from any democratically elected Euro politicians who will, no doubt, be bought off with high salaries, expenses and staff budgets but no real power.
This is the irony brought out by Michael Deacon. The fate of Ozymandias lies there for the European Union. It is a wholly incompatible and unsustainable institution that carries the seeds of its own demise in its very ambitions. Do we want the United Kingdom to be part of this failing construct when it finally falls apart? I think the answer has to be a resounding NO. Let us sit on the outside and help to pick up the pieces and give support to global partnerships that may be practical and work. I think we owe it to the 27 other nations to give them the impetus to allow the EU to fail and to re-build into something manageable and practical.