The EU debate just gets sillier and sillier. Last week, Boris Johnson said that the EU shared Nazi Germany’s goal for a final solution, seeking the total and ultimate destruction of Jewry.
Johnson, by even mentioning Hitler, erred; as a journalist and a very intelligent man, he should realise that any mention of Hitler and the Third Reich would backfire. As a journalist, he should know that facts don’t matter; the headline does! Therefore, he made a mistake mentioning Hitler. Of course it was going to be used against him and the whole Brexit campaign! Indeed, someone on LBC radio even suggesed that BoJo might be the Bremainers secret, fifth columnist weapon! However, what Johnson actually said was quite reasonable.
Two decades on, Johnson has broken the glass and pressed the big red button marked “Hitler comparison – only to be used in an emergency”. In his interview, he declared that Hitler, among others, had aspired to entrench European unity, “and it ends tragically … The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.”
The Guardian‘s savaging of Boris Johnson doesn’t feature a quote worse than that — because it doesn’t exist. It really is a fact that since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the idea of a bygone heyday in the form of Rome has haunted the minds of many Europeans. Be it Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, Napolean, and yes, Hitler’s Third Reich, there have been many attempts to unite the continent, in some ways always hearkening back to the glory days of Rome. Just look at Nazi plans for a rebuilt Berlin complete with Triumphal Arc, a direct echo of Roman imperial glory.
So, Boris Johnson spoke accurately, albeit stupidly; of course such comments would get him into trouble. And yes, he was right to say that these enforced unions of peoples have always led to tragic consequences; war and discord. But this controversy is really a minor point in the debate. The key point has to be an argument over the vision of Britain in the time to come: do we have an independent nation making its own decisions, or do we become a state within a United States of Europe with no more independence than Massachusetts or Maine? Both are respectable views; I, however, am firmly of the opinion that the right to self-determination of all peoples is key to the healthy functioning of liberal democracy and, therefore, to the continuing relevance and influence of our values in the wider world. Therefore, I will be voting to leave.
Boris Johnson’s accurate but ill-advised comments, or rather the headlines around them, are the mud that may stick. If even 1% are influenced to vote remain because of this furore, then Team Brexit will have been done a great disservice. Hopefully this is just a storm in a teacup.
© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry
featured image from http://cdns.yournewswire.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/59701-eu_swastika-800×350.jpg