Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The EU the UK and the Continent

In the comments at Margot Wallström's blog, kissingengland writes:

To Andis Kaulins.
So you don't think the House of Commons is a good model of 'reasoned discourse'? So you look down on the House of Commons? Perhaps you sneer at the English political tradition, too. Funny though. The English political tradition is what gave the world Magna Carta, constitutional monarchy, Habeas Corpus, the jury system, the abolition of slavery, parliamentary democracy, and the final defeat of Hitler. All this while the 'reasoned discourse' of the continent produced Fascism, communism, the Holocaust, the witch trials, Napoleon, Stalin, Franco, Mussolini and Scandinavian sterilisation of retarded children. Oh yes, and you also gave us the unelected European Commission.
Thanks for that. Posted by kissingengland on February 22, 2005 at 03:51 PM CET #


Here is my reply:

"Actually, to reply to the comments of the poster "kissingengland", we are great fans of the UK - definitely Anglophiles - and have visited there numerous times. As a holder of US and EU passports, and having studied law at Stanford Univeristy, we are well aware of the legacy of Anglo-American Law, which specific subject we taught for five years at the University of Trier Law School in Germany. We do not look down on the House of Commons at all, but we certainly do not accept the idea that the heated debate sometimes presented there is worthy of emulation, as the poster Worstall suggested.
Here are some factual corrections. The Magna Carta was a great document in its time, but the freedoms that it granted were freedoms granted by the king ONLY to the landed gentry, not to everyman. The Magna Carta was the first document of its kind that limited the sovereignty of the king so that the nobility would have more power, which they have retained down to modern times. Furthermore, it is not accurate to write that the UK has a constitutional monarchy, since the UK does not have a written constitution and never has had one (see http://www.wilsonhs.org/sonnabend/UK%20lectures.htm), and this may indeed be a factor creating opposition to the EU Constitution, since there is no tradition in the UK for a written constitution. Habeas corpus is an ancient Anglo-Saxon common law practice. The Anglo-Saxons (Angles and the Saxons) were Germanic tribes who invaded England in 450 A.D. (see http://www.habeascorpus.net/hcwrit.html and http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/WestEurope/AngloSaxon.html). The jury system did not originate in England but can be traced back as far as the Scandinavians, who called the jurors "thanes"(see http://www.constitution.org/cmt/wf/htj.htm). It is true that the English abolished slavery before the US, but the English were also among the first countries to engage in the lucrative slave trade in the first place, so I am not sure that the issue slavery can be used to applaud the UK. The origin of parliaments much precedes England (see http://www.rbc.com/community/letter/december1964.html) and is already found in Anglo-Saxon assemblies. Lastly, without the USA, Hitler would not have been defeated. We do not want to belittle the great achievements of the English-speaking peoples in modern history in any way, but we think it behooves everyone to know the true facts and not to presume that all of these modern advances were originally "made in England", which they were not. This popular misconception is in part at the root of "the English problem" in the EU, because the rank-and-file in the UK do not know the debt they owe to continental Europe for their democratic institutions."

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