Falklands Pride, Yes, but Reflect on EU Back-Stabbing


It must have been something like the American experience of Pearl Harbor, a sneak attack, war undeclared, a sense of shock as we walked down the London street,  on a sunny Spring day, suddenly seeing a billboard, breaking the news of the Argie invasion. Hard to believe it was thirty years ago.

No Falklands Compromise As PM Hails Heroes

Impossible to believe that today’s British Government would have responded as splendidly as Maggie’s did.

Clegg would have used his coalition veto to insist that no military response be contemplated until every possible UN channel had been explored. God only knows what kind of Cast-Iron pledge Cameron would have made.

And our EUSSR partners would have been even more vociferous than they were in 1982.

Here’s a few reminders of what I then wrote about those  

FAIRWEATHER FRIENDS

It’s a long post, but the depth and extent of the EU’s ratting in Britain’s hour of need should be branded in the British folk memory.

 let’s try to focus on how our ‘partners’ reacted when the Falklands War broke out. What did Europe’s leaders say, what did they do, and what effect did their words and deeds have on the war effort?

Lest it be thought that Europe is being unfairly singled out, it is only right that reactions in the rest of the world be given some attention too.

But let’s get round to that later. 

At first, indeed, when Francis Pym came bouncing back from Brussels quite full of himself and full of praise for the camaraderie of the European fraternity, even those Britons who had never been anything but antipathetic towards the Common Market and all its works began to wonder if perhaps a reconsideration of attitude might be in order…

Certainly, if the partnership of the E.E.C. could ensure that all the economic might, or at least influence, which together its members might exercise, would be utilised to oust the aggressor and restore to the British people on their occupied territory the democratic rights of which they had been so brutally deprived, then the growing disillusionment with ‘Europe’ which had been developing for years would almost certainly be dispelled…

Alas for the Common Marketeers, it was not to be.

Close analysis of what Pym had ‘achieved’ in Brussels gave people less cause to cheer than they at first assumed – although in the light of the speed with which those ‘loyal partners’ began to bleat about cease-fires and flexibility (always, of course, on Britain’s part) and about how they could not be expected to maintain their sanctions if Britain’s Prime Minister was serious about winning the war and keeping her word to the victims of aggression, in view of all that, it might perhaps be harsh to begrudge Mr. Pym his look of boyish triumph as he emerged from his Brussels talks, in much the same way as Neville Chamberlain had once emerged from his Munich talks, confident that he could count on the men of goodwill with whom he had spoken.

Or maybe not. Who knows what defeatist drivel  Pym had spouted at the conclave, given his subsequent weasel words which had to be so often repudiated by his Prime Minister?

It is charitable, perhaps, to assume that he told them what they wanted to hear, in order to gain what little they gave, for however brief a period of time they were willing to give it, so he could return home and tell the Commons and the nation that Britain would not be left high and dry by her ‘friends’ in the European Community. Given their subsequent back-tracking, their individual and collective betrayals of solidarity with a comrade at war, the very limited (both in terms of effect and of limitation of time0 probably poor Pym got as much as he could expect from his fellow-participants in that Foreign ministers’ meeting. 


Spain was not, of course, a fully-fledged member of the E.E.C. at the time but its application to join was well under way. The process was going smoothly and N.A.T.O. membership was within Madrid’s grasp. At the time of Pym’s talks, Spain was taking its turn on the Security Council. Despite its aspirations to join the two Western groupings, it saw no difficulty in joining with the three Communist member states, China, Poland and the Soviet union, in abstaining  on resolution 502 which called for an Argentine withdrawal.

This was a mockery of N.A.T.O. solidarity when not one of its members cavilled at the prospect o having such a state join its company. Britons, of course, had long puzzled at the value of binding themselves into an alliance with a nation which itself nurtured a long-standing territorial claim against British sovereign territory.

But let’s stick to the staunch friends who were at Pym’s party.

The sanctions approved by the Foreign Ministers were measly. They were limited to a single month’s duration, a sell-by date to expedite a sell-out. 1.

Of course they could be renewed but by that time, the Europeans hoped, a ‘fix’ would be in place, the time-limit rather patently designed to allow maximum pressure to be applied to the U.K. for concessions – adjustment of military tactics and strategy to suit the sensitivities of Europe -, as a price for renewal. If that were not the case, why not impose open-ended sanctions, which could just as easily be lifted in the event of an Argentine withdrawal.

Nor was this time limit the only aspect which gave Britons cause for concern. The sanctions were not to apply to existing contracts. Thus trade continued to flow throughout the war, although an arms embargo was supposed to be in force. 2.

The view that there would be a price to be paid for what should have been offered without strings were these ‘friends’ sincere in their solidarity is not speculation. Within days, it was reported that at least one Continental government expected its ‘quid pro quo,’ not in strategic terms, true, but as part of the bargaining process over agricultural pricing policy. 3

But for public consumption, the official line was that there should be no linkage between the maintenance of sanctions and other matters, a blatant lie, which nobody believed, especially once Britain found herself the victim of an economic mugging, when the unwritten rules were thrown overboard to have the U.K. veto unprecedentedly over-ridden.

This happened on May Day, 1982, when the Continental powers broke their word and abandoned the Luxembourg Compromise, a pact under which majority voting would not apply, unanimity being required to effect certain key decisions. The back-ground to this stab in the back, administered while Britain was immersed in a literal life-and-death struggle in the South Atlantic, requires a review of the famous budget battle which had absorbed Mrs. Thatcher since she came to power in 1979.

The U.K. contribution to the European Community budget was grossly disproportionate, and she wanted, reasonably enough, to ‘get a broad balance between what we put in and what we get out.’ This imbalance amounted to about one thousand million pounds sterling per annum. She attended the European Council at Strasbourg in June, 1980, to press for redress but was treated with crass discourtesy by the snobbish Giscard and the arrogant Schmidt. She came home empty-handed, but returned to the fray in Dublin in November even more determined. There she was offered 350 million, ‘a third of a loaf,’ as she dismissed it at the time. In April 1980, she traveled to Luxemburg, where the original measly offer was doubled. She once more turned it down, but reckoned without the treachery of her own ministerial team, whom she foolishly trusted enough to send to the Foreign Ministers’ conference in Brussels. Only a month after her rejection, they caved in – probably the wrong words to use, since they were instinctively on the other side of the argument from the beginning – and accepted virtually the same deal she had turned down, going home with a fait accompli, in which she had to acquiesce, although she told them they had sold Britain down the river. Only intense P.R. work disguised this humiliation as a victory.

The Iron Lady was nevertheless intent on making sure the Europeans understood that Brussels was not the end of the matter. Because many decisions had to be unanimous, she hoped to exercise leverage to improve Britain’s rebate. But the trouble was that this unanimity was not enshrined in the treaty documents. It had been laid down on the basis of good faith pledges made by the respective governments, the so-called Luxemburg Compromise. It was this ‘word of honour’ pact that was overthrown in wartime by Britain’s so-called partners. The meeting of agriculture ministers overrode the U.K. to raise farm prices. Thatcher had expected the E.C. to run out of money and need her support to increase the 1% VAT contribution, but their dishonourable action had dashed her hopes.

Would this have gone unpunished had Mrs. Thatcher not been depending on those muggers for the continuation of sanctions and thus inhibited from hitting back at their bad faith? They had violated the terms under which Britons had been persuaded to vote for membership in the 1975 referendum.

Nor was the support really worth getting. Before the end of April, the French were insisting on the ‘urgency and necessity’ of negotiations. 4.

The hapless Douglas Hurd was despatched across the Channel to reassure the European Parliament that we would keep force to a minimum. It was as if Churchill had been forced to tell Roosevelt that we would only argue on the beaches and the streets as a condition of securing American lend-lease in the Second World War. Even little Kenya voiced more convincing support for the war effort than the French or the Germans. Norway, a European country not enmeshed in ‘Europe’ as defined by Brussels, was at least as much a help as most of the ‘Community’ which we paid so much to join. The month of sanctions was barely half-gone before the ‘partners’ showed their true colours. The thin veneer of solidarity polished so diligently by Pym began to crack.

For some reason, Germany appeared most eager to shove Britain in the direction of a sell-out. Was this a race-memory thing, a resonance from the long-ago Battle of the Falklands? Hardly. It was straightforward anti-British hatred, plus a blissfully amnesiac attitude towards British help that had kept Germany’s own threatened island, West Berlin, free from a greedy dictatorship in 1949. R.A.F. pilots had played a major part in the Berlin Airlift when the Soviets sought to strangle Berliners’ freedom. But when a small British community faced a similar threat, the Germans did all they could to make Britain renege on our moral and legal commitment to save our subjugated kin.

In the first week of may, the Bonn Government, with sanctions still on place – for what they were worth – called for a halt to the liberation of the Falklands. Their Employment minister, Heinz Westphal, proclaimed that it was ‘inconceivable and incomprehensible’ that war should be fought for the preservation of the islanders’ rights. 5.

Herr Heinz was one of many varieties of German big-wig who obviously had not forgotten that his country was Argentina’s top arms supplier and had been, for at least five years.

Westphal’s demands to let the aggressor off the hook were echoed by another German politician, no less than the Vice-president of the European Parliament, Herr Bruno Friedrich, who scolded naughty Britain for being ‘too rigid’ in her diplomacy. In case Mrs. Thatcher’s rigidity in seeking the return of what had been stolen was not subject to European corrosive influence, Friedrich warned that ‘European solidarity with London depends on British respect for international law.’ 6.

The great British naval victory in which the Argentine war-ship Belgrano went down with great loss of enemy lives was further fuel on the flames of European back-stabbing. Reported reaction in Bonn to their ‘partner’s’ successful engagement of the invaders was one of ‘consternation and dismay.’ 7.

Germany, of course, has a long history of confusion over what  is and isn’t aggression.  One cannot expect too much.

Even less should we have expected our ancestral enemies in the Republic of Eire to keep faith with the silly little sanctions their Foreign Minister had grudgingly agreed. The one-time gun-running defendant – not guilty, of course – Charles Haughey had some time earlier slithered to the top of the greasy pole of Dublin politics. Now prime minister, he made it known that his emissaries in New York, not the slaughter-house denizens who transmitted funds across the water to bomb shoppers and shoot cops in the back, but the official ones, his U.N. delegation, were to raise a cease-fire resolution at that august body, the Security Council. Haughey was encouraged by Helmut Schmidt’s Cabinet, which, on 5th May, decided to press for a cease-fire too. Another Bonn spokesman, Klaus Bolling, articulated his colleagues’ views -’further bloodshed must be avoided.’ This is of course an unexceptional sentiment but could easily be realised by ensuring that Argentina restore freedom to the Falkland Islanders. Instead, our German ‘allies’ wanted to split the difference, calling for both victim and aggressor to disengage, moving out of reach of each other, thus leaving Argentina dominating the islands, accessible by air from the South American mainland, while the Royal Navy would be stuck in mid-Atlantic, thousands of miles from home in the turbulent grip of winter seas. 8.

Another of our European partners, the Netherlands, added its Cabinet voice to the chorus of sell-out songsters by letting Pym know that their approval of sanctions did not give Britain a ‘blank cheque.’9.

They too must have been well aware what this would mean in terms of disadvantage to a country which had liberated them from the Germans they were now echoing. Clearly these smug Dutch cynics gave no thought to the sanctuary that London had once provided for Queen Wilhelmina and their predecessors in the Dutch Government-in-Exile, when Helmut Schmidt’s predecessor, Adolf Hitler, had seized their small country and driven them to seek sanctuary for the duration across the Channel. Numerous Britons, including the author, whose parents had spent their best young years, or in too many cases had laid down their lives, to liberate the Netherlands from occupation by aggressors, communicated their disgust at he ungrateful and unprincipled behaviour of the Hague Government. The Dutch Ambassador to the Court of St. James, however, apparently felt it was beneath his dignity to respond to such expressions of dismay. At any rate, not so much as an acknowledgement came back from His Excellency. Maybe he was simply ashamed of his masters’ ignoble manoeuvres. Defending the indefensible cannot be a fun job.

Nor was Francois Mitterand far behind his Continental cronies in the rush to see who could kick Britain in the teeth ( or rather stab her in the back ) fastest and hardest. He too demanded separation of the opposing forces out of fighting distance while his French Cabinet made known their wish for an ‘immediate cessation of hostilities.’ 10.

Italy’s coalition under the moderate Spadolini was not out of step with the Bonn-Paris Axis and deplorably the Danish Premier, Angker Joergensen, expressed ‘strong misgivings about any extension of military or economic sanctions’ beyond the middle of May, when the agreed month was due to elapse. 11.

In view of all this back-sliding, to be euphemistic about Europe’s anti-British antics, it was not terribly surprising that Members of Parliament on all sides of the House took with a pinch of salt such wildly rose-tinted perceptions as those of Mr. John Nott, when he claimed on May 6th that both N.A.T.O. and the E.E.C. were behind Britain. Except in the sense that the Boston Strangler was behind his victims, this could hardly have been less true, as Leo Tindemans made plain a few days later with his warning to London that the British Government was on probation with the approach of the date, 17th May, when his collaborators in Brussels would consider whether or not to renew their half-hearted sanctions. 12.

Even Mr. Peter Walker, U.K. Agriculture Minister, a man once outspoken in his enmity to the pretensions of the European cabal, but who had been indoctrinated under Heath’s careful tutelage and was nowadays a rabid Europhile, felt obliged to warn his political paramours on the Continent that his embattled country would not tolerate any nonsense.‘ Britain will not buy sanctions by agreeing to increases in farm prices.’13.

This must rank as a useful insight from a politician in total harmony with his nation’s enemies in Brussels. Walker was basically one of them, who understood exactly how their minds worked. The idea of principle, of fighting to right a wicked wrong, was alien to the likes of Mitterand, Schmidt and their lackeys in Holland, Denmark and the rest. Everything was measured in terms of buying and selling.

We must exclude Haughey from the latter stricture. Eire was not preoccupied with farm prices, though if leverage on that sort of issue was a spin-off benefit, Dublin would not likely cavil. But their primary motive, as throughout the history of their otherwise highly forgettable little state, was to do the British down. Eire’s bigotedly anti-British Defence Minister branded Britain as the aggressor, a crude and ignorant jibe which incensed Mrs. Thatcher so much  that she included it in her autobiography, The Downing Street Years. Dublin’s entire foreign policy was based on imposing foreign rule on a British community in defiance of both majority rule and solemn treaty obligations….

Some Tories showed almost touching naivety about Europe. Robert Jackson, a Tory in the Europarliament, demonstrated his own absorption into alien loyalties by pronouncing his personal verdict. The Common Market was ‘not so crass’ as to link sanctions with farm prices. 15.

But when Pym proceeded to the Brussels meeting where the decision on renewal  was to be made, it became evident that he was in for a rough ride. Instead of the smooth passage of the move to keep sanctions in place which an ally was entitled to expect with the aggressor unrepentant and still coercing British subjects to submit to foreign rule, the ministers had to adjourn after inconclusive wrangling.

Some idea of what prevented the Europeans from sticking up for self-determination came in a leak from French Foreign Minister Cheysson’s office, quoting his opinion that Britain’s policy was based on ‘self-conceit’ and an ‘instinctive contempt’ for Latins. Mitterand, far from disowning his anti-British appointee, declared that there should be ‘no question of punishing Argentina.’16.

So this was the ‘Mitterand Doctrine?’ Aggression should go unpunished? A   new doctrine for a N.A.T.O. member, surely.

ONE WEEK ONLY 

After strenuous efforts by Pym, all that hapless man could extract from Europe’s freedom-loving democracies was a measly one-week extension. Even this minimal ‘triumph’ was probably due to their sympathy with such a committed Europhile as Pym, who had to go home, after all, and face an Iron Lady. As it was, she and just about everyone else in the U.K. saw it as a slap in the face. The insult was not made much less offensive by the fact that the execrable Eire regime and the Italians, stirred up in ethnic solidarity with their numerous kin in Argentina, would not even agree to the extra week. At least Italy’s motives were comprehensible, in that, like Galtieri, some forty per cent of the Argentine population originates from their country, and well over a million Italian passport-holders are currently resident in Argentina. At the time of the war, legislation was pending in the Italian parliament to give these overseas citizens the right to vote in home elections, a fact that presumably did not escape the notice of Spadolini and the various parties which constituted his coalition in Rome. Nationalism is a natural and healthy phenomenon, and it is impossible to blame Italy for feeling the same sort of kinship with her sons and daughters in Argentina as British folk feel for their own in the Falklands. Equally, however, it is impossible not to reflect on the wisdom of signing treaties of cooperation, friendship or alliance with countries that feel justified in letting us down in time of need. If Italy has her reasons, so Britain should have her doubts.

But doubt is not a strong enough word to describe how Britons should feel about Eire’s Brit-bashing. Haughey, now freed from maintaining even a pretence of solidarity with his E.E.C. partner across the Irish Sea, became ever more active at the U.N. in desperate efforts to force Mrs. Thatcher into a cease-fire. And Haughey was not alone in his effort. The sinking of the Belgrano was a valuable victory. It drove the rest of the enemy’s naval force to retreat to their harbours and stay there for the duration. But it gave the so-called European partners a ‘reason – or in some cases an excuse – for breaks in the ranks,’ as Margaret Thatcher put it in her autobiography. The Eire Defence Minister, in a typical bigot’s inversion of logic, branded Britain as the ‘aggressor.’ Mrs. Thatcher  also noted the wavering by the French and the outright anti-British stance of the German call for a cease-fire. 

The irrepressible Klaus Bolling popped up like a demonic jack-in-the-box, this time with the sonorous warning that his government would be ‘deeply dismayed if there was no final attempt’ to avoid a British victory. 18.

West Germany was now acting as the megaphone for what other ‘partners’ had been muttering among themselves from the very start of hostilities.

As the week ebbed away, Europeans rubbing their hands at the prospect of renewed commercial openings and wringing their hands at continued British successes, the United Kingdom found itself almost as alone as she had been in 1940, when Schmidt’s predecessors had been anticipating the extinction of the British Empire.

Senior back-bench Tory, Tony Marlow, spoke for millions when he accused ‘rich, spoilt’ Western Europe of ‘ratting’ on Britain in her hour of need. 19

As it turned out, however, the ratters were not required. British victory was in sight. Perhaps this was why Mrs. Thatcher refrained from any open rebuke to the Brussels cabal. But she was known to be livid, not least with the dirty little republic next door. She threatened a British veto in response to Eire’s U.N. meddling.

Nor did the final French abstention at the U.N. come as any surprise to her, after Cheysson repeatedly whined about ‘an end to the horror of fighting,’20. and Mitterand himself had issued lofty rebukes, typical of which was that delivered only days before the Argentine surrender.

‘This is not a war of revenge. There are limits to the conflict and I shall soon make them known to the appropriate quarters.’ 21.

And some people used to say De Gaulle was arrogant. Margaret Thatcher offers inexplicable praise to the French erstwhile collaborator with totalitarianism in her autobiography. Yet his words, quoted above, damn him in the eyes of  British patriots. She was said to be slightly infatuated with him, so perhaps she is viewing history through girlish glasses. Nobody likes to admit mistakes and the Iron Lady presumably was and is no exception, though she comes close to it sometimes.

Notes

 

1. Times, 1/5/82      2. ibid., 26/5/82    3. Financial Times, 16/4/82

 

4. ibid., 27/4/82      5. Times, 5/5/82     6. ibid.  7. ibid.  8. ibid., 6/5/82

 

9. ibid., 10/5/82      10. ibid., 6/5/82   11. ibid.    12. ibid., 10/5/82

 

13. ibid., 11/5/82    14. ibid., 12/5/82  15. ibid., Letter, 15/5/82

 

16. ibid., 17/5/82    17. ibid., 19/5/82   18. ibid., 22/5/82

 

19. ibid., 27/5/82  20. Financial Times, 1/6/82  21. Guardian, 10/6/82

 

22. ibid., 16/6/82

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