Is it fair to draw a parallel between the British policy of Appeasement prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, and the Remain campaign in the UK European Union Referendum?
Answer by Geoffrey Klempner
There are parallels — the question is whether these are instructive or not. You decide:
When the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1939 with a letter from Adolf Hitler promising that Germany’s territorial ambitions did not extend any further than the foreign lands that Germany had already occupied, many in Britain breathed a sigh of relief. Memories of the carnage of the First World War which had ended just a couple of decades earlier were still vivid in people’s minds.
Then, as now, there was vigorous debate between the Appeasers and those who were sceptical of Hitler’s promises. Yet behind the scenes, preparations were already underway for War and Britain made the best use of the breathing space.
Today, ‘Appeasement’ is a word loaded with egregious overtones. Chamberlain was duped, the historians say. And yet the Appeasers were proved right: if there was to be a war, they warned, millions would die. Many more millions died than anyone could have foreseen in their worst nightmares.
The consensus of opinion is that the Remainers are right that there will be adverse economic consequences (maybe worse than the most pessimistic forecast) in the wake of the EU vote. And yet the Leavers are adamant that this break had to happen — before it was too late.
There was outrage in the press and media when Leave campaigner Boris Johnson compared the EU’s ambitions for an European superstate with Hitler. We all know, don’t we, that the EU’s motives are benevolent, not malevolent. There will be no death camps. Social ills of every kind will be overcome through the tireless work of EU mandarins striving to make Europe better for all its citizens.
The response from Leavers is that we want to make these decisions for ourselves. Let other countries decide what is in their best interests, including the creation of an European Army and merging together to form a United States of Europe.
The EU is extremely unhappy about the outcome of the Referendum. (I overheard the funny remark that EU politicians are ‘behaving like a psycho ex-girlfriend’. Some are pleading, ‘You can’t leave us!’ while others warn, ‘We’ll get you for this!’) The war, when it comes, will not be waged with armies and airplanes, guns and tanks. It will be an economic war undertaken to protect the EU from further breakup. Everyone knows this, both the Remainers and the Leavers. The time has come to stop endlessly debating the outcome of the vote and prepare ourselves for the coming storm.