Brexit is symptomatic of a rise in populism centred around embedded senses of identity and patriotism. In a world where we are told the value of individualism has never been more important and a capitalist economy that demands our conformity, the rise of these forces is not unexpected.

In Hungary, Poland and Italy we have seen the rise of eurosceptic governments and in France, the UK and Germany parties that espouse a fear or the unlike have had their successes too.

French president Emmanuel Macron has made clear he believes Brexit could destroy the EU:  “Never since the second world war has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that. Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe.”

But is this really the case. Can such a simple explanation of our circumstances really hold true?

Brexit — and it counterparts in other European countries — are, to a significant extent, a reaction to overreach by the European Union. Which is not to say that immigration and economic factors are not important contributory causes too; however, these reflect, to an important extent, the policies of the EU. But let us look at how the EU evolved from a constructive European community to an overbearing, undemocratic force that acts as if people have ceased to identify with their nationalities and are already loyal citizens of the EU.

Prof. Etzioni provides a very succinct narrative of the EU’s history, originally, then known as the European Economic Community, was a trade association among six nations. Over the decades that followed, the EU added members and expanded its missions. Initially, these were focused on measures that facilitated trade, travel, and commerce among the member nations. These changes were low-key in the sense that they increased efficiency, but largely did not challenge citizens’ sense of identity. In addition, many small measures were introduced ‘under the radar.’

Over time, the level and scope of integrated activities expanded. In 1985, several of the member states signed the Schengen Agreement, which allowed for the free movement of people among member states. The introduction of the European Economic and Monetary Union in the early 1990s marked another significant expansion of EU-wide governance. Twelve of the member states adopted a common currency (and monetary policy), which necessitated the establishment of the European Central Bank and many regulations affecting national budgets. Since 2005, the EU has required each member nation to accept a given number of the refugees entering Europe, despite often strong opposition from several member states.

As a consequence of this expansion, the EU involved itself in matters of high emotive and normative content, such as those concerning the basic values and cultural differences of member nations, people’s sense of identity, and self-governance. As the European Union’s supranationalism increased, so too was a sense that nations’ sovereignty was being lost.

The removal of national border controls facilitated large population flows both within and into the EU. The French were upset by the large numbers of Poles who moved to work in France, referred to as the problem of the Polish Plumber. The British were troubled by the large number of workers from Baltic countries and by new immigrants and asylum seekers. Typically, Brexit advocates found themselves unified under the banner of ‘Leave: We Want Our Country Back.’

The European courts have often made millions of EU citizens feel that their moral sensibilities and national independence have been violated. For example, in Vinter versus The United Kingdom the court declared the practice of mandatory life sentences for convicted murderers a human-rights violation. Without recourse to an appeals process, the UK was compelled to comply with the decision by granting the prospect of release for the incarcerated. Conservative and Labour parliamentarians alike felt the court had usurped Parliament’s purview.

While the EU was founded like a typical inter-nation organisation, by a treaty that requires unanimous agreement by all members, thus protecting their sovereignty, successor treaties replaced unanimous decision-making with qualified majority voting in more and more areas of EU governance, including border security standards, immigration, public health, financial assistance, and dozens of other areas. These changes contributed to the sense of sovereignty being lost.

The result of all these developments has been growing disaffection with the EU. One can readily recognise the need for a growing supranational governance, as many challenges ahead cannot be handled by each nation on its own or by inter-nation governance, which is slow and cumbersome. Given that the EU provides by far the most advanced form of supranational government, the critical question is: Why is it challenged so adamantly by populism?

It seems likely that, for a supranational government to develop, it must be accompanied by supranational community-building, in which people transfer the kind of commitments and involvement they have with their nation to the new regional (and – doubtlessly one day – global) body. However, while the EU was unable to develop such a community, it nevertheless has acted as if one was in place.

To illustrate: West Germans granted the equivalent of a trillion dollars to the East Germans during the decade that followed reunification. “They are fellow Germans” was about all the explanation that was needed. However, the same Germans resisted granting much smaller amounts to Greece and other EU nations that were in trouble. They were not members of “our tribe.” A demonstration of the powerful communal bonds at the national level is that, while millions of people are willing to die for their nation, few are willing to die for the EU.

In response, far from slowing down the expansion of the EU as an administrative state while it lacks the needed sociological, communitarian foundations, EU leaders moved to extend the powers of “Brussels,” as the EU Commission is often referred to. President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are calling for greatly increasing the powers to the EU Commission and increased integration, through such measures as the introduction of a EU-wide banking union and the creation of a centralised budget.

Brexit is merely one expression of the reaction to the EU’s premature moves. After all Great Britain took more than a century to emerge after 1707 Act of Union – and even then the Irish became independent. EU members are flouting EU policy by restoring national border controls; Greece, Italy, France, and Portugal have defied the EU’s budget deficit and GDP-to-debt ratio constraints. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have refused to accept the number of immigrants they are supposed to absorb according to EU policy.

Brexit indeed may be an expression of reactionary forces; however, if one seeks to avoid more disaffection from the EU — and other drives to form transnational governments which the world probably needs in the longer run — we need to realise what Brexit and similar political movements  are reacting to. These movements in the EU are driven, to an important extent, by authorities that disregard that people’s first loyalty and sense of identity is still invested largely in their nation-states.

The district of West Lindsey was created due to the reorganisation of local government in the early 1970s – and whilst our name may derive from the ancient kingdom of Lindsey, no one identifies as being from West Lindsey in the same way they might identify as being from Lincolnshire, English or British.

These feelings may seem increasingly obsolete to the metropolitan liberal elite. And a case can be made that we need a sense of global, or at least for now continental, post-national communities, if we are ever going to move towards planetary government.

The PM of Luxembourg and his empty podium for Boris Johnson, is yet another mishandling of people’s sensibilities. For those that oppose Boris Johnson it will not change their minds, but for everyone else it is the lastest failure of the EU to win around the hearts and minds of the people.

Our identities define who we are, how we see ourselves. And these identities evolve and grow with each generation. The European Union has singularly failed to build a post-national identity for its citizens. I would die for my country – but certainly not for the EU!

— Cllr Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Barry Turner is wrong. The proroguing of Parliament will not destroy our political system. It is far too resilient. It is one of the great advantages of having no written constitution: our system can bend, be flexible, and not break. You just need to look at the partisan antics of Mr. Speaker (John Bercow) to see how out of shape things can become without them breaking. Nor do I think John Marriott is right that our nation has been ungovernable for ‘quite some time’.

It is perfectly normal for an incoming government to hold a Queen’s Speech. Since the start of the last century, in the last 119 years, there have been 117 Queen’s (King’s) Speeches. In some years there have been two! This current parliamentary session is the longest we’ve had in over three centuries, having now run for 800 days, since 21st June 2017. It really is time for the current session to close and a new session to begin.

For all those who are suggesting that the Queen has been dragged into politics, they’re wrong too. In exercising the prerogative of prorogation, the monarch must act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. They may warn privately against, but if the Prime Minister insists, then they must acquiesce.

Despite all the bellicose, outrage and spluttering by opposition politicians, they had every opportunity to do something about the prorogation power when they were passing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2011. They instead approved what became section 6 (1) of it: “This Act does not affect Her Majesty’s power to prorogue Parliament.”

But perhaps this isn’t about process. Perhaps Mr. Johnson has taken a leaf out of so many great generals from history. From Sun Tzu to Napoleon Bonaparte, they have all advanced the benefit of surprise. In battle you must try and confuse, disrupt and demoralise your enemy. And yesterday’s decision to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament certainly did that.

There is now a frenzy of activity amongst those who oppose delivering on the will of the people to try and stop the prorogation. Their attention successfully diverted from other matters that had been finding some traction in recent days – a vote of no confidence, introducing legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit, taking control of the parliamentary timetable to debate Brexit further.

Boris Johnson was absolutely right yesterday when he said: “If you look at what we’re doing, we’re bringing forward a new legislative programme on crime, on hospitals, making sure we have the education funding we need”.

After 800 days it really is time for a Queen’s Speech. Time to close the current parliamentary session and start anew.

I believe that regardless of whether we get a deal or no-deal Brexit on 31st October, Lincolnshire is prepared to make a success of it.

We cannot continue with the uncertainty of the never-ending no-man’s-land of Article 50 indefinitely. It’s time to move on. We need to get past Brexit and re-focus on important issues that truly, deeply affect people’s lives. Only then can we build a brighter future for everyone.

— Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Boris Johnson was elected as Prime Minister last week. This result prompted a somewhat uncharacteristic eruption of effluence to pour forth from Lincoln’s pre-eminent Liberal Democrat campaigner, Caroline Kenyon.

READ: Caroline Kenyon: Why I do not recognise Boris Johnson as my Prime Minster

Mr. Johnson secured 92,153 votes or two-thirds of the votes cast, whilst Mr. Hunt secured 46,656 and has returned to the backbenches. In 2017, at the General Election, Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, secured just 37,718 votes and went on to become Prime Minister. Apparently this lacks democracy. I wonder if for Caroline democracy is only democracy if people are voting for what she wants them to be voting for?

I recognise his legitimately as our Prime Minister. Yes, elected on this occasion by members of the Conservative Party, but nevertheless elected. Elected in a contest that was open to public scrutiny: How many hustings events were held? How many television debates broadcast? I lost count, certainly enough to ensure that whoever emerged as the winner had undergone thorough public scrutiny. Not like the old days when these things were stitched up behind closed doors.

Caroline justified her position by trotting out clichéd stereotypes of what a Tory member looks like. But real insight can be gained from The Party Members Project (PMP), a research initiative by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Sussex, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. With the help of polling firm YouGov, it has been surveying members of the main parties since 2015.

The project’s research has found that around 97% of the Conservative Party’s members are white (compared to 96% for the Liberal Democrats). And yes, Caroline is right that the Conservative Party’s members are slightly older (average age 57) than her party’s members (average 52). However, the Conservatives have a marginally broader social base (86% ABC1s) compared to the Liberal Democrats (88% ABC1s).

What does that all mean? That your average Liberal Democrat is more privileged than your average Conservative and your average Briton.

For some in the Liberal Democrats the UK’s membership of the European Union has become an article of faith. Simply by believing in it and being part of it everything will miraculously work out for the best. If wishes were horses. Love or loath Brexit it was the decision of the people, in a properly organised and lawful referendum. Leave won by being over a million votes ahead of Remain. I wonder if Caroline accepts that result? I suspect not. Yet if it had been one vote in Remain’s favour would that be a different matter?

Caroline goes on to describe Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister as a ‘coup’. Did I miss the tanks rolling down Whitehall and the people fleeing as bullets were fired? No. Apart from a half dozen or so environmentalists it was a smooth and orderly transition. The same sort of transition as when Theresa May became Prime Minister – and let’s not forget that she was only chosen as the ‘last-man-standing’ (after Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the contest) by 329 Conservative MPs.

In continuing her assassination attempt of our new Prime Minister, Caroline moves on to his personal qualities. We all know that ‘Boris is Boris’ as David Cameron used to tell us when he’d made some gaffe or caused offense. However, after the past three years of the relentless drip, drip, drip of being told that ‘the Maybot had to go’ because she was too robotic, too inhuman it is particularly interesting to see someone, who is as human as they come, being criticised for their own flawed humanity. And a cautionary tale as ever that we should all be careful what we wish for.

She takes us on a tour of the current tropes deployed against Mr. Johnson; too well used to be of interest in rebutting me thinks on this occasion. Before we turn to the left’s favourite attack against the right — money. Unremarkably, Mr. Johnson is able to secure donations from the rich (and of course the reason Caroline knows about these sums is because they have to be declared). Through her omission of the requirements for disclosure of these donations she perpetuates the fallacy that our politics is corrupt. It is not. We are enormously fortunate to live in a country that is properly governed. A country largely free from corrupt practices.

I started the leadership contest backing Jeremy Hunt. But as his policies were made clear, I found I struggled to agree with them. Boris Johnson on the other hand presented a number of policy positions I could easily support. And so halfway through the campaign, I asked a friend, on his staff, for five minutes at the LGA Conference in Bournemouth. Boris persuaded me that his responses to several questions that had been put to him were his – I slightly suspected they might be well crafted responses by his team. I was impressed. I think he has every potential to be a great Prime Minister. Brexit is the only real obstacle to him delivering a brighter future for Britain.

Finally, it is four months on from the end of March when we were supposed to leave. As a local councillor, who faced the public’s anger in the local elections in early May, I have heard their message. It hasn’t changed. It never changes. It remains: ‘We want politicians to deliver on the promises they make.’ We all know what happened to the Liberal Democrats when they dropped their opposition to abolishing student tuition fees; they dropped in the polls like a stone. We all saw the rise of the Brexit Party and collapse in support for both Labour and the Conservatives at the European Elections in late June – a kicking to the two main parties who have failed to honour their promises to deliver on the instruction of the British people: to deliver Brexit.

Caroline is wrong to attack Boris Johnson for his many flaws. We need kinder, gentler politics more than ever. It would be much better to pause and then pounce on any promises he does not deliver.

So, for all Caroline’s bellicose, Mr. Johnson is her Prime Minister. He has made it clear that with him at the helm, every sinew will be strained to ensure we leave at the end of October. Ideally with a revised deal which has alternative arrangements for the northern Irish border. But if Brussels and the EU27 are unwilling to move on this issue then we leave without a deal.

— Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council

Giles McNeill is the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council