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These are the terrifying parallels between Brexit and the appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s

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tags: Hitler, Brexit



David Keys has been The Independent’s Archaeology Correspondent since the paper started in 1986. He has worked in journalism (staff and freelance; newspapers, magazines, radio and TV) for 45 years - and has specialized successively in home affairs (1970s).

As we hurtle towards the Brexit precipice, our politicians should reflect upon some illuminating yet unsettling history. For the tragic truth is that historically, Britain’s political class has disturbing form when it comes to betraying the geopolitical interests of our country and our continent.

For anyone who cares to look, there are horrific parallels between Tory and Labour foreign policy in the 1930s and now. Both then and now, both party leaderships, in their own different ways, turned their backs on Europe.

Now, of course, both party leaderships support (albeit to different degrees) a course of action, initially promulgated predominantly by the right, that will inevitably result in us reducing the scale of our political engagement with our continent. They must surely realise that their actions could well ultimately contribute to a serious destabilisation of Europe which can only please our major geopolitical adversary, Vladimir Putin, and drive us into the arms of Trump’s America. Similarly, back in the 1930s, Britain’s political parties refused to help strengthen stability and democracy in Europe and instead contributed to their horrific demise.

And as in the 1930s, an unholy mixture of political opportunism and misguided ideology by both major political party leaderships has been driving our country and our continent towards another geopolitical precipice. In the case of the Tories, there is even a degree of personal continuity from the pro-appeasement wing of that party in the 1930s to the Eurosceptic wing of the party in more modern times. In that sense, the geopolitical thinking behind appeasement fed into the roots of the modern Leave movement which won the 2016 Brexit referendum. Indeed, significant pre-war pro-appeasement Tory politicians such as Derek Walker Smith (MP for East Hertfordshire until 1983), Robert Turton (MP for Thirsk and Malton until 1974) and Somerset de Chair (who first entered parliament in 1935, and whose son-in-law is the arch Leave advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg) became notable post-war proto-Eurosceptics.

British Tory betrayal of Europe in the 1930s was nothing short of spectacular. For the Tories, the great and overwhelming priority was the promotion and defence of the empire. They were, on the whole, comparatively uninterested in safeguarding democracy and stability in continental Europe. Indeed, many of them were quite prepared to see Germany rule supreme on the continent, as long as the British Empire could rule supreme in much of the rest of the world. ...

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