The Real Reason We Should All Celebrate 2001; This Week Is the 200th Anniversary of the Creation of the United Kingdom. So Why Has Nobody Noticed?

Article excerpt

Byline: CORRELLI BARNETT

YESTERDAY, Australians celebrated in magnificent and proud style the 100th anniversary of the Act of Federation which turned separate colonies into a unified nation state.

Church bells rang out across the country, carnival crowds swarmed the streets, fireworks burst in glory across the southern sky.

Yesterday also marked the 200th anniversary of the culminating act in the long historical process of creating our own United Kingdom of Great Britain.

It was on January 1, 1801, that the Act of Union came into effect.

By this Act, Ireland, which hitherto had its own home-rule parliament in Dublin (if one controlled by a small, unrepresentative Protestant elite), became an integrated part of the United Kingdom along with Scotland and Wales.

All political power in the British Isles was henceforth centred in Westminster. The building of the British nation state was complete.

Yet did we mark this tremendous event?

Where were our fireworks and carnivals to celebrate? The answer is nowhere. Our 'New Labour' Government was either totally unaware (in its vaunted ignorance of our history) of the 200th anniversary or, even worse, chose to ignore it out of contempt for Britain's past.

After all, this is a time when the Blairites are working away insidiously to dilute the sovereignty of the British state. They have already dispersed sovereignty downwards to a Scottish parliament, a Welsh assembly and a Northern Ireland executive which contains inveterate enemies of Britain.

They are in the process of yielding sovereignty upwards to European institutions which bear more than a passing resemblance to Bonaparte's political and economic 'Continental System' which the then newly unified British state successfully wrecked at Trafalgar in 1805 and at Waterloo in 1815.

Yet perhaps the real reason why the Government has utterly ignored the 200th anniversary of the Act of Union is because that Act marked the culminating success of the English ruling elite in creating the British state and the British national identity as we now know it.

For today's Britain and its great state institutions are (with the exception of the Scottish legal and education systems) simply those of England writ large. The Queen is entitled Elizabeth II, though Scotland, unlike England, never had an Elizabeth I.

The United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster is a straight continuation of English constitutional development from the Middle Ages through to the 18th century.

British military institutions are a development of 17th century English institutions, even if the Army includes Scots, Welsh and Irish regiments.

Today's Royal Navy traces its descent directly from the Elizabethan Royal Navy which sank the ambitions of Philip II of Spain. An admiral's flag remains the flag of England: the cross of St George.

Even the White Ensign consists of the English flag, with the Union Flag in the upper quartile.

And Nelson at Trafalgar did not signal 'Britain expects . . .' but 'England expects . . .' All this no more than manifests a historical truth - that 'Britain' was made by a series of ruthlessly effective English takeovers, all with the purpose of making the realm of England politically and militarily secure.

Wales was the first to succumb, beaten into submission by English armies in the 13th century. Scotland was next to fall to English domination.

When James VI of Scotland also became James I of England in 1603, the two kingdoms remained separate, with their own parliaments, though under one monarchy. …