Why Daniel Hannan never “went native” in Brussels

Why Daniel Hannan never “went native” in Brussels

It was fascinating to see Daniel Hannan MEP in the hot seat at the Adam Smith Institute’s series on “Freedom’s Fighters” last week. A series of questions elicited just why he has become a star among the long-standing Brexiteers and he gave some penetrating insights about why the European Union is not something of which we should be part.

The European Parliament, for example, represents an outlook which is pro-closer union, pro-internationalist and which favours the views of the elite they call “enlightened,” often against the interests and wishes of the peoples they are supposed to represent. It has the power to grant diplomatic immunity to any of its members threatened by legal action in individual countries, but in practice it grants that power selectively. Those who follow the EU “consensus” are granted it readily, whereas more sceptical members are often denied it. It supports the established outlook of the elite and discourages those who would question this.

Hannan himself never “went native” as several who go to the European Union and its Parliament do. He was constantly aware of the pressure to conform, to fall in with the common “approved” outlook, but he came from a philosophical tradition whose values are inimical to that conformity. Born and raised in Peru, he witnessed first-hand a society that did not automatically provide the protection of the law to those who needed it. Coming to the UK, he learned to value a rule of law that expressed the freedoms that the people themselves valued. The idea of an elite using laws to change people – to make them become what the elite wanted them to be and to think like the elites thought – was alien to his own values and he never succumbed to it.

His own commitment to freedom came gradually in his youth and developed as he matured to become an all-round recognition that the individual, rather than the state, is usually the best judge of how to live, what decisions to make and how to express their own values. It is not a recognition that is widespread among the institutions of the European Union.

Asked if he thought the EU would survive in its present form, he refused to be drawn on when it might change, or what might make it change, pointing out that it is sometimes the unexpected changes that alter reality. He cited the Hungarian decision in 1989 not to withhold exit visas to those wanting to reach Austria that set into motion the train of events that toppled the Soviet Empire. It could come in the EU by some minor incident, perhaps related to immigration, that triggers the forces of change.

Would the UK, no longer to be a “bad tenant” of the EU, now become the “good neighbour” Hannan spoke about after the Brexit vote two years ago? He thought it would have happened more readily if both sides had behaved better in the negotiations. Had a committed leaver been in charge, the EU might have shown better faith in negotiating a pathway to the UK’s inevitable departure. Despite this, he thought that the UK and the EU would behave as good neighbours because it was to the advantage of both to be so.

Many in the audience must have left hoping that Dan Hannan continues a political career in the UK after he leaves the European Parliament next year.