Jacob Rees-Mogg: The Duke of Edinburgh – the country’s first vassal, Her Majesty’s liege man

12 Apr

Jacob Rees-Mogg is Leader of the House of Commons, and is MP for North East Somerset.

“To become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks.” This oath of medieval lineage was used by the Duke of Edinburgh at the Queen’s coronation on 2 June 1953, and has become one of the two defining quotations of the modern monarchy – and the reason that the institution has been so successful during the second Elizabethan Age.

The evolution of monarchy over many centuries has ensured its survival in this country. The struggle for supremacy which saw monarchs vie for power with and against other powers, noble, religious and popular, became, by the time of our current Queen, to be a constitutional monarchy in which the sovereign has never sought to interfere politically and the monarchical safeguards, which still exist, are operated in such a way that she never needs to be.

This evolution naturally begs the question of how the monarchy flourishes once all political power is ceded. Prince Philip’s oath provides the answer. It is about service to an institution embodied in an individual who represents the nation. The many obituaries have enumerated the volume of work that the Duke carried out over his lifetime. The tens of thousands of engagements, the thousands of speeches and, although no one has yet estimated the number of hands he shook, it must be over one million. And all to serve the purpose of being the liege man of his sovereign.

As that liege man, he sublimated himself wholly to the interests of the nation. He, along with other members of the royal family, by representing the Queen are the glue that binds the nation and indeed the Commonwealth together. The Duke’s tireless example showed how monarchy can still be important and useful. To do this, not only did he have to be endlessly dutiful, but also memorable. Royalty are blessed and cursed by the fact that everyone they meet will remember every word that is spoken. The Duke’s ability to be pithy may have amused the media from time to time, but it ensured that all whom he met had a story to tell afterwards.

The Duke’s steadfast dedication, demonstrated not only devotedly but with good humour, was a linchpin to our monarchy and so to our constitution and the health of our nation. The United Kingdom has been blessed, in its final transition to a constitutional monarchy, to have a sovereign and consort willing to accept Bagehot’s purely dignified role, which only works if tireless duty and service are at its heart.

Previous generations of royals might have balked at the selfless toil required. The sons of George III would hardly have butteressed a constitutional monarchy, while the behaviour of Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, would have caused comment. Equally, any suggestion regarding the divine right of kings would be as well received in the twenty-first century as it was in the seventeenth.

Nonetheless, it is the sacramental, the anointing and the oath before God that creates that aura of monarchy which makes people value its presence. The oaths made by Her Majesty and Prince Philip before God link the sovereign to our collective history, allowing and encouraging her personification of the nation. People are honoured to meet or be thanked by the Queen or her immediate family because of this symbolism. A plaque being unveiled by her consort is special because of the religious element of the coronation, the divine blessing if not right that the sovereign enjoys.

Alongside the Duke’s oath another defining quotation of the modern monarchy is from the Queen on her twenty first birthday when she said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”.

This statement of absolute duty alongside the Duke’s oath speaks to the truth that those who appear to rule in fact serve. Through this service the constitutional settlement of this nation has thrived, providing a stability of fundamental importance to our prosperity. Countries which suffer from revolutions and tumults are rarely prosperous.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to the Duke is that he made it look easy. That is the proof of how well it has been done and a reminder of the debt we owe for a long life as the country’s first vassal, Her Majesty’s liege man.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Now we will have what the British people really wanted – tariff and quota-free trade with the EU

30 Dec

Jacob Rees-Mogg is Leader of the House of Commons, and is MP for North East Somerset.

The real surprise and significance of the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union is its normality. It is not in itself the reclamation of sovereignty, which happened in January but the expression of that reclamation.  That is why Parliament is being recalled, for although the agreement is satisfactorily comprehensive, it is the type of deal this country could do with other sovereign nations or trading partnerships.

This has been achieved because of the negotiating panache of David Frost and Oliver Lewis, who matched Michel Barnier for capability. Many eurosceptics have a striking admiration for Barnier, who epitomises Gallic sophistication, and who had successfully outfoxed previous British negotiators. Regardless of their abilities, they could not have achieved the right outcome without the backbone of the Prime Minister, making it clear throughout that he would walk away from a bad deal.

The United Kingdom Internal Market Act emphasised this point. The British were reclaiming their sovereignty, and were not interested in the typical type of international fudge that could have potentially overturned the voters’ decision. For in truth that is where the real strength and courage lay, in 2015 by voting for a referendum, in 2016 by voting to leave, in 2017 by trusting the vacuous promises of both parties that Brexit meant Brexit, and by the resounding result in 2019, the electorate ignored all the doom-mongering to demand, request and require its right. As of Churchill, so perhaps of Johnson: “it was the nation …that had the lion’s heart …I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

Thus, this Agreement reflects what the British people repeatedly voted for” a zero tariff, zero quota, free trading agreement with the EU, outside its legal control, unbound from the EU’s treaties and courts. The Prime Minister always said a Canada-style agreement best reflected his ambitions, and this is what he has achieved.

The normality of this deal should not overshadow its landmark status. It is the largest free trade agreement that either the UK or the EU have agreed, and the first ever zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal that the EU has signed. As with mercy, free trade “blesseth him that give it and him that takes.” For all the talk about punishment, ratchet clauses and defensive interests, this truth guided the Prime Minister and it is embedded in this agreement.

Just like any other free trade agreement, this deal is made up of a number of reciprocal agreements, overseen independently, as a piece of international, rather than European, law. Provisions such as non-regression clauses exist in such agreements across the world. It would be irregular for such a deal where each party did not agree to act in good faith in this way. Far from leaving us in a state of vassalage, this agreement is a great opportunity for regulatory competition, from which Britons and Europeans will benefit.

This is the relationship that the United Kingdom always wanted with Europe. One of understanding and close cooperation, but one in which the United Kingdom is free to follow its own path. The last few decades showed that it was impossible to do so from within the confines of the EU. Now there is a treaty that the British people welcome: not an unaccountable and opaque European Directive, but a foundational agreement that is accountable to Parliament.

From 1st January, the nation’s laws will be made here, in Parliament and interpreted by British courts. They will be free from the oversight of the European Court of Justice, which will have no role to play in either British affairs, nor relationships with the EU and its member states. At the beginning of the year, the EU insisted that European law and the ECJ would apply to our future relationship. This was intolerable. It would have tied the United Kingdom into the EU’s orbit in perpetuity, Le Goulet on steroids.

It restores the opportunity to embrace the opportunities of the open seas, and it is a national responsibility to ensure these opportunities are realised by future generations. With the newly-established Turing Scheme, British students will be able to be in the vanguard of a renewed economic and cultural exploration of the world.

This Agreement opens a great potential future for Britain. It is now in our own hands to forge our own destiny, free to pursue British interests and prosperity in our own way and to build a lasting entente-cordiale with our European friends. This will be far more beneficial for Britain and Europe alike than our increasingly tetchy relationship within the Union.

Along with this opportunity comes accountability; there are no European Directives to hide behind anymore. This is a process which will change Britain for the better, but our responsibilities to the public are greater than ever before. It is up to Parliament and the Government to ensure the fruits of sovereignty are prosperity and liberty to the British people.