Because we share a national identity that subsumes institutions, customs and laws, we can share—without any other cost than that of belonging—that our individual freedoms are of our national identity. Our law is adjusted and amended in the interests of reconciliation and peace within the historical community over which it stands in judgment. This law-governed society is made possible because we know who we are and define our identity by our country, the place where our man-made law prevails, the sovereign territory in which we have built the free form of life we share. something more than paper documents. It is something that exists only so long as we protect it, and the demand that we do so underlay the surprising result of the recent referendum—surprising because the result expressed the feelings of people who have been most affected by the culture of repudiation and the political correctness of our governing elite.
We should recognize that freedom is nothing if we cannot protect it from predators. Protection comes about only in conditions of trust, in which institutions command obedience and define the public standards of conduct and responsibility which we are to honor and which can be called on against the threats.
We are heirs to a society governed by law, in which the people themselves make and adjust the law through their representatives. Ours is a secular law that we can change as circumstances change and that we obey because it expresses the commitment we all share to the first person plural of our national identity. Our law is adjusted and amended in the interests of reconciliation and peace within the historical community over which it stands in judgment.
This law-governed society is made possible because we know who we are and define our identity by our country, the place where our man-made law prevails, the sovereign territory in which we have built the free form of life we share.
This sovereign territory is our home, and it is in terms of it that our public duties are defined. We may have religious and family duties too, but they are private duties, not incumbent on the citizenry as a whole. Our public duties are defined by the secular law and by the customs and institutions that have grown alongside it.
It is in that way that we should define the “first person plural,” the “we” of the modern nation state. And in my view, this “we” is much preferred to the “we” of the ruling oligarchy or the “we” of religion. Yet those rival “we” identifications are at this very moment eyeing our assets with a view to imposing themselves, and it is time for us to wake up to what we have—to the blessing of a national identity and a shared homeland, within whose borders we are freely governed.
It has become politically incorrect to affirm one’s loyalty in such terms. The EU insists that to think in this way is to commit the sins of racism and xenophobia. Let it be said that the regime of censorship and intimidation under which we now live is so powerful that no voter will confess to national feelings when they have been told that to do so is proof of racism or xenophobia. That is why the opinion polls were so wrong, both regarding Brexit and the American election. National loyalty has been branded as a sin.
It seems to me that the national identity that I, as an Englishman, have inherited— the identity of a nation joined in a union of like-minded nations in a single, sovereign territory—is far more robust than its detractors assume, and that it has, like the American identity, a remarkable capacity to absorb incomers and to integrate them by a process of mutual adaptation. But we can adapt to the effects of inward migration only if migration is controlled and only if we are allowed to affirm our identity in the face of it so as to renew our obedience to the institutions and customs that define us.
In other words, the global processes that challenge us now are reasons to affirm national sovereignty and not to repudiate it. For national sovereignty defines what we are.