The Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter

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Iwasn’t go­ing to men­tion the war. Like Basil Fawlty when he had a party of Ger­mans stay­ing at his ho­tel, I re­ally wasn’t. Un­for­tu­nately, cer­tain scenes that were en­acted and cer­tain as­sur­ances that were made dur­ing and af­ter Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s re­cent ne­go­ti­a­tions with EU lead­ers re­minded me so much of the pre­lude to, and early days of, the Se­cond World War, I am un­able to ig­nore it.

Most of you will have seen the fa­mous black-and-white news­reel from Septem­ber 1938 of Neville Cham­ber­lain, having just ar­rived back from a meet­ing with “Herr Hitler” in Mu­nich, stand­ing in front of a crowd at He­ston Aero­drome, wav­ing a piece of pa­per and crow­ing about the as­sur­ances he had re­ceived from the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor. He re­peated the state­ment out­side 10 Down­ing Street, con­fi­dently pro­claim­ing that he had se­cured “peace for our time”. A year later Ger­many in­vaded Poland, ig­nit­ing the Se­cond World War.

David Cameron stood in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion in front of Num­ber 10 in Fe­bru­ary this year as he lauded the suc­cess of his ne­go­ti­a­tions which had seen him charm­ing and glad-hand­ing other EU lead­ers in the hope of gain­ing their sup­port be­fore go­ing, cap in hand, to seek the per­mis­sion of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to al­low us to make a few mi­nor ad­just­ments to our re­la­tion­ship with the EU.

Af­ter wa­ter­ing down his orig­i­nal de­mands for “proper, full-on Treaty change” that would see “power flow back to the mem­ber states”, in the heat of lengthy dis­cus­sions, burn­ing mid­night oil and the bright lights of the din­ner ta­ble, the re­main­ing mea­gre con­tents of the Prime Min­is­ter’s beg­ging bowl just about evap­o­rated. As he had al­ready an­nounced his de­ci­sion to cam­paign for Bri­tain to re­main in the EU (ir­re­spec­tive of the out­come of the ne­go­ti­a­tions), even his ro­bust prom­ise to “walk away” if a sat­is­fac­tory

Sum­mer, 2016 deal was not forth­com­ing had it­self walked, or, more ac­cu­rately, limped, out of the door.

Un­like Cham­ber­lain, the Prime Min­is­ter did not ar­rive back bran­dish­ing a piece of pa­per, but a “red card” and an “emer­gency brake”. Un­for­tu­nately the red card, to pre­vent new EU leg­is­la­tion that is dam­ag­ing to the UK, is only one in a pack of 28: a ma­jor­ity of other mem­ber states have to wave their cards as well, and even then it only be­comes the sub­ject of “a com­pre­hen­sive dis­cus­sion”. As for the emer­gency brake (al­low­ing us to bring in a tem­po­rary re­duc­tion in the level of some ben­e­fits to mi­grants), it ap­pears to be some­thing of an un­wieldy Heath Robin­son sort of con­trap­tion with nu­mer­ous ped­als which can only be op­er­ated by the mem­bers of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, not by pow­er­less pas­sen­gers such as our­selves. I have to ad­mit that when I first heard the PM speak about it I was quite ex­cited. It was only when I re­alised he meant “brake” rather than “break” (I thought he had won an emer­gency exit from the Euro­pean Union) that my ela­tion was doused. There were also a num­ber of “as­sur­ances”, mean­ing, as far as I can as­cer­tain, that the words “United King­dom” and “ever closer union” will not be used in the same sen­tence.

Con­tin­u­ing the long tra­di­tion of UK Prime Min­is­ters who talk tough, achieve noth­ing but then an­nounce that they have won a great vic­tory for the coun­try, it all seems to have been a stage-man­aged cha­rade, with no pow­ers re­turned to the United King­dom, no Treaty change and, be­cause EU mi­grants come here to work (not to claim ben­e­fits) no curbs on im­mi­gra­tion. How­ever, lis­ten­ing to the Prime Min­is­ter it was as if he had been given a lot of shiny gifts and sou­venirs from Brus­sels with “Re­formed EU” stamped across them in bright let­ters.

Other echoes from those early days of the war can be heard as the build-up to the ref­er­en­dum on 23rd June gains mo­men­tum and politi­cians and busi­ness lead­ers (and a scat­ter­ing of celebri­ties who think their opin­ions ought to be heard) den­i­grate our coun­try and its peo­ple by say­ing that we are too weak to run our own af­fairs, make trade deals with other coun­tries and sur­vive as a pros­per­ous in­de­pen­dent na­tion out­side the Euro­pean Union. By vot­ing to leave, they say we would be tak­ing “a leap in the dark” and “choos­ing iso­la­tion”.

In early 1940, as Ger­man armies swept across Europe and coun­try af­ter coun­try fell to the Nazis, there were sim­i­larly de­featist voices in England (mainly among the ed­u­cated up­per­classes) urg­ing com­pro­mise or ca­pit­u­la­tion. Three years ago I saw the play Three Days in May by Ben Brown, star­ring the late War­ren Clarke as Win­ston Churchill. The drama fo­cused on the crit­i­cal 72 hours when, only two weeks into his pre­mier­ship, the Prime Min­is­ter was un­der in­tense pres­sure to en­ter into ne­go­ti­a­tions for a peace deal with Hitler.

Al­though Churchill was against any form of ap­pease­ment, and de­clared at a War Cabi­net meet­ing on 26th May 1940 that he was “op­posed to any ne­go­ti­a­tions which might lead to a dero­ga­tion of our rights and power”, For­eign Sec­re­tary Lord Hal­i­fax was not so con­fi­dent in our abil­ity to stand alone and fight on. It was grip­ping the­atre, even though I knew that in the end Churchill (sup­ported by Cham­ber­lain, Cle­ment At­tlee and Arthur Green­wood) won the day.

“If this long is­land story of ours is to end at last,” pro­claimed Churchill at a meet­ing of his 25-mem­ber Outer Cabi­net on 28th May, “let it end only when each one of us lies chok­ing in his own blood upon the ground.”

At some stage dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign the “Re­main” camp are bound to wheel out a piece of their heavy ar­tillery — prob­a­bly Sir Michael He­sel­tine, pos­si­bly Ken­neth Clarke — to say, in sup­port of their cause, that the great war leader was in favour of a United States of Europe. In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the war, he cer­tainly was, but he did not think the United King­dom should be part of it. I have a copy of the speech he made at Zurich on 19th Septem­ber 1946 in which he spelt this out if any­one is in any doubt.

In draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween 1940 and 2016, I am not sug­gest­ing that the peo­ple of the United King­dom are in as much peril to­day as they were when the coun­tries of Europe had been oc­cu­pied by the Nazis. I do think, how­ever, that the fu­ture of our coun­try as an in­de­pen­dent, self-gov­ern­ing na­tion is un­der just as much threat as it was in 1940. In fact we are al­ready fur­ther down the road to ex­tinc­tion as a sovereign state than we were when Churchill ral­lied the na­tion, and it is all thanks to our own treach­er­ous politi­cians.

Ever since Bri­tain joined the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity (EEC) in 1973 and, two years later, the British peo­ple voted in a ref­er­en­dum to re­main in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, a suc­ces­sion of Prime Min­is­ters, sup­ported by ac­qui­es­cent MPS have, lit­tle by lit­tle, by putting their sig­na­tures to Treaty af­ter Treaty, bled more and more of our in­de­pen­dence away. Al­though the EEC was sold to the British peo­ple as a “Com­mon Mar­ket”, we now know that the founders of what de­vel­oped into the Euro­pean Union al­ways in­tended it to be a po­lit­i­cal project which would lead to the abo­li­tion of na­tion states and the cre­ation of a coun­try called Europe.

The most shock­ing as­pect of pro­ceed­ings has been the way that our elected politi­cians have deceived us. Doc­u­ments and copies of pri­vate cor­re­spon­dence from the time re­veal just how, in the early 1970s, there was a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy among those who were ne­go­ti­at­ing our entry into the EEC and draft­ing the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion to cover-up the ex­tent to which Euro­pean law would have supremacy over British law. The per­pe­tra­tors knew that, were the truth to come out, the proudly in­de­pen­dent peo­ple of the United King­dom would not stand for it. So, we had the in­fa­mous words of Prime Min­is­ter Ed­ward Heath, in­sist­ing that there was “no ques­tion of any ero­sion of es­sen­tial na­tional sovereignty” and the ad­mis­sion in a let­ter to a col­league by Europhile Ge­of­frey Howe that: “I re­main at least plau­si­bly ex­posed to the charge that less of our think­ing than was ap­pro­pri­ate was ex­plic­itly ex­posed to the House of Com­mons.” I think that’s politi­cian-speak for: “I con­cealed the truth from our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

The sorry sit­u­a­tion we are now in, fol­low­ing all those lies and sur­ren­ders, was ex­posed in a damn­ing in­dict­ment by the Lord Chan­cel­lor, Michael Gove, as he an­nounced he would be cam­paign­ing to leave the EU: “As a min­is­ter, I’ve seen hun­dreds of new EU rules cross my desk, none of which were re­quested by the UK Par­lia­ment, none of which I or any other British politi­cian could alter in any way and none of which made us freer, richer or fairer. It is hard to over­state the de­gree to which the EU is a con­straint on min­is­ters’ abil­ity to do the things that we were elected to do.”

On the other side, the main tac­tic to per­suade peo­ple to vote to re­main in the EU has been called “Project Fear”, with scare sto­ries about job losses, bar­ri­ers to trade with EU coun­tries, the weak­en­ing of our in­flu­ence in the world, threats to our na­tional se­cu­rity etc. One of the most bizarre rea­sons as to why we should re­main part of the Euro­pean Union was put for­ward by For­eign Sec­re­tary, Philip Ham­mond, on the An­drew Marr Show. He was con­cerned that if we leave the EU the “con­ta­gion” might spread and lead vot­ers in other EU coun­tries to vote to leave as well. I’ve never thought of democ­racy as some sort of plague or pesti­lence, but there you go.

Af­ter 40 years en­tan­gled in the Euro­pean Union web, it will ob­vi­ously take time for things to be sorted out and new ar­range­ments and re­la­tion­ships to be made, but for me it prom­ises an ex­cit­ing fresh be­gin­ning. Here are a few thoughts: the United King­dom is the fifth largest econ­omy in the world and a mem­ber of NATO, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, the G8, the IMF and the Com­mon­wealth; we buy more from the EU than they do from us; 90 per cent of the UK econ­omy is not in­volved with the EU, yet still bears the bur­den of EU reg­u­la­tions; at the mo­ment we are un­able to sign bi­lat­eral free trade agree­ments with the coun­tries of the Com­mon­wealth and have to turn away work­ers from these coun­tries in favour of those with no con­nec­tion to the United King­dom; net mi­gra­tion is at an all-time high, reach­ing 330,000 in the year to March.

For me, the chance to vote in the ref­er­en­dum is all about mak­ing the United King­dom a self-gov­ern­ing na­tion once again; about free­dom not iso­la­tion; about stand­ing tall with con­fi­dence and de­ter­mi­na­tion; about be­ing true to our­selves and to our his­tory; about hon­our­ing all those men and women through­out the ages who have made our coun­try the great na­tion it is, of­ten sac­ri­fic­ing their lives in the cause of democ­racy and free­dom.

I be­lieve that, like a mark on an old trea­sure map, an X on the ref­er­en­dum pa­per to leave the Euro­pean Union will lead us, in terms of our abil­ity to run our own af­fairs and the fu­ture pros­per­ity and well-be­ing of our coun­try, to a buried chest of gems and jew­els. And when we have re­claimed our coun­try from the pi­rates, let us add a new day of na­tional celebration to our cal­en­dar, one that will be­come as fa­mil­iar to us and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions as those ded­i­cated to St. Ge­orge, St. An­drew, St. David and St. Pa­trick; a day to rank in our his­tory along­side Trafal­gar Day, VE-DAY, VJ-DAY and Bat­tle of Bri­tain Day; a day of joy and pride. Let’s do it. Let’s make 23rd June our na­tion’s In­de­pen­dence Day.

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