A spectacular future

If any backbench MP or minor businessman says that withdrawal from the EU would be a disaster, you can bet your life that their comments will be splashed all over the press the following day. However, a recent gathering of heavyweight academics, politicians and figures from industry sending out a very different message seems to have received precious little coverage in the media.

The Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman was the moving sprit behinds last week’s conference entitled “Alternatives to EU Membership: What are the UK’s options?” Among the speakers was Owen Paterson MP, the former Environment minister. He did not mince his words. “We have to leave”, he said, adding, “I see a huge optimistic vision for this country, a really spectacular future, but to do it and to get there, we have to leave.”

John Mills, a CIB Committee member and Chairman of the Labour Euro Safeguards Committee, delivered a stark warning to his party leader: “If Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister in May and renegotiates without committing to a referendum, he will inevitably weaken the UK’s bargaining position. Minds in Brussels are much more likely to take renegotiation seriously if they know that there is a substantial risk that the UK will leave the EU if there is not a satisfactory deal on the table to persuade the UK to stay in”, he added.

Another Tory MP, Bill Cash, finally answered a question has kept many supporters of withdrawal guessing for years:- does he support withdrawal or not? We finally received the answer. “There is no alternative except moving to exit”, he told the gathering. “There is more nationalism now. There is chaos, less peace, less democracy. There are riots, protests, economic instability. Implosion is imminent, or the alternative is irresponsible coercion of the kind being imposed on the Greeks now.”

Another myth was shattered. Not all senior figures in the American political scene want us to stay in. Dr Nile Gardiner, a former aide to Margaret Thatcher who is now based at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington DC addressed the conference using a video link. “The biggest threat to the Special Relationship is the European project itself, exemplified by the grandiose dreams of a European super-state”, he said. “Nothing could be worse for America than a Britain that is unable to act independently, straight-jacketed by a forced common foreign and security policy.”

The same day as the conference was staged, a detailed rebuttal of the “three million jobs would be lost if we left” myth was published by Global Britain and the Democracy Movement. Far from worrying about job losses on independence, the report expressed concern about the jobs that would be lost by not leaving. Stuart Coster, the Democracy Movement’s campaign director said: “This report demolishes once and for all the EU lobby’s scaremongering about jobs should Britain choose to leave the EU and reveals reality as the opposite of their claims.” (The full report can be downloaded here)

Such a shame that a day of great hope for our country’s future was largely ignored by most of the daily papers. Apart from the Daily Express, from which some of this information was gleaned, the only other coverage of the Bannerman conference came in the shape of a rather sneering report in The Independent Well, let them sneer. The speakers at the conference were promising, in Mr Bannerman’s words, a “far better, freer and more prosperous future outside the EU”. Anyone who turns their noses up at such an exciting prospect and continues to support our country’s bondage to this club of failures is worthy only of contempt.

The EU: A Corporatist Racket

 

EU a Corporatist Racket

By Dave Barnby

A review by Edward Spalton

Many books have covered the ideological origins of what is now the EU. This book describes the manoeuvres of the the principal post war actors whose guile, determination and deceit contrived progressively to deprive our country of its constitution and liberty whilst pretending to engage in mere facilitation of trade ( “The Common Market”) and international co-operation. It is a thorough job, backed by detailed research with frequent facsimile documents from public archives.

From the early post war years, it traces the growth of the European Movement, saved from bankruptcy by substantial CIA funds and by American corporate money. Whilst the subjects will be familiar to most independence campaigners, the author’s angle of approach is refreshingly different.

The first part (of 11 chapters) begins with the lie of “no essential loss of sovereignty” and covers the conversion of the civil service from its politically impartial role to an agency of “government against the people”. In a role reversal, the Foreign Office devoted much of its energy to promoting the foreign European project to the British people whilst using public money to frustrate and discredit those campaigners, who knew what was really at stake.

Drawing on official records, the author makes a strong case on the balance of probabilities that Britain’s abandonment of the Black Arrow satellite launcher was part of the price of entry to the EEC, giving the French a monopoly in the European space programme. He also covers the subversion of the apparently innocent business of town twinning into a scripted process, requiring participating towns to declare allegiance to the European project.

The second part ( 9 chapters) “European Integration, the broader picture 1948 -2014” begins with a review of the ACUE (American Committee for a United Europe – funded by corporate donations) and the European Movement. It includes an in depth study of the 1975 referendum, how the process was skewed and was certainly open to electoral manipulation. Whilst this is informed conjecture, similar complaints by those taking part in later Irish referendums should alert any independence campaigner. There is an extremely interesting piece on “85 Frampton Street” , the media centre for Britain in Europe which the author visited in 2003 when a referendum on the euro currency was in the air. Campaigners should know of the scale of publicity machine available to our foes and its cosy existing relationship with the media. Bilderberg is covered in a matter-of-fact sort of way and the attempts within the Conservative party to discredit their Eurosceptic MPs.

The endpiece, entitled “The Rats” makes some proposals to break the power of the supranational corporations in the supranational state but the author has not yet fully developed his ideas. Few who experienced the reality of nationalised industries would wish to revisit them.

In the meantime, this highly original account will be extremely useful both as a readable record and as a mine of verified quotations for anyone speaking or writing on how our country came to its present state.

ISBN 978-0-9569815-8-5 Paperback 185 pages

Price £9.99 plus postage and packing £2.00

Available from David Barnby
64 New Yatt Road
Witney
OX28 1PA
Tel 01993 704421
Email [email protected] 

Migration, the deficit and the recovery

Anthony ScholefieldOne of the matters I raised at a meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16th December was:

The effects of mass immigration are now so large
that they are impacting on the economy as a whole and, specifically,
on the deficit, the debt and the ‘recovery’

The ‘Recovery’ and the Deficit are linked

– The import of a large migrant workforce has inevitably added to total GDP so nearly one per cent of growth of total GDP p.a. can be put down to simply having more workers and consumers. Those enthusing over the ‘recovery’ should be aware of this.

It is standard economic theory that immigration transfers income from newly plentiful factors to newly scarce factors, that is, from labour to capital. What is not noticed, however, is that much capital in the UK is now foreign owned so the transfer also is in part from British workers to foreign capitalists. Foreign capitalists get dividends and capital gains tax free. Moreover, due to the tax regimes in Ireland and Juncker’s Luxembourg, a great deal of foreign corporations’ profits in the UK are, effectively, lost to the British tax system under ‘freedom of capital’.

– The way the tax system for workers is now set up means that low earners (and migrants are overwhelming so) pay little tax and actually get tax refunds. Additionally, of course, they place demand on the existing ‘public services’ such as schools, hospitals, etc.

– Further out there are plans and projects for more public capital spending on transport, housing, schools, etc., as well as, unseen, capital diversion to provide the private sector tools and assets that migrants require: factories, office blocks, shops, houses, etc.

It should be noted that there is a great difference between employing existing natives who already have their ‘social capital; in the form of housing, roads, dams, etc., and migrant workers who require equipping with appropriate capital items from the ground up. The capital both extra native and migrant workers need (and this need is common) is for ‘the tools of production’: factories, equipment, office buildings, etc.

– The electorate are aware, even if the political class is not, that migrants send much of their savings abroad. There is no proper counting of this; it all relies on Office of National Statistics (ONS) speculation and guesstimates as is admitted, but it is several billion pounds a year.

In any case annual savings by migrant workers or their employers are far too small to provide the capital they require to operate and live in the British economy (less than 1% p.a.). This phenomenon means that the capital to equip migrants has to be found mainly by natives either by taxation or by capital diversion.

– All of this means, therefore, there must be appropriation from the taxpayer to fund extra current expenditure and the extra capital requirements of the public sector. These expenditures count as GDP growth but, of course, do nothing for the incomes and wealth of native workers. Actually they reduce both.

– Therefore, the ‘recovery’ with high inward migration may mean a statistical increase in aggregate GDP but produces little tax revenue either from workers or capitalists and places extra demand on public sector investment and current spending on the public services. Migration also diverts capital investment from natives to equipping migrants by the process of capitalists re-ranking the profitability of investments as the economy changes shape. In this way capital intensification is reduced for native workers; therefore reducing their income. It is not just the political catchphrase, ‘pressure on the public services’, it is pressure on the private sector and on capital formation. Instead of capital intensification for natives, there is capital diversion to equip and supply migrants.

– By not taking strong steps to rein in migration, the government is making its task of reducing the deficit much harder to achieve and makes the ‘recovery’ a statistical mirage with little effect on native income. It also is deceiving itself, as much ‘capital investment’ adding to GDP statistics is simply a means of equipping more workers in the economy.

When considering the ‘recovery’, it is also worth noting that the GDP deflator has been rebased and effectively reduced since 2008. A reduction in the GDP deflator means that ‘real GDP’ is statistically increased. Thus a further part of the ‘recovery’ is also a statistical mirage.

Another point on the GDP deflator is that the fall in crude oil prices will, for about a year, mean a higher GDP deflator as price falls in imports add to the GDP deflator and, therefore, increase the statistical overall ‘growth’ or real GDP and the ‘recovery’.

The Debt

– In addition to the massive increase in government debt, the off balance sheet liabilities for state pensions and healthcare are mushrooming all the time and have not been recalculated since 2010. To enthuse over GDP growth, but not calculate off balance sheet liabilities, is living in a fool’s world.

Even the hoariest of all false factoids, that immigrants are needed to pay for British pensions, keeps returning. For example, in the New Statesman on 5th December 2014:

“There is a truth that no politician will utter: if Britain is to maintain a welfare state … its current economic model demands more immigration.”

Yet every study by the UN, OECD or the Home Office, has always come to the conclusion of Chris Shaw, the government actuary, writing in 2001:

The single reason why even large constant net migration flows would not prevent support rates from falling in the long term is that migrants grow old as well.”

The UN calculates that, to maintain the UK worker/dependant ratio, the UK would have to support 60 million immigrants by 2050 and, by then, migration would be running at 2.2 million per annum, and increasing.

This is a dead-end in thinking.

– The accumulated, to date, off balance sheet liabilities for state old age pensions (not including public sector retirement pensions) were last calculated in 2010. They had then increased from £1.3 trillion in 2005 to £3.5 trillion in 2010 according to the Department of Work and Pensions. With the guaranteed 2.5% increase in pensions per annum, even in times of low inflation, the off balance sheet liabilities since then are increasing alarmingly. The fall in interest rates may also have a massive effect as the ONS states, “For example, reducing the discount rate to 4 per cent leads to a 31% increase in total pension entitlements (by £1,174 billion)”.

In 2010 the ONS used, in alignment with Eurostat, a rate of 5 per cent (nominal) for its discount. The rate is based on high quality corporate bonds yield. Rough calculations are that discount rates for corporate bonds are now in the region of 3.5 per cent. This means that the off balance sheet liabilities for state pensions at 2010 have risen to the area of £5.3 trillion – and this does not make any provision for the rises since 2010 or those built into the Coalitions’ pension promises.

Quite evidently, pension promises are quite out of control. Adding more lower paid migrants is adding to the liabilities with little contribution to the costs.

The Future

One can therefore forecast that:

  •  Capital employed per head will be static or reduce
  • Native incomes will remain static at best.
  • The ‘recovery’ will only partially reduce the deficit.
  • Taxes on capital and labour will fall short of projections.
  • The deficit will persist.
  • Debt and off balance sheet liabilities will continue to mushroom.

A subject that is too important to be left to the experts

The standard of debate about our membership of the European Union leaves much to be desired – even from the business community, argues Peter Troy.

This article was first published by The Journal (NCJ Media) 16 February 2015.

Last week the national head of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), John Longworth, reportedly said the best way to end political uncertainty over the UK’s relations with the European Union (EU) is to hold an early referendum, ie before 2017.

The call was quickly endorsed by others which encouraged front page headlines in one national newspaper and many articles in which business organisations commented on the vexed In/Out issues of the EU debate; with quotes from both the CBI and also the 200,000 member organisation The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

For those of us who have been debating the EU membership issue for decades we know too well there are many powerful reasons why an early referendum is not possible. Not least, there must be a Referendum Bill passed through Parliament and any attempt to rush it through would doubtless meet with stiff opposition from both sides of the EU divide. Politicians could build all sorts of delays into the Parliamentary timetable and stop an early contest. Also a  very salient reason is Mr Cameron’s need to conclude plausible negotiations with ‘Brussels’.  Any pressure to push for an early ‘reform’ risks one or more member states blocking his moves, whatever they be. Indeed, senior officials at number 10  insist up to two years will be needed to secure a successful ‘renegotiation’ with the other EU countries. Whether any sort of meaningful renegotiation is possible or credible has to be seriously doubted.

What is not in doubt  – as last week’s reporting illustrated – is the lack of quality discussion and knowledge on the whole subject of the European Union by the UK media and the over simplified, as well  I argue at times the non-representative comments of business pressure groups. Quotes from both the CBI and the 200,000 member strong organisation The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) were much reported last week in the national media.

Whilst the CBI favours EU membership on behalf of its corporate members, understandable because the EU is pro big business, the FSB have a stance which is curious. The FSB represent the small, but large in numbers, business community.

Twice in their history FSB branch delegates have vote for a policy to leave the EU at their annual conferences. In 2001 as an FSB activist I, along with a colleague from the North East, proposed a motion calling for the Federation to demand withdrawal from the EU which was supported by the representatives of the branches by a majority of 68 percent.

Later in 2004 the Federation’s conference voted out the EU Constitution treaty proposal (which in all but minor detail became the Lisbon Treaty) as undesirable, by a huge majority of 95 per cent. Despite these clear expressions from its membership, which have not been contradicted, the FSB is apparently supportive of EU membership. Despite my best efforts in 2014 the FSB Policy Team remain oblivious to the viable option of continued Single European Market (EEA) membership without the constraints imposed by the political EU; this is known as The Norway Option.

To bring matters up-to-date a report was published last Friday by the independent educational think tank Civitas titled The Norwegian Way. This is a detailed study of how the UK, like Norway, could continue to trade tariff free with the Single Market while regaining the UK’s political independence from the EU.

This latest learned work supports the theory first advocated in detail by The Bruges Group in 2013. There are I suggest lessons to be learnt and knowledge to be gained from Norway’s part of a wider economic group, the European Economic Area, which permits it free trade with EU countries but allows it to avoid the Common Agricultural Policy, control its own fisheries, and pay a much smaller membership fee. Unlike EU members, Norway can negotiate its own free trade agreements with countries around the world, with its own priorities.

On the ongoing question of the UK’s continued membership of the EU and – depending on the outcome of the general election on 7th May – there is a need between now and the EU referendum for people to become better informed. It is a too important subject to be left to politicians, journalists and lobbying groups. As with so many matters the detail can be found on the internet.

By Peter Troy

Fact and fiction about Norway

Two recently-published reports have analysed the option of replacing full membership of the EU with a trading arrangement modelled on Norway’s and have arrived at different conclusions.

Firstly, James Knightley of ING has written a paper called “Ready for Brexit?” A recent article in The Independent summarises the main conclusions, which are quite negtiave.

The report is not intended, so it appears, for general distribution. One of our members, Dave Phipps, has managed to obtain a copy and we are thankful; for him for his detailed analysis. Dave claims that the research is very poor. The article in The Independent points out how much red tape Switzerland has to suffer in its trade with the EU. Dave highlights a different area – the inaccuracies regarding taking the Norwegian option .

For instance, Page 5 of Knightley’s report says:

A second option is joining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) along with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and sign up to the European Economic Area (EEA), which would allow the UK to participate in the single market with zero tariffs. At the same time it would free itself from obligations related to the Common Agriculture Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

However, the UK would still have to make a financial contribution to the EU and adopt all EU legislation relating to the single market without having a say on these laws. Being a member of the EEA would also mean that workers from other EU member states would continue to be able to live and work in the UK. Consequently, we doubt that the UK would sign up to the EEA either.

to which Dave replies:-

Had Knightley done his homework, had he the faintest idea on that which he pontificates, he would know that Norway sits on over 200 committees within the EFTA/EEA; that under the terms stipulated in the EEA agreements the European Union is mandated to consult with EFTA/EEA members; that Norway has a seat of its own on United Nation’s bodies that set standards, said standards which are then handed down to governments and trade blocs (of which the EU is one) for implementation: that as of 2013 there were over 400 matters of EU law that Norway had not implemented; and that as a last resort Norway, as a member of the EEA has the final resort of a veto over the implementation of EU law.

What is missed is that if one discounts the above facts about membership of committees, coupled with the fact that EFTA members are mandated to be consulted; the fact remains that by sitting on the bodies which set standards, EFTA members do have a voice – and it beggars belief that this ‘meme’ about Norway is allowed to prevail; it beggars belief that those who present what are, in the event, misleading ‘research papers’ are allowed to continue without being questioned; and it beggars belief that the media continue to reproduce such examples of being economical with the actualité with themselves guilty of not doing their own research prior to printing it.

Dave refutes Knightley’s claims that it “makes little sense from an economic standpoint, and not much more politically.” Without having seen the report, one can but speculate, but the rejection of the EEA alternative may well be based on the conclusions of David Cameron’s favourite think tank, Open Europe. In the report “Trading Places”, Open Europe takes a similar line about the EEA:-

However, while guaranteeing access to the single market in services and goods, outside the customs union, access for goods would be subject to complex rules of origin and Britain would still be subject to EU regulations on employment and financial services but with no formal ability to shape them.

The popular myth about “The Norway Option” which both Knightley and Open Europe are helping to promote, is best summed up in the phrase “Government by Fax” As a new report, The Norwegian Way written by Jonathan Lindsell from the Civitas think tank reminds us, this phrase was popularised by Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013, although he actually called it “fax diplomacy.” What is not often mentioned is that Stoltenberg’s Labour party is still keen to join the EU. You can understand why there is no need for a separate Raving Loony party in Norway when one of the main political parties supports such a daft policy – and moreover, mis-represents the true picture of Norway’s favourable position.

Lindsell’s report runs to over 100 pages and, while it follows the usual Civitas line of neutrality on the withdrawal issue, it presents a far more balanced and positive view of Norway’s relationship with the EU than Knightley. “The Norwegian model should not be written off”, he concludes.

The advantages of Norway’s relationship with the EU compared with full-blown membership will be well-known to many regular readers of this website. Lindsell sets them out in some detail and shows that such assertions as that made by David Cameron that “Norway has no influence in setting trade rules” is simply false.

Just to reiterate a few points in Norway’s favour:- :

• Norway has a strong track record of influencing EU legislation and is involved in EEA-relevant legislation from the early drafting stages to the final outcome.
• As a member of the EEA, Norway is better able to fight its case for exemptions to EU legislation that apply to it than the UK does as a member of the EU.
• Norway is theoretically allowed to suspend the free movement of labour in emergencies. (It has not so far done so, but Liechtenstein, another EEA member, has imposed restrictions on free movement)
• Many flagship Norwegian seafood products have preferential or tariff-free access to EU markets, even though Norway is not subject to the Common Fisheries Policy
• Norway pays a lot less into the EU budget than the UK
• Outside the EU, Norway has negotiated Free Trade agreements with countries which the EU has not succeeded in so doing – China, for example.
• Norway sends its own representatives to organisations like the WTO, whereas we have to be represented by EU officials.

Lindsell says that “Norway has a half-in, half-out relationship that gives it free trade with Europe but keeps it out of the EU‘s political institutions.” This is perhaps a bit simplistic. It is only “in” inasmuch as for trade purposes, membership of the EEA suits its interests. Norway is free at any time, if the voters so desire, to replace EEA membership with something looser. However, it does not help that some Norwegian politicians are keen for some strange reason to emphasise the closeness of their country to the EU. For instance, Rune Bjåstad, Minister Counsellor for Culture and Communication at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Paris, said “Economically, Norway is already part of the EU Internal Market…..In fact, we are strongly integrated in the European Union, even if we are not members.

Of course, Norway’s relationship with the EU is not an ideal model for the UK in the long-term. The point about Norway’s relationship is that it is a readily available off-the-peg alternative which, contract to the opinions of Knightley and Open Europe, is a great improvement on EU membership. It is ridiculous for David Cameron to dismiss the Norwegian model so glibly. It is a far better immediate option than any sort of renegotiation he might manage to agree and one which, if explained to the electorate, would greatly enhance the chance of an “out” vote in any future referendum. Given that within the EU, we face increased marginalisation as the Eurozone integrates (unless it implodes), it is a very logical alternative to consider.

There is some debate as to whether, as Lindsell maintains, the EEA was only designed as a stopgap – “a ‘halfway house’ for states expected to join the EU imminently”, but it has worked well for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and would work well for the UK, ensuring our trading links wold continue seamlessly and no jobs would be lost (apart from those of UK officials working in the EU institutions) However, for many supporters of withdrawal, it would definitely be only a stepping stone. Those whose opposition to EU is driven by a desire drastically to restrict immigration would definitely be seeking for a looser relationship eventually and we in CIB would not regard our work as being complete until the relationship between the EU and the UK is no more than a free trade relationship on similar lines to those between the EU and, for instance, Mexico and South Korea. However, Mexico and South Korea will never have to go through the process of unscrambling themselves from 40 years of ruinous EU legislation. As we are not signed up to Schengen and are surrounded by the open seas rather than EU member states, we have no need for such an elaborate relationship with the EU as the Swiss have negotiated. Nonetheless, a bespoke relationship, even a simple Free Trade agreement will take time, so the Norwegian Way looks to be the best option to tide us over in the period immediately following withdrawal.

One particular issue concerning free trade agreements and, indeed, the EEA, is that the “single market” has never been completed in services and that no free trade agreement between the EU and any other country has included services. Given the importance of the financial services sector to the UK, it is vital to understand how withdrawal would affect the City of London, where most such businesses are located. These concluding comments by Professor Tim Congdon, who worked in the City for many years, show that the nature of many of these businesses is such that withdrawal would not affect many of them greatly – and indeed, would actually be a benefit. Tim writes:-

Financial services are of two main kinds:- retail (where the bank/financial institution) deals with the general public and wholesale (where the banks/financial institutions. are dealing between themselves).

Retail (e.g., ISA, unit trusts) etc. is ineradicably national, because so much is determined by tax (pension tax arrangements vary enormously in the EU) and tax systems are national in the EU. The notion of ‘a single market’ in retail financial services and of a ‘passport’ to that single market is just a confusion, and the Europhiles deserve to be trounced if they mention it. (If Barclays wants to attack the French market. it needs to set up a French subsidiary. Being outside the EU would not stop Barclays doing that. American, Japanese, Swiss etc. financial organizations own and operate businesses in the EU.)

Wholesale? Well, this is a cross-border global business which depends, critically, on the absence of exchange controls, and is (I am afraid) heavily motivated by attempts to avoid national systems of tax and regulation. The concept of ‘offshore business’ is crucial here – offshore really means not attached to any national jurisdiction, although contracts usually specify the laws under which disputes are to be settled, with English law, New York state/Delaware state laws being much favoured, so I am told. EU membership would have no bearing on the location of most wholesale business now in London. In fact, EU regulation is pushing a lot of this business elsewhere, e.g., Singapore.

So fisherman and financiers alike ought to benefit from day 1 of withdrawal if we were to take the Norwegian way.

For more information about Norway’s relationship with the EU and its suitability as a template for the UK, we recommend Peter Troy’s The Norway Option DVD

Lord Tebbit : Britain Must be Rescued from the EU

Lord TebbitLord Tebbit of Chingford, former Cabinet Minister under Mrs. Thatcher has written this exclusive article for Get Britain Out – the cross-party Eurosceptic campaign for Britain to leave the European Union and is reproduced with permission:

Incontrovertibly, the momentum of the EU debate is swinging firmly towards those who want to Get Britain Out of the EU. This is in part due to the Great British Public becoming more aware of the EU and its activities.

In an exclusive article, former Conservative Party Chairman Lord Tebbit explains how his own experiences of dealing with Europe whilst in office under Margaret Thatcher turned him from a Europhile to a Eurosceptic.

Lord Tebbit : Britain Must be Rescued from the EU

Some fifty or sixty years ago I was a young airline pilot.  I had a higher standard of living than most of my earth bound contemporaries.  I spent half of my life overseas.  I had almost everything in common with my fellow airline pilots from the rest of the free world.  We were mostly NATO trained and we mostly flew very similar aircraft.  We all spoke English as a first or second language.

The problems we faced of poor air traffic control, poor navigation aids and airfields were common to us all and could only be solved by supranational agreement and action. We were really rather like the managers of multinational business corporations – or indeed diplomats.

So the idea of a European Economic Community – the EEC – of like minded European nations committing themselves to forming an economic and political union to solve their common problems, seemed to be just an extension of what I already knew in the air transport industry.

I was a Europhile.  And so I remained until I became a Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s first administration in 1979. As a junior Minister in the Department of Trade with responsibility for civil aviation, shipping and the tourist industry, I attended meetings of the Council of Ministers in Brussels more and more often.

I enjoyed the company of my colleagues from the other member states.  Our meetings were overwhelmingly good natured and constructive, but I gradually became aware of a gulf between my assumptions about the nature, the role and the limitations of government and those of my colleagues.

I can recollect being lectured on our lack of legislation on the rights of women. Eventually, looking around the table I asked: “Which of you works for a female Head of Government?” In later years I criticised because in this Kingdom we have no “right to strike”. My response that since there is no law to forbid anyone (the military apart) from going on strike, we had no need of a law giving that right was met with incredulity. Gradually it dawned upon me. They all took the view the law defined what they were permitted to do.  What was not permitted, they regarded as forbidden.  For them freedom of speech was granted by law, but limited to what had been granted.

To us here in Britain all speech is free – unless there is a law to limit it. Alarmingly, our legislation in recent years has been implementing that European, Napoleonic view of society.

Bit by bit I came to see that our structure of government, largely built on the limitations placed on the Monarch by Magna Carta, was simply not understood by our fellow Europeans from the mainland, nor was it compatible with the continental approach.  We are free to do as we will – provided only that there is no law to prohibit it.

Few of our friends enjoyed a constitution which had not been violently overturned and re-written from scratch more than once since 1215.

Bit by bit, especially as the number of member states increased, I came to the conclusion the “European” destination of “ever closer political union” was not a destination for the United Kingdom.  Indeed I now believe the diversity of cultures between the nations of the north and south of the continent is too great to be bridged for the other member states too.

This has been underlined by the botched enforcement of the single currency which has done so much damage to the economies south of “the olive line” and is now threatening Germany too.

Of course there are still plenty of people who have not progressed beyond the views I held half a century ago.

However, I now have no doubt both our history and the needs of our contemporary society and economy demand we must rescue Britain from what I fear is a political and economic construct which cannot work for us – and may well not work for our friends on the mainland.

Lord Tebbit of Chingford

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