De Gaulle and a possible “Norway Option” in 1963?

Many Independence Campaigners will remember Reg Simmerson. He was untiring in his campaigning and very well informed in his frequent letters to the press

Here is one of his letters to the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, dated 29 August 1990

“Dear Sir,

Although I agree with most things written by Peregrine Worsthorne it appears necessary to pick him up on one point.

De Gaulle was certainly not “insulting” when he vetoed Britain’s application to join the EEC in 1963; in fact he made a suggestion which coincides almost exactly with that of Reginald Maudling a few years before and also coincided exactly with the offer accepted by the other EFTA countries when Britain and Denmark joined the EEC in 1973.

The suggestion was that each EFTA country should have free trade in manufactured goods with the EEC, that each EFTA country should be able to fix its own tariffs with third countries and that the Common Agricultural Policy should not apply to EFTA countries.

The arrangement would have been ideal for Britain as we could have continued with our cheap food policy whereas we are now paying three or four times world prices for food which is produced by nauseous, intensive farming methods; we should not have needed to subsidise food mountains or sales of food to Russia at give-away prices.

No, de Gaulle did not insult us but Harold MacMillan and Ted Heath asserted that we had been insulted because they wanted to get into the politics of the EEC and, although de Gaulle’s proposal would have been ideal economically, the arrangement did not satisfy the ambitions of those two extremely ambitious British politicians.

The two British politicians therefore asserted that de Gaulle was offering Britain associated status just like that of some French ex-colony when, in fact, he was offering something very different indeed.

No one managed to make an effective challenge to their assertion at the time so they got away with it; the cost to Britain has been immense in trade with the rest of the world; we should have been able to import cheap, wholesome food from Canada, Australia etc. and sell them our manufactured goods; we should not have paid huge sums of money to the EEC; North Sea Oil would have made us rich.

What a pity that such an opportunity was thrown away but let us get one thing straight; de Gaulle certainly did not insult us; MacMillan’s and Heath’s assertions caused the trouble.


R.E.G. Simmerson BSc (Econ) FCA “

FIGHTER FOR BRITAIN’S FREEDOM – Letters to the Press 1971 -98 by Reg Simmerson
A selection from some 600 letters, edited by Martin Page, is available (Price £5 including postage) from Sovereignty Publications, Worcester Park, Surrey KT4 7HZ

The futility of renegotiation

What we were fobbed off with 39 years ago? Harold Wilson pledge to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EEC when he won the second of two general elections held in 1974. A deal was secured at the Head of Government meeting in Dublin on 11th March 1975 which, in Wilson’s words, “substantially though not completely achieved” the renegotiation objectives.

We were allowed to exempt foods from VAT, to strike a better deal with imports from the Commonwealth while securing a reduction in our contribution to the EU budget. We “also maintained our freedom to pursue our own policies on taxation and on industry, and to develop Scotland and Wales and the Regions where unemployment is high” according to the leaflet sent out by the Government. No earth-shattering concessions here; after all, we are still some way from a common EU taxation policy 39 years later, but with the “in” campaign far better funded than the “out” and considerable ignorance on the part of the electorate as to the true nature of the EU project, these changes were sufficient to secure a 2 to 1 majority in favour of staying in,

No one can expect that a few cosmetic tweaks to our relationship with the EU will secure a two-thirds majority to remain within the EU in 2017. Far more of us are now aware of what the EU is about and we don’t like it. Given the choice between remaining in the EU on present terms and withdrawing, an opinion poll carried out by Opinium or the Observer newspaper last month suggests that 48% of voters would choose to leave while only 37% would wish to remain. However, poll after poll indicates that the balance would swing in favour of continued membership if we could renegotiate our relationship. However, these polls rarely, if ever, go into detail as to exactly what should be renegotiated.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that any renegotiations involving a significant return of powers to our parliament are not going to happen. Jean-Claude Juncker, the incoming Commission President, made it clear in a speech to the European Parliament that any hopes of ending the free movement of people would be doomed to failure. In January 2014, a group of 94 Conservative MPs signed a letter stating that national parliaments should to be given the power unilaterally to veto EU regulations that are felt to be unhelpful. William Hague, Foreign Secretary at the time, said that such hopes were “unrealistic”. This point was underscored recently by Manfred Weber, the new leader of the centre-right EPP faction in the European Parliament, who said that, “For us this, is non-negotiable. We cannot sell Europe’s soul… If we grant each national parliament a veto right, Europe would come to a virtual standstill.”

When it comes to Justice and Home Affairs, there is little sign that a future Conservative government is even going to try to repatriate powers. While some Conservative MPs are arguing for UK withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights, this is a smokescreen. The ECHR is not linked to the EU but to the Council of Europe. Furthermore, if the EU becomes a signatory to the ECHR in its own right, the member states – including, of course the UK – will de facto have to abide by it. What is far more worrying is the opting back in to 33 measures enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, including the European Arrest Warrant. Theresa May is quite happy to allow UK citizens to be extradited to countries with a far less robust system of justice than the UK and is considering further measures including signing us up to a Europe-wide DNA database.

On top of all this, the confrontation between David Cameron and other EU leaders over Juncker’s appointment has severely diluted the very limited reserves of goodwill left towards our country in Brussels. While there have been some conciliatory remarks by other perceived “reformers” like Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, it would require the support of a majority of Heads of State to allow a special relationship for the UK within the EU and the recent leaked tapes of conversations between senior ministerial figures in the Polish government illustrate just how hard it will be to secure such a majority. Then there is the European Parliament, where the main centre-right and socialist groups have closed ranks to ensure their Eurosceptic colleagues are kept at bay. The arch-federalist Martin Schulz has been reappointed President of the European Parliament, a man who is no friend of this country and whose past form suggests he will prove a formidable obstacle to any serious return of sovereignty to the UK.

Following his debates with UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage in which he came off second best, Nick Clegg admitted that he had been foolish to say that in ten years’ time, the EU would be “about the same” but for once, he was telling the truth. There will be no substantive renegotiation. The long march to ever-closer unity will carry on regardless. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance minister claimed that we in the UK “don’t actually want that much. {we} want some flexibility” but his definition of “not that much” or indeed David Cameron’s may prove rather wide of the aspirations of the UK electorate. Ultimately, we have only two choices – staying on board shouting from the sidelines as the doom-laden EU edges ever closer to the rocks or leaving the fools to their folly.

The Battle to Leave the EU


by Anthony Scholefield
Director, FUTURUS

In major political issues there are three battles; the battle to win the contest for ideas or assertions; the battle of aims, inclusive of aspirations, and the battle of plans. The electorate is influenced by the battle of assertions but it also responds to clear aims and plans.

As pointed out by Margaret Thatcher’s policy thinker John Hoskyns, Montgomery did not simply tell British soldiers on the eve of D-Day to make their way to Berlin – he had a plan.

THE EURO REFERENDUM (that never was)

There was no doubt about the aspiration of those who wanted Britain to join the euro. Moreover, Tony Blair thought that offering what was a ‘modern’, ‘international’, idea would be popular and he was slapdash about his planning. It would be generous to credit Blair with an aim – he only had an aspiration.

Two things stopped a euro referendum taking place. The first was Gordon Brown’s caution. But, much more important, was the fact that Blair never had a plan to get Britain into the euro.

In retrospect, from his angle, Blair should have taken Ken Clarke’s advice, and that of his own pollster, Robert Worcester. They both advocated an enabling referendum, “I would have preferred the referendum to be held on the issues of principle with the timing and details having been left to the government and Parliament to decide”.

Blair never seemed to understand that getting Britain into the euro was a complicated matter. Winning a referendum did not mean British entry into the euro. To enter, Britain had to re-enter the ERM, decide in conjunction with all the other EU governments, EU Parliament and the EU Commission what the entry rate would be, get a recommendation from the EU Commission that Britain had passed its convergence tests, change the Bank of England’s mandate and give the electorate their promised ‘final say’.

In short, Blair never realised he needed a plan and never planned.

As Roger Bootle wrote (Sunday Telegraph, 10th June 2001):

Now consider what has to be done. First, the British authorities have to decide what an acceptable rate is and from the history showing the chart, you can see this is no easy task. Then they have to agree a rate within that range with our European partners. Then they have to get the pound to that level – and keep it there. And then they have to win a referendum.”

By contrast, while they had to fight the battle of ideas and assertions, the supporters of the pound had a very simple aim and a simple plan – to keep sterling.


There was always some doubt about what were the aims of the Scottish Nationalist Party, in particular whether Alex Salmond really wanted independence as opposed to greater devolution.

However, the SNP aim now is, supposedly, for independence and they have made numerous assertions about the benefits to Scotland. Like Blair, they are strong on aspiration but their aim is hazy.

Yet whenever the consequences of independence are discussed it is clear that the SNP rely on assertions and lack a plan. There is evidently no plan concerning the question of a separate currency, border controls on movement of people, entry and the terms of entry into the EU and many other issues. The SNP has acted as though their proposals will, and must, be accepted by others, psychologically revealing that it does not understand what independence really means.

Alex Salmond has proceeded on the basis that winning an enabling referendum will solve all his problems. But his lack of a plan will not only crucify the Scottish economy, especially the financial sector, if Scotland votes for independence, the same lack of a plan will reflect back to the electorate and undermine the

argument he puts to the Scottish people so as to diminish his chances of winning.

So I confidently predict that, if Scotland votes for independence, that independence will not take place or, if persisted in, will lead to a Darien-type chaos.

There is no SNP plan for EU membership, no plan for defence links with NATO, no plans to take on debt or divide up oil revenues and, above all, no plan for a currency. In truth, the SNP has had various currency offers, a Scottish currency, joining the euro, and its current offer – staying with sterling for the time being (in itself a destabilising proposition).

The fact is that Scotland has a proportionately huge financial sector which is overwhelmingly dependent on English bank deposits, English pension funds and English investors. It is absolutely absurd, and would indeed breach their fiduciary duty, for any entity in England to keep its assets in another jurisdiction from where its liabilities are. Despite sharing a single currency, no German or French pension fund, Council, university or company, keeps its investment or cash in Portugal or Slovakia.

Of course, the idea of Scottish independence is doing damage to the Scottish financial sector already. Think of any English person considering a pension or long-term investment for many years. Offered a choice of an English or Scottish provider, the choice is obvious, and for directors and funds there is the fiduciary duty as well.

The supporters of the union have a clear and simple plan – to keep the union. The main fear of union supporters in England is that Westminster politicians will, in fact, agree to Scotland having, in some way, the benefits of independence without the responsibilities.


With Cameron, his aims and aspirations seem to be purely political in the sense of domestic politics and party politics. He also wishes to be at the ‘top-table’. His remarks about “not banging on about Europe” show a remarkable ignorance of the power politics surrounding him as well as a deep reluctance to reflect on political realities. He lags far behind the electorate.

David Cameron has repeatedly said he has a plan. Rather he has an aspiration. His aspiration is to renegotiate and then present the results to the electorate and then get a YES vote to stay in a renegotiated EU.


1) What are the possible exit strategies?

– UKIP wins a Westminster majority.

– A major Party converts to a withdrawal policy.

– A referendum is held on whether or not to remain in the UK.

– Britain is asked to leave by mutual agreement.

– Other countries decide to leave.

– ANOther.

Quite clearly the most likely and most immediate trigger is an in-out referendum.

2) To lose an in-out referendum would be catastrophic. To have such a referendum unless the out vote is well ahead in the polls would lead to such a loss because of the status quo effect whereby voters prefer not to risk change.

3) To win an in-out referendum, it is essential to present a simple, clear plan of exit which will work and can be demonstrated to work and which all withdrawalists can subscribe to. This would enhance a polling trend in favour of withdrawal.

4) Further, winning an in-out referendum will still leave us with a pro-EU Executive. The only way to compel such an Executive to actually work for withdrawal is to have a clear simple plan presented and endorsed in the referendum.

5) Without a clear plan presented at the referendum, the initiative will be handed to a pro-EU Executive which can be counted on to prevaricate and re-negotiate, working for a further referendum in due course.

6) The EEA arrangement with some modifications for free movement (see my article on Leichtenstein) has to be the way forward.

– Britain is itself already a sovereign signatory to the EEA agreement.

* It is on the shelf. The outline and details are already known.

* It is in accordance with the EU’s own procedures.

– It can be negotiated quickly.

– It takes all the business anti-withdrawal arguments out of the debate.

– It attains the objectives of sovereignty and takes us off the integration path, plus massively reduces costs, except for the Single Market. Can we live with this?

8) David Cameron on the Andrew Marr programme 11th May 2014 kept saying he had ‘a plan’ and only the Tories had ‘a plan’. This seems to me a sensible move by him (from his point of view) and could be a possible road testing of his next argument: “We have a plan and the eusceptics do not have one.”

9) In the 1975 referendum a whole page of the short ‘Yes’ leaflet was devoted to listing the various alternatives offered by the ‘No’ side to EU membership and ridiculing their contradictions. (see Appendix)

10) Some questions needs answering:

a. It is asserted by Ian Milne that the UK is a separate signatory to the EEA and thus would automatically stay in this if it left the EU. Is this watertight?

b. Would the EFTA countries welcome UK membership? This needs to be nailed down.

c. What exactly is the position in the future with EU migrant workers in the UK? Is it suggested (as I would recommend) that work rights should be gradually withdrawn? Otherwise, as these migrants settle and acquire families, the capital cost of importing low income workers via the welfare state will be enormous and there will be diversions of our already meager capital investment to providing all the capital costs of migrants (some of this has already happened of course).

d. We need a list of exactly what areas of policy determined by the EU will be returned to national control under EEA and what remains with the EU.

11) Gladstone: In one of his most famous speeches, on 10th August 1870, Gladstone laid down what needs to be done. This speech related to Britain’s position in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and extracts were quoted extensively by Sir Edward Grey in his speech of 3rd August 1914. It was cited by Asquith as determining Britain’s position on the Belgian Treaty in a letter to Bonar Law on 2nd August 1914, a day before Britain declared war:

“It brings the object in view within the sphere of the practicable and attainable instead of leaving it within the sphere of what might be desirable, but which might have been most difficult, under all the circumstances, to have realized.

12) We are trying to win a referendum and win a referendum in such a way that a pro-EU executive must carry out the result. We are fighting the referendum with a plan with an instruction to the Executive. We are not in a competition for establishing the very best theoretical basis for Britain in a post-EU world, we are establishing a clear, tested, business-friendly plan which should take on the aura of ‘inevitability’, such as preceded the establishment of American and Indian


John Mills speech – 26th April 2014


Ladies and gentleman, please welcome John Mills…

Well, thank you very much Mr Chairman. I must say that I would like to start by saying how nice it is to be here with many people I’ve worked with over a long period of time on these issues. I’ve got form. I. believe it or not, was the National Agent for the “No” campaign in 1975 and I’ve been the Secretary of the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign, which is the main left-of-centre pressure group to do with the E.U., ever since then. So I’ve had a long period of time to watch the scenery changing behind me.

You may recall in 1975, when there was the referendum, it was the Labour party that split roughly 50/50 in favour of staying in or coming out. It was the Conservative party in those days which was very strongly in favour of staying in – roughly 80/20 – which produced the two thirds result.

Now, of course, the situation is very different. The Labour party is, on the whole, pretty Europhile and the Conservatives much less so and we’ll have to see what will happen over the coming years, which is what I’d like to talk about: the direction that things are likely to move in.

I think it’s worth starting off with saying a little about where we are right now. One of the polls in the film you saw earlier on suggested that, if there were a referendum tomorrow, we would leave by a large majority. I have to say that I’m not nearly so sanguine that that would be the result.

I have here the polls that were taken month by month in the period leading up to the referendum in 1975 and you may recall that, even just a few months before that referendum, there was a big majority for coming out – or if not a big majority at least a majority – which has melted away as a result of the onslaught there was upon the pro side. And although I think the situation will be more even the next time we have a referendum on this issue in this country than it was then, I still think sticking with the status quo and so forth is a very powerful driver in these sorts of referendums and I don’t think the result would be nearly so easy to predict as you may think. Though I do think that over the coming period the situation may change and that’s what I’d really like to talk to you about this afternoon.

Now if you ask me what the U.K. electorate would like; I think the reality is, whether you like it or not, most people in the U.K. would like to stay in the E.U. provided there were substantial changes made to our relationship with the other member states. That’s what the polls show very strongly. So the real issue is: what’s going to happen over the next few years.

Are there going to be those changes made? And, if not, what will the outcome be if there’s a referendum when it’s clear that these changes aren’t going to happen. These seem to be the really important drivers in what’s going to occur over the coming period.

Now, timing isn’t everything in politics but it counts for a lot. Let me lay out for you a scenario for the next few years to see if I can convince you that this is probably the sort of way events might develop.

First of all, we’ve got two major elections or referendums coming up over the next few months. We’ve got the Euro elections coming up very shortly, in May, and we’ve got the Scottish referendum coming up in September. These are going to set the scene for what happens in 2015 when there’s the general election.

My guess, in 2015, is that the chances of having a Labour government on its own are actually quite high and this is mainly because the negotiations between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives over changing the arrangements to the House of Lords broke down and, in response to this, the Lib Dems refused to support boundary reorganization. As a result, the Labour party has only got to win about 34% of the plurality, whereas to become a government on its own, without having a coalition, the Conservatives need about 41% of the vote. Bearing in mind there’s likely to be a substantial split on the right of centre between the Conservatives and UKIP, this does provide at least a reasonable chance that the Labour party will come in with a majority government in 2015. I don’t think there is as much as a 50% chance of this; I think it’s more likely that we’re going to finish up with either that or a Lib-Lab result. But one thing that does seem to me to be fairly unlikely, bearing in mind that the electoral arithmetic I’ve just given you, is that there will be an out and out victory for the Conservatives and, if that doesn’t happen, then there won’t be referendum in 2017.

But if there is a either a coalition, between the Lib Dems and the Labour party, or an outright Labour government, I think the situation over the next five years, between 2015 and 2020, could look very problematical for that government.

I think particularly in the Labour party now there isn’t a huge amount of discussion about what the E.U. is going to do to a Labour government if it’s elected. And the Lib Dems, or at least the leadership, are so much in favour of the E.U. that I don’t think they’ve given it a huge amount of thought either to the problems they’re going to confront.

But let me give you a list of the difficulties which I think they’re going to face.

The first is that we heard about the evil effects of the single currency on the E.U., and they’re bad enough as it is, with the very high levels of unemployment there are and the very low levels of economic growth. But I’m far from sure that the situation isn’t going to get worse before it gets better and the main reason for this is that the Eurozone’s apparent acquiescence at the moment is very largely dependent on enormous amounts of bank loans, that are mounting up and mounting up. Now, debt in itself is not such a bad thing, as long as you’ve got the capacity to service the interest charges and to repay it, but what is really pernicious about debt is when it builds up and actually you’ve got an economy which isn’t growing at all and the ratio between the amount of debts you’ve got and your capacity to pay it back and service it reduces all the time. And that’s the situation that the Eurozone is in.

So I think between now and 2020, I think there is at least a fair chance that what’s going to happen is that the Eurozone is going to run into very serious difficulties. I think there are a number of ways this might happen: you might get a government elected in countries like Greece, which simply aren’t prepared to implement austerity any more; you might get the Germans throwing over the traces and saying they’re not going to subsidise everybody else anymore; or you might get the markets turning against the Euro. But, one way and another, I think the chances of none of these things happening between now and 2020 aren’t high. So that’s one danger problem area for whatever government is in power there.

Even if the Euro does survive, there are also going to be big problems that are going to have to be overcome, in terms of the governance of Europe and how to respond to the lack of banking integrity in Europe. And this is going to involve either more mutualisation of debt, or more integration of policy making and budgeting and so forth, this is going to make the countries that are in the Euro more powerful in relation to the countries that are outside. And one of the major difficulties any government is going to have to face in this country is how to avoid a situation where it all becomes two-tier with one very powerful group in the centre, calling the shots, who are in the single currency, and another group outside. Bear in mind that all the countries that are currently outside – there are eighteen countries in the Euro at the moment and ten outside – but all of those countries outside – or nearly all of them – are obligated to join the Euro. So we may find that the eighteen goes up to twenty or twenty-three or twenty-four or something and we’re more and more isolated. So it’s a big problem there.

There’s the rising cost of the European Union. The European Union is incredibly expensive for us. It’s actually quite hard to find the total cost of the E.U. from the Office of National Statistics, which are produced, because they’re spread around, but the totals are there if you look hard enough and in 2013 it was over £12 billion net and it’s rising all the time. The Office for Budget Responsibility thinks that the total cost of the E.U. is going to rise by about £10 billion over the next three or four years. So there’s a very substantial cost element that’s going to have to be negotiated by the next government at the time when the balance of payments to this country is going down the pan anyway.

I hardly need to dwell on the problems of immigration. And I think one of the better things that the European Union did, to be honest with you, to start off with, is allow the free movement of people, which worked well when we were dealing with a comparatively small number of countries with roughly the same standards of living. But it clearly works very much worse when you’ve got an enormous economic gradient between countries like Bulgaria and the U.K., with a difference of nearly 75% between income levels. And, at the moment, we’re in a situation where we’re restricting the number of people coming in from outside the E.U., many of whom actually have a lot of advantages about coming to this country such as students and skilled workers, whereas we can’t do anything at all – or very little anyway – about the immigration from the rest of the E.U.

There are all the issues around accountability and the capacity of MEPs to hold the confidence of their electorates. The way the Commission operates, the lack of democracy and so forth, and the problem about all of these things added up together is that they do present a fair chance in the rise of underlying Euroscepticism in the U.K., which is going to be really very difficult for that government in charge to do something about. And I think actually as a result of the most recent speech made by Ed Miliband in March this year, the Labour party may have painted itself into something of a corner here because there was a very important change made in that speech, which was: prior to that, the position of the Labour party was – and this is true of the Lib Dems and Conservatives – that there was what’s called a referendum lock. In this method, if there were any further significant transfers of power to the E.U., there was going to be a referendum. But the referendum wasn’t going to be an in/out referendum, it was going to be on whether or not whatever powers were contemplated were going to be accepted or not. Now, in the speech that Ed Miliband made, in March, this was changed; and what he said there was that if there were transfers of powers in the form of a treaty change, there wouldn’t be a referendum on the treaty change, there would be an in/out referendum. This could be a very important change that’s been made.

I’m sure that the calculation made by the Labour party was that it was very unlikely that any treaty changes would occur over that period and you can see why the leadership of the European Union, the Commission and so on don’t want to have treaty changes because this might trigger off referendums elsewhere, which they might lose.

But, with all the instability that there is around the European Union at the moment, it’s a racing certainty that there won’t be treaty changes some time between now and 2020 and with the change of rules and legislation that the Labour party has promised that would trigger a referendum. And if it triggered a referendum at a time when the Labour party wasn’t very popular, which tends to be the case with any government that is in power for a fair bit of time – we see it with the Conservative government at the moment – and if it was campaigning against a more and more Eurosceptic electorate, it seems to me that in those circumstances, that there is a substantial chance that there would be a referendum and the result, in those circumstances, would be that there would be a British exit and we would leave.

Now, the other possibility then is that you would then get, even with the risk of referendum running through the period up to 2020, that the Conservatives get back in power in 2020 and my guess is that over the next five years, the Conservative party will become more Eurosceptic and more likely, therefore, to give a commitment and get elected, that there will be a referendum. So one way and another, it does seem to me that the way events are likely to turn out over the next five to ten years is going to make it, first of all, more likely that a referendum will take place. Bear in mind that there won’t ever be a referendum unless there’s a majority for one in the House of Commons. And secondly, if in those circumstances I’ve just described, a referendum does take place, that the referendum is more likely to be won; a lot more likely than if one was taken tomorrow.

So it is a long haul. I’ve been in the Eurosceptic camp since 1975. As I said at the beginning, I’ve seen the situation change and change again but I think it’s very important not to give up hope, not to come to the view that we’ve all been battling on for forty years and we’re still there.

Timing, as I said at the beginning, is very important and I think that it may well be that the situation will shift in our favour, whatever happens at the next general election for the reasons that I’ve given you.


All it Needs to Leave the EU is Confidence

By Derek Bennett

In years past a leading toothpaste manufacturer used to advertise its product with the slogan: ‘A ring of confidence’.  Although the EU has its ring of gold stars on a blue background, it has undermined the confidence of the UK to govern itself, which is the message put out by Lord Lawson when speaking at a dinner organised by the Institute for Economic Affairs during April.

Lord Lawson, who was the Chancellor of Exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the days when he was Nigel Lawson, said that Britain needed to have the confidence to leave the European Union and stand on its own in the world.  In his opinion the self-confidence the people and Government’s had in the UK was lost when Mrs Thatcher left Number 10 Downing Street.

He comparedthe EU to a child’s comfort blanket which, if we had the courage to let go, would help this nation prosper once out of the grip of the EU.  He said at the dinner: “We need a revival of self-confidence. One of the most important things that a Thatcher Government did was change the mood of the nation to give it back its confidence. This clutching hold of the EU is a sign of a lack of national self-confidence, which is not healthy”.

When a person of such political stature, who has held high office in Government, says it is time to quit the European Union all in high office today should have the confidence to listen, take note and act.  If the people have the confidence to leave, as they are showing by their support for the antiEU, UK Independence Party, then it is time for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and all other politicians to have the confidence to follow and take the nation from the dark starry night of EU membership into the sunshine of freedom and democracy.


This article first appeared in EU Realist and is reproduced with the permission of the editor.

Planning for Independence by Edward Spalton

Forty one years ago I served on a Ministry of Agriculture committee of millers and grain merchants who had the job of preparing our trade for joining the European Common Agricultural Policy. From the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846 Britain had enjoyed a policy of free trade with the rest of the world in food for its increasingly urban population. That all changed on the stroke of midnight on January 1 1973 when we were instantly cut off from our Commonwealth suppliers and entered a siege economy system where much higher European prices were fixed politically with a huge increase of officialdom.

Most of the men on the committee were a generation older than I and they were utterly outraged when the new system was explained to them. They wanted nothing to do with it and were ready to walk out. A very suave senior civil servant, not unlike Sir Humphrey Appleby, smoothed the situation expertly.

“Well gentlemen, we were not founder members of the Community” he said “So these arrangements are not what we would have wished. But just give it a few years of British common sense and we’ll soon get it licked into shape”. Tea and biscuits were brought in. “In the meantime” he said “the political decision having been taken, we want to help you get the very best out of it”. It was beautifully done and enormously deceitful. The walk-out was averted.

The key words were “the political decision having been taken”. The European project was always a political project. The economic side was the cover for gradually creating a single European state. On one of the rare occasions when he spoke the truth about it, Sir Edward Heath said “The project was and is political. The means were and are economic”. People were deliberately misled by the deceitful use of the term “The Common Market” into thinking that we were entering a simple trade agreement. In the Sunday Telegraph of July 28 2013, a Mr. John Lidstone wrote

“From 1961 to 1972, as part of a team of key businessmen, I spoke to meetings throughout Britain arguing the case for the United Kingdom to join for trade purposes what was then known as the European Common Market. The case for enjoying the benefits of favourable access to a market place of millions of people was overwhelming. Had Ted Heath, the chief negotiator, told the British people what the long term consequences of joining the EU would be, I and my team would never have supported such a policy”.

And the long term consequences were certainly known to the Foreign Office and to Mr Heath. They can now no longer be concealed. As long as we remain in the EU, the European treaties are our country’s supreme constitution over and above all our laws – a sovereignty and democracy bypass around Queen, Lords and Commons, Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and everything. They provide that all existing and future EU laws will be enforced upon us “without further enactment” by Parliament, as it says in the 1972 European Communities Act.

For forty years the British political class has lied and lied again about the nature of the EU project. The lies no longer convince. I want you to
imagine now that the political decision has been taken to reverse this evil and to restore sovereign democratic government to our country, to look at what happens to our laws when this is done and to consider some of the means which will ensure that our economic interests and those of our European neighbours with whom we have no quarrel can be assured.

But first I need to explain the problem which has led Mr. Cameron to reverse his earlier policy of being “the heir to Blair”, stopping his back benchers from “banging on about Europe” and why he is holding out the prospect of a referendum – a promise on which, in common with the other party leaders, he previously ratted.

Although its cash contribution is second only to Germany, Britain has always been a second class member in the EU. Enthusiastic Europhiles always told us that we weren’t getting the best out of it because we didn’t really believe in Europe strongly enough. This reminds me of the scene in the pantomime, Peter Pan, where Tinkerbelle is dying and the audience is told that a fairy dies whenever somebody says “I don’t believe in fairies”. The audience is persuaded to say in unison “We DO believe in fairies” and Tinkerbelle recovers. So, the Euro-enthusiasts said, would our prosperity in Europe, if only we said “We DO believe in Europe”!
Of course, it was nothing to do with that. It all boiled down to the fact that France and Germany had signed the Elysee Treaty by which they co- ordinated their positions ahead of every negotiation and conference. With the votes of the subsidy-receiving countries (who feed off the British taxpayer) they could always outvote and run rings round us.

The 17 countries of the Eurozone may be on an economic death march under German command but they have agreed to co-ordinate their affairs increasingly into a single, economic government which has a permanent majority of votes in the EU. They can stitch us up any time. Britain is now a permanent, second class member of the EU which can only be “at the heart of Europe” (as Mr. Major said he wanted) as a payer, not a player.

The Eurozone countries have also agreed to abolish what little remaining democracy they have in order to save the Euro currency. Do not forget that, when this was launched, it was a supposedly unbreakable rule that no Euro country would ever be made responsible for the debts of another.

By the European Stability Mechanism, the ESM, the treaty of debt by which they hope to save the Euro, the Euro countries agree irrevocably and unconditionally to pay any required capital demand within seven days. Frau Merkel told the Bundestag “Never will you be able to change this by anything you do in parliament”.

Article 27 of the ESM treaty gives the institution “full legal capacity to institute legal proceedings but “The ESM and its property, funding and assets shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process”. It is also immune from “search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of seizure …. by executive, judicial or legislative action.” So it is a law which can never be changed. What is more , the officers of the organisation also enjoy immunity from every form of legal process.

It is literally a super-state agency above the law and, whilst we are not in the Eurozone, those same anti-democratic governments are part of our government whilst we remain in the EU. To keep the Greeks and Spaniards and others in austerity with more than one in four people unemployed and 70 per cent or more of young people unemployed, they have abandoned democracy for bureaucratic dictatorship to save the imperial vanity project of the Euro currency. Child mortality in Greece has increased by forty per cent as a result of the collapse of the Greek NHS but the babies too are considered a worthwhile sacrifice to keep the Euro.

So Mr Cameron wants to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership with this anti-democratic clique whilst still remaining an EU member. It seems nobody has told him that powers, once granted to the EU, never come back. To renegotiate a treaty, an Intergovernmental Conference has to be convened. That takes two years. Then the conference has to agree unanimously to any change to an existing treaty.

I expect that the Eurozone countries may well try to throw Mr. Cameron a bone, so that he can come back, as Harold Wilson did from Dublin in 1975, proclaiming “Britain’s New Deal in Europe” and that he had secured a “fundamental renegotiation”. Of course, Wilson had done nothing of the sort.

He had secured permission from his European masters for a modest increase in the amount of butter and lamb which our New Zealand friends and relations were allowed to send us and a tweak in the European agricultural policy which slightly reduced the extortionate price increases it had caused. There was no return of powers – and there never can be under the EU treaty structure. It is an irreversible ratchet. The old tricks are always the good ones. So watch out for the phony prospectus of “Britain’s New Deal in Europe”. It will be the same meat with different gravy all over again.

Let us now assume that Mr Cameron’s purported “renegotiation” has failed to convince either people, Parliament or both and that the government has set out to leave the EU and return to sovereign government. What are the options?

Some say that it would be enough to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and, as it were, to make a unilateral declaration of independence, leaving all the economic and legal consequences to fall in place behind this single act of political will.

It has been done before. Henry VIII did it in no uncertain terms in 1534.

Some of his problems have quite a modern flavour – shortage of tax revenue and a royal love triangle! Like all governments, his was short of money. He was building the Royal Navy, which was expensive, and he had a problem with a cartel of large, multi-national corporations which were dodging taxes – the great estates held by the monastic orders of the Church. Taxes then were levied by generation, so there was a big lump to pay when a landowner died and his son succeeded. But the Church was a corporation which never died and so was never taxed. Not only were they not paying their share but other lay landowners could dodge tax by making over portions of their estate
to the Church in trust for their families. There were tax accountants in those days too! Kings of England had wrestled with this problem for centuries. Henry was a greedy, unpleasant man and he made short work of it by dissolving the monasteries and confiscating their property – as much as 30% of the land in the Kingdom.

But he had another problem too “The King’s great matter”. He wanted a new wife to give him an heir to the throne and was desperately keen to get into bed with Anne Boleyn to do just that. But first he needed an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and for that he had to go to the “European Court of Conjugal Rights” in Rome. Whilst earlier Popes had often obliged monarchs in such matters, Pope Clement VII was under the control of Catherine’s relative, the Emperor Charles, and would not agree. So what did Henry do? Like Edward Heath but going in the opposite direction, he got an Act of Parliament . And what did it say?

“The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England and other his dominions unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm… in all causes doth appertain and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction”. This version is from the Articles of the Church of England.

I am only concerned with the politics here, not the religious angle. It went on to say “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England”. If you just deleted “Bishop” and wrote “Treaty” you have the makings of an Act which might serve our purpose today. Many would cheer!

So, after the Act is passed, the celebrations and the bonfires, the firing of salutes from the Tower and the Park, what would happen the following rather hung-over morning? Well, we would be outside the EU according to our domestic law. When the container lorries started to roll across the channel, they would have to be stopped at customs to be inspected and for duty to be charged. But there is a problem – there are no longer any customs posts to do this! They would have the same problems on the other side of the channel too. It would be a horrid mess.

Britain would also have acquired a reputation as a breaker of treaties. International law does not allow countries simply to tear up treaties which have been validly agreed. Whilst we were deceived by Mr Heath, his government and succeeding governments knew exactly what they were doing and, deplorable though they are, there is no question that the treaties are valid. We would be in a dreadful mess, our credit damaged, part of our trade paralysed, our interest rates skyrocketing as investors rushed for the door.

So negotiation is needed. We have been entangled in the EU to our great loss for forty years and the evil will not be undone in an instant. It is in our own interest and that of our European neighbours to achieve this in an orderly way.

Nigel Farage has called for an “amicable divorce” but such a divorce demands a detailed settlement which respects the interests of both parties.
There is another problem too. If we simply repeal the European Communities Act, as some wish, then all the subsequent Acts and rules which were made to comply with it would fall too. I will give just two examples of the chaos that would cause. We would be left entirely without laws to protect food safety. Outside the EU Common Agricultural Policy and with nothing in its place, most British farmers would be in severe financial difficulties and food production would fall. I am not a lawyer, still less an international lawyer, but have some idea of what happens to law when a country becomes independent in a reasonably orderly manner.

From the Federation of Canada in 1867, Britain has been conferring independence on countries all over the world. The independent countries inherit the laws which they received from their former ruler but the input of laws from overseas ceases. The statute book is nationalised and the newly independent country can amend it over time , as best suits its requirements.

For the security of persons and property, public health, the maintenance of law and order and continuation of trade, most things remain the same until decided otherwise. This even happened in Ireland where the transition was far from peaceful and happy. Apart from a new flag, painting the pillar boxes green and putting Irish on the signposts, the laws and institutions which governed everyday life and trade in the Irish Free State, like contract law, County Councils and weights and measures, remained overwhelmingly those which had been received from the Westminster Parliament during the 120 years when Ireland had been part of the United Kingdom and were only gradually amended over time. I must add here that I am a unionist as far as the United Kingdom is concerned so that our CIB members in Northern Ireland have no doubt about it!

The process of leaving the EU is simple enough. Doing it in a way which respects our European neighbours and protects our own interests is a little more complicated and time consuming. The main thing is to have the political will to do it.

There is a procedure for leaving in the Lisbon treaty, called Article 50, of which there are copies available. It is very short for a EU document. When I first looked at it, my hackles went up and I thought “an EU trap”. Many of
my friends for whom I have great respect think the same. They say we should simply ignore it and proceed under the general provisions of the Vienna Convention on treaties.

Now I am not so sure that such a method would be in compliance with the Vienna Convention. Article 50 is what is called a “lex specialis”, part of a treaty to which the British government has lawfully agreed, taking precedence over general rules. Parliament can, of course, do whatever it likes domestically but I don’t think we can simply abrogate it internationally. Under it, we would be out of our 40 year Babylonish captivity in the EU within two years at the most.

It appears simple enough and I think we should pass “Henry VIII- style ” legislation, partly to prevent any new EU requirements being sprung on us during the negotiating period but principally to make absolutely clear to our own Foreign Office and civil servants that there is no going back.

Lord Tebbit famously remarked “It’s called the Foreign Office because it works for foreigners” and it now has a settled habit of forty years continuous appeasement, collaboration and surrender to the EU. It even has a department called EU (Internal) to represent the interests of the EU favourably to the British people. That should go at once!

Such a “Henry VIII” Act could continue existing arrangements on an ex gratia basis for a limited specified period whilst negotiations continue . It would serve notice on the EU authorities of Britain’s settled political will and a need for speed on their part. There would be a common interest of both parties to keep trade flowing. I can then see no disadvantage in proceeding in outward conformity with Article 50 – working, as it were, with the grain of the treaty rather than against it. You could call it “The Belt and Braces Act” or the British Declaration of Independence.

The important thing is the political will and determination. Without that, no negotiation will succeed under any framework. The EU holds itself out to be a community of laws – “a common area of freedom and justice” and it has plenty of laws, 320,000 pages of them, I am told. But it is primarily a community of political will and the laws are instantly disregarded when the authorities perceive the EU itself to be in danger. We saw this with the extraordinary exertions to save the euro currency which were, initially at any rate, quite illegal according to the EU’s own rules and what the participating countries had agreed to.

The fate of Slovakia is an object lesson. Slovakia has about the same population as Scotland and it joined the euro currency, keeping strictly to all the rules. One of those rules was that no Eurozone country would ever be made responsible for the debts of another. Yet when push came to shove, Slovakia was compelled to pay its share into the bail-out fund for far richer countries which had broken the rules flagrantly. The party of the deputy prime minister resisted this and the injustice was resisted for all of three days. The political class of Slovakia, a small, land-locked country, acquiesced in being bullied into line.

That sort of thing would be far more difficult to do with a country the size of the United Kingdom which, for many Eurozone and other EU countries, is their best export market. But, of course, the EU authorities would try it on if there was the least hint of wavering by Britain’s negotiators. If that is firmly excluded, the whole heated argument for or against using Article 50 becomes a false antithesis and no longer a cause of dissent between good men and true.

The decision to join the EU always was a political decision to become part of a progressively developing, single European state and for Britain to become one province among many in that state. Our political leaders always knew that but did their best to keep it from us.

The decision to reverse that subjection will also be a political and constitutional one but taken in the open, in plain view. It will open up great economic opportunities as we look beyond stagnating Europe, in the toils of its self-inflicted currency crisis, to the rapidly developing wider world. As always, there are risks and dangers but none in Europe which cannot be faced and overcome with determined, principled negotiation and various future relationships with our European neighbours are then open to us.