Some reflections from a bewildered Brexiteer

To my dying day, I will always look back with a sense of real satisfaction and pride in having played a part, albeit a pretty minor one, in securing that crucial vote on June 23rd last year. This time last year, like many leave campaigners, I was in the thick of one of the most hectic, demanding periods of my entire life. The late nights travelling back from debates, the numerous phone calls and e-mails to answer, the leaflets to put through doors in my neighbourhood. It just didn’t stop. When it was finally over, it took a month, even for a fit and healthy person like myself, to recover.

But it was worth it! That sense of exhilaration on the morning of June 24th when the leave votes hit that magic total 16,775,992 was something I shall never forget. We leavers had started as the underdogs. We had Cameron’s government using all the levers at its disposal to persuade us to stay in. We had a very limited timespan to get our message across. We were not united on exit strategy and there was no love lost between several leading leave campaigners, but yet we won.

I can understand some remainers’ motives. Some people, albeit a dwindling number, believe the government and therefore fell for “Project Fear”. Others decided to “hold on to Nurse for fear of something worse”, which was understandable given the lack of a clear post-Brexit vision. “There’s a lot wrong with the EU, but it’s the least bad option to stay in.” Some people reached polling day still with little idea of what the EU actually was and therefore decided to stick to the status quo. The EU has historically been a peripheral issue in UK politics – just ask anyone who has stood as a UKIP candidate in a previous general election!

However, what bewilders me – and no doubt many other leave campaigners – is just why anyone who actually understands what the EU is all about can actually want their country to be a member state and even now would love to stop the Brexit process – neither out of fear nor of concern about economic problems, but because they really believe in the EU project.

This applies not just to the hard-core remainiacs over here but the members of EU-27. As the final preparations for the Brexit negotiations get under way, the BBC took some soundings from a number of European countries. The comment which shows the least understanding of the sentiment of the UK electorate came, rather surprisingly from the Netherlands. “A self-inflicted wound” was one Dutch columnist’s description of Brexit. Perhaps the best response to this is that Brexit is like a cancer operation. There may well be some pain at first, especially if the negotiations end badly, but for us, EU membership is like a malignant tumour which had to be cut out if we were to survive. Yes, the surgery may leave us with a wound, but the alternative would have been far worse. The columnist in question has clearly not moved on from the drama of last June when a number of continental leaders, including the former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, called the Brexit vote “beyond comprehension.” Bryan Macdonald, an Irish journalist who is based in Moscow, used exactly the same phrase five months later. “It’s beyond comprehension that the UK would vote itself into irrelevance,” he wrote.

Actually, dear Messrs Bildt and Macdonald, it’s very easy to understand why we voted to leave. There are umpteen reasons. Here’s just a few:-

  • We should never have been part of the EU in the first place. Last June’s Brexit vote righted a great wrong perpetrated on us by Edward Heath over 40 years ago. When he realised that honesty about the real objective of the European project would have resulted in the UK electorate rejecting membership, he deliberately downplayed the loss of sovereignty. Resentment over this deceit has been festering ever since.
  • Back in the 1940s, the idea that a professional class of politicians, aided by an army of bureacrats, may have seemed a good way of stopping another World War, but things have move on since then. There is no threat from Soviet Union to counter any more and the professional politicians and bureaucrats, far from offering any solutions, have become part of the problem.
  • The EU is fundamentally undemocratic. Even as ardent supporter of the European project as the Labour MEP Richard Corbett talked of a “democratic deficit” as far back as 1977. And nothing has changed in the subsequent 40 years. The Dutch and the Irish were made to vote again when they rejected the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties respectively, while Cecilia Malmström, the former Trade Commissioner, responded to a petition signed by three million people against TTIP, the EU-US Free trade deal, by saying contemptuously, “I do not take my mandate from the European people.”
  • As far as trade is concerned, we are much better off with one of our own representatives on global bodies like the World Trade Organisation speaking for us rather than having someone from the EU trying to represent 28 nations which sometimes have very conflicting trade objectives. Likewise, we are much better off seeking our own trading arrangements with other countries, free from the protectionism that is still endemic in some EU member states.
  • We desperately need to cut the numbers of immigrants coming to the UK, Our poor little island is badly overcrowded and advances in robotics will soon knock on the head the argument that we need mass immigration to keep the economy ticking over. Thanks to the principle of freedom of movement of people, however, unless we leave the EU, we can do little to staunch the flow.
  • The waters surrounding the UK are some of the best fishing grounds in the world, but the EU Common Fisheries Policy has devastated our once-flourishing fishing industry. Only Brexit can allow us to regain control and to determine who catches how many fish in our own waters.
  • The nation state is far from dead and buried. Only in Europe has this lack of confidence in the ability of a nation’s institutions to manage its own affairs taken such deep roots. The Brexit vote was an expression of a desire to re-join the ranks of sovereign, independent nations. What is hard to understand about that?

To any convinced Brexiteer, these arguments are so overwhelming that unless anyone either has their snouts in the EU very substantial trough or else is stark raving bonkers, what is so bewildering is not so much why anyone should want to derail Brexit either in this country of in Brussels, but why we are not at the head of a queue of nations scrambling for the exit door and freedom.

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John Petley

John Petley

John Petley is Operations Manager for Campaign for an Independent Britain

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6 comments

  1. Phil JonesReply

    “However, what bewilders me – and no doubt many other leave campaigners – is just why anyone who actually understands what the EU is all about can actually want their country to be a member state and even now would love to stop the Brexit process – neither out of fear nor of concern about economic problems, but because they really believe in the EU project.”

    John, that’s the heart of the matter. “….. want their country to be a member state …” Many feel that the UK can be both a ‘country’ and a ‘member state’ of a larger country simultaneously, whereas in fact it’s a contradiction. It’s been a contradiction ever since the term ‘Member State’ was introduced in the Treaty on European Union in 1992. The UK can’t at the same time be a country and also a part of a larger country. And for those who deny that the EU was a nascent country formed in 1992, I say look at the definition of a federal nation-state (country), with examples of the United States, Canada and Australia, among others. People in parts of a federal nation-state are governed by two sets of laws, one set local (provincial or state) and the other set federal. The federal laws govern all of the people in all of the provinces or states, whereas each part passes laws that are specifically suited to the people of that part. Enter the EU in 1992. Laws initiated by the European Commission and rubber-stamped by the European Parliament are then introduced as Directives into each of the parts (read: Member States) and rubber-stamped there into domestic law. The point is that the European Union has always been, from its start, a nascent federal system of government. Thus the UK stopped being a country in 1992 and became INSTEAD a ‘Member State’ of a larger nascent federal country. All types of shine can be put on interpretations of just what the European Union is, but the reality is that it has always been a nascent Superstate. It’s not a matter of the EU becoming a country. It already is a country. The British people should have been given a referendum in 1991 as to whether they wanted their country to change from the United Kingdom to the European Union — but for obvious reasons that had to be avoided. Of all the nonsense that has gone on since Heath and his conniving lies, the worst offender was John Major. That man fully understood that the economic arrangement was being changed to a political arrangement and also understood that, with Brits’ general lack of understanding of constitutional and legal matters, he could just ‘bully it through’. He is the worst of the villains. Anyway, there was never a time when the UK was both a ‘country’ (in the primary sense of that word) and a ‘Member State’. It changed from one to the other in 1992, and subsequently the media and governments used the word ‘country’ in respect of the UK in the secondary (Scottish – common culture and history) sense rather than the universally-accepted full-control-of-borders sense that had been in place prior to 1992. Successive UK governments fully understood what the Treaty on European Union represented (in effect an EU Constitution) but still continued to use the word ‘country’ — but it was being used from 1992 in the secondary sense of the word rather its primary sense. And the media simply played along because it would be too much effort to try and explain to those without the background for legal and constitutional niceties what had actually happened to the UK system of government in 1992. This has to be understood if one is to fully appreciate just how magnificent was the decision on 23 June 2016 to return the UK to being a country (in the primary sense of that word) from being one of 28 parts of a nascent EU federal country.

  2. Edward SpaltonReply

    Phil,

    The European project always was political, anti democratic and top-down.. In 1947 Peter Thorneycroft (later chairman of the Conservative Party & Chancellor of the Exchequer) wrote in “Design for Europe”
    “No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifice that any adequate plan must involve. The British people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their economic defences”.

    If you look at Hansard back to the Fifties, points like this were raised in debate but they never got much media publicity. We were then entirely dependent on the BBC and national press for reporting.. It was also the early part of the Cold War. America certainly saw the European project as contributing to European stability in the face of massive communist-led agitation in European countries and a huge Soviet army in East Germany.
    We didn’t have much of a communist party here but we did have very Soviet-inclined trade union leaders and shop stewards who used the freedom of the 1906 Trade Disputes Act to disrupt society and destroy export potential – rather like that perpetual protester, Jeremy Corbyn, believing that they were hastening the revolution thereby. Harold MacMillan was not the man Margaret Thatcher later was. He could not pluck up his courage to grasp the legal nettle of union legislation and thought the country was “ungovernable”. He thought that by opening our economy up to unfettered European competition, he might bring the trade unions to their senses.

    The fault is not so much with the European project, which always was on its way to a “Country called Europe” ,but with British politicians who concealed the facts – from themselves to some extent as well as from us.

    William Hague probably convinced himself that we could be “in Europe but not run by Europe”.
    Back in 2000, the Europhile Lord Hattersley came very close to an apology in a Radio 4 programme “A Letter to the TImes” “Not only was it wrong for us to deal superficially with what EUrope involved, but we have paid the price for it ever since. Because every time there is a crisis in Europe, people say with some justification “Well, we would not have been part of this if we had really known the implications”.”

    Many people who are presently strong independence campaigners started out in favour of European togetherness because they thought it was INTERnational not SUPRAnational . The whole process has been so subtle that it is easy to miss that – and many ,many people still haven’t really grasped the difference – mostly (I think) because they don’t want to. It does not fit their ideology – what the Germans call their “Weltanschauung” (Way of looking at the world).

  3. Gordon WebsterReply

    I agree with everything John, Phil, and Edward have written. Our politicians knew where The EU was heading, and chose to lie at every step of the process. It was made more difficult in the early stages of The EU’s infancy, by the fact that America was driving the birth of a United States of Europe, through the Marshall Plan and CIA pressure. Monnet, Kohl and others made no secret of how they intended Europe to be one country, which the people would never accept if they knew what was happening so, “it would have to be done in small steps so that they didn’t notice.”
    It was interesting to find out in the Mail today, that Juncker’s father in law was one of Hitler’s chief propagandists.
    But, why are so many of the chief remainers so upset, and so keen for Britain to remain a Vassal State? I would suggest money and naked self interest. For the past 40 years, Brussels has used our money which they send back to Britain, to set up Quangos, bribe Regions, bribe Universities, bribe landowners via the CAP, and bribe politicians who have been Commissioners with fear of losing their pensions and, I suspect, with “soft loans,” from the ECB. People like Branson would never have been able to buy up lucrative Railway Franchises or NHS Contracts had the TFEU Treaty Competition Article not demanded the sale of Britain’s infrastructure. We knew that Germany, France and Spain owned the bulk of our Utilities, but last week I discovered that Germany, France, Spain and Holland own the bulk of our Railway Franchises.
    They all stand to lose an awful lot of money.

  4. Ernie BlaberReply

    Whenever I ask a REMAINER If they agree that EU Law should have primacy over National law I am met with a blank stare. I then suggest they should read the Treaty of Rome before trying to debate a subject about which thet seem to know akmost nothing.

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