Sir Teddy Taylor RIP

Sir Teddy Taylor shares with a number of colleagues – and with the Campaign for Independent Britain – the rare distinction of having campaigned against British membership of the then Common Market even before the UK joined in 1973. He was one of the first politicians of any party to make a principled stand on the European issue, famously resigning from his post as a Scottish Office minister over Edward Heath’s insistence on taking Britain into the European project.

After the devastating blows of British accession to the Common Market and defeat in the 1975 referendum, Teddy refused to bow down and, through a series of groups with innocuous titles such as the European Reform Information Centre and Conservative European Reform Group, set about subverting the Conservative Party – then probably the most europhile of all the major parties.

Now, before today’s hardliners throw a fit at the word ‘reform’, it has to be remembered that arguing for change was then the only way of putting the political and economic defects of the Common Market onto the agenda at all, and, perhaps, sowing the first seeds of doubt in the overwhelmingly pro-Common Market Tory Party. The political landscape in the early 1980s was so hostile to what we now call Euroscepticism that ‘withdrawal’ was a truth that dared not yet speak its name. Indeed, that vital tipping point in the story of Euroscepticism did not come until the early 1990s, when ‘reforming Europe’ ceased to be a shorthand for “let’s get out” and became instead the siren call of Conservatives and others, who, when confronted with the myriad failings of the EU, wanted to see it miraculously change so that Britain could happily remain a part of it.

Teddy recognized that freeing Britain from the EEC was probably going to be a long and intergenerational struggle. He encouraged and befriended young Eurosceptic campaigners and – a born activist himself – enthusiastically joined in their guerrilla war against the ‘leadership’ of the dismally pro-Brussels Young Conservatives. Politics alongside Teddy was never dull, with every European lunacy being summarily dispatched with his catchphrase put-down “it’s absolutely horrendous!” – generally delivered through plumes of cigarette smoke. (Teddy eventually gave up the ciggies, but never his dream of an independent Britain.)

Meanwhile, the European project continued to be controlled by an ever-centralizing political process, which saw the creation of the European Union, complete with flag, citizenship, and – shortly – single currency, under the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Unsurprisingly, Teddy joined with other patriotic colleagues in Westminster in opposing Maastricht tooth and nail – becoming one of the ‘whipless wonders’ who were kicked out of the parliamentary Conservative Party for their temerity.

By the mid-1990s, the gloves were coming off and the word ‘withdrawal’ was increasingly being voiced, first as a whisper and then with growing confidence, in the ranks of the Conservative Party. True, there remained (and still is) a massive disconnect between the views of the increasingly Eurosceptic grassroots Tory membership and the leadership on the European question, but the seeds that Teddy had sown had taken root and were to flourish in the thousands of Conservative activists who fought alongside members of other parties and none to win the 2016 referendum.

In CIB, we remember and honour Teddy for his Euroscepticism, but it should not be forgotten either that he was a superb constituency representative who operated virtually as an independent MP in his Southend East fiefdom. I well remember campaigning in a Southend awash with fluorescent yellow ‘Vote Teddy Taylor’ posters – Teddy had dumped the anodyne blue of the Conservative Party in favour of lurid campaigning materials that were probably visible from space. No Tory candidate would get away with going ‘off brand’ like that today, and even in the 1980s this defiance of Central Office was exceptional. Yet it summed up Teddy’s independence and his absolute conviction that he was there for his constituents first, and for the Conservative Party a sometimes poor second.

With Teddy’s passing we say farewell to another of that small band of individuals of whom it can be said, without hyperbole, that without them there would be no Brexit. Teddy Taylor, patriot and comrade, you fought the fight from start to finish with honour, tenacity, and humour. We salute you and we thank you.

(Anyone wishing to hear Sir Teddy in action, please see this video. He does not appear until after four minutes)

Daniel Hannan and EFTA

Daniel Hannan has long been a trenchant spokesman for independence from the EU . His speeches on returning to our constitutional parliamentary traditions have enlivened and inspired many meetings of activists over the years, so we felt that his views, excerpted from his Sunday Comment column would be of interest.

“…. The UK has indicated that it is prepared to be helpful but only as part of an amicable  overall settlement.  We’re plainly not going to pony up until we know what we are getting in return.

There are three slugs of money at stake. First, Britain’s legal obligations, paying the pensions of its Brussels officials, for example. That part is uncontroversial. Britain is not the sort of country to walk away from its debts.

Second there are EU programmes with which we may wish to remain involved , as many other non-members do.  The EU’s educational exchange scheme, Erasmus, covers countries from Norway to Turkey. Its scientific research fund, Horizon 2020, includes Armenia and Israel. Obviously, if we stay in such projects, we’ll cover our share of the costs.

Third there is the question of contributions over and above what is legally required.  This is what David Davis means when he talks about a settlement “in accordance with the law and the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU”.

The four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), namely Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, for example, pay to upgrade the infrastructure in the EU’s ex communist countries , in exchange (though the linkage is not official) for preferential deals in other areas. They do so unfussily and in a spirit of hard-headed transaction. Cherry picking is fine as long as you pay for the cherries.

If there is no deal, the question of assets and liabilities will go to international arbitration and the EU will get only the first and smallest of the three chunks.

Logic points to a trade-off. Britain should  aim to keep some institutional links with the EU and pay accordingly, while taking back control of its laws.  Apart from anything else, such a deal would reflect the narrowness of the referendum result.

The trouble is, human beings are not always logical. Some Eurocrats still believe, because they want to believe, that if the talks go badly enough, Britain will change its mind…….Some Remainers see failure as their way back into the EU. Some Leavers grumpily oppose any compromise.

How can we improve the mood ? Perhaps by convincing the EU that we want to build something rather than simply to dismantle something. One option is to seek to lead other nearby countries that either won’t join the EU or don’t meet its criteria, but which want friendly trade links with it.

Of the 47 states in the Council of Europe, 19 are outside the EU, and many are happy that way. Public opinion in the EFTA countries, for example, is overwhelmingly against joining. Britain, whose economy is larger than that of those 19 states combined, might aim to organise an outer tier, linked to the EU through a common market, not a common government…..

….This idea of a market-only membership category was promoted by federalists in Brussels before the referendum and most EFTA  governments expected Britain to pursue it afterwards.  According to all opinion polls, it is popular here too. Now is the moment to dust it off.”

(These extracts from the original article were reproduced with permission of the author.)

The miller’s tale – a series of reminiscences

EPISODE 1 – Early intimations.

“Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy” – Ode on intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood by William Wordsworth.

We moved into the countryside from the house next to the mill in 1950 and our old home became offices and a laboratory for our family business.. Going into the business made my later close acquaintance with the European project inevitable.

That was all in the far, unsuspected future when I went on a school visit to Germany in 1958. The German boy I stayed with asked me “Have you heard about our Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft? It will guarantee our living standard”. Neither his English nor my German was up to translating the word. So an answer had to wait until we got home. As soon as I asked our teacher, several other boys said

“My chap said exactly the same thing”. So it was obviously something they had been taught in school.

Our teacher, Mr Rhodes, explained that the word meant “Economic Community” and it had been started by a new treaty the previous year between France, Italy, Germany and the Benelux countries.

We discussed it for a while and thought it was a very good idea that these continental countries were co-operating with each other. “But remember,” said Mr. Rhodes, “This shows a difference in tradition between our countries. You would not be taught a political opinion like that as a fact in a British school.” How times have changed since!

This was the first time I remember people talking about what was called “The Common Market” and, whilst we wished the neighbouring countries well, I don’t recall many people being keen on the idea of our joining it ourselves. Matron was an exception but she was a Liberal – then a very small parliamentary party. One prominent member was a Lady Violet Bonham Carter who was so extremely enthusiastic that a radio comedian dubbed her “Lady Violent Common Barter” !

Interest moved up a notch around 1960. By then I was a pupil in a firm of corn merchants at Banbury, called Lamprey & Son Ltd. Their office was next to the town hall and had a high sloping desk with stools – no lounging in executive chairs! The accounts were still kept in hand-written ledgers upstairs. On my arrival, the manager, an austere man, passed me a weighbridge ticket – 5 tons 2 hundredweights three quarters and one stone. “There you are boy. Twenty five pounds twelve shillings and six pence per ton. What does it come to?” When I asked for a piece of paper to do the calculation “Lord love you, lad. What have they been teaching you all these years?”

Farmers came into the office on market days to order what they needed, to pay their bills and to be paid for grain which we had bought from them. It was a busy cheerful place and I clearly remember one nice old boy, a smallholder who had lost a leg in the First World War, asking the manager. “Well, Mr Humphries, be you goin’ to join this ‘ere common market?”. It didn’t rank very high in our concerns amongst the general bustle of a busy office. I did many jobs in that firm from bagging coal to really responsible tasks. Our boss, Roger Bradshaw, was only about ten years older than I. His father had died quite recently. So it was very different from working for my father. He would give a task, such as taking over the running of the retail shop without any detailed instructions and his favourite exhortation was “It won’t take you five minutes to get hold of it”.

Sometimes it took me much longer but I was allowed to make mistakes as long as I owned up. His son phoned me a few days ago to say he had been asking after me and this put me in mind to write these reminiscences.

After two happy years I went back home. Our most profitable product was a milk powder food for baby calves which my father had developed. He knew that technical advances were taking place in Holland and we eventually came to an arrangement with a large Dutch firm to use their formulations and made several visits to their mill to effect the technology transfer.

It was on one of these visits in 1962 or 1963 that I first came across the European Common Agricultural Policy. I was watching wheat come down a conveyor and suddenly saw purple grains. Now the only reason I knew for purple grains was ergot – a very nasty fungus which causes abortion in cattle amongst other things and there seemed to be an awful lot of it. The director who was looking after me said he would explain it all that evening. I learned that the grain had been dyed because it had been subsidised for use in animal feed. The dye ensured that the wheat could not be diverted back into human food. He explained the whole complicated system which also subsidised the use of milk powder in calf food.

I had never come across anything quite so odd in my life. We then had free trade in food and feed at home. How on earth could a common sense people like the Dutch have come to use such a complicated (and frankly barmy) system? “Little Holland is neighbour of big Germany,” my host said “and the Germans wanted it”. It was then that I remembered that he was very senior and I was very junior and a guest in his house. So I thought I had probably spoken out of turn.. His speech was quite matter-of-fact, as if describing the weather. I also knew that he had flown with the RAF during the war. So I shut up but remembered.

It would be ten years before we entered this system. In the meantime, many people were quite well-disposed to the idea of joining the “Common Market”. Mainland Europe was doing much better than us economically. We always seemed to be strikebound in major industries and things were rather shabby here in comparison to their rapid progress. There were also people I respected greatly, who had done great things in the war. “This will be marvellous for you and your generation Edward. It means you will never have to suffer the sort of things we did.” You had to take notice of people like that. But nobody could explain to me why they had such a crazy agricultural policy.

Customs Union: from Zollverein to irrelevance

By Ian Milne

Preamble

Orwell’s Nineteen Eight Four came out in 1948, less than a decade before the official birth of the European Community.  In Orwell’s vision, three totalitarian super-states, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, were perpetually at war.

The European Community was – is – merely the latest version of the chimera of a single European state that had been pursued in the nineteenth century by writers such as Victor Hugo, by Continental tyrants such as Napoleon, and, in the twentieth century, by German governments led in 1914 by Bethmann-Hollweg  and from 1933 to 1945 by Hitler.

Consciously or not, the European Union was built on similar assumptions: that the post-war world would consist of huge “blocs”, competing for resources & markets, and that European states were destined to amalgamate into a single state. In the Eurocrats’ weltanschauung – world-view – North America constituted one bloc, Europe another, while to the East, (the Soviet Union, its first candidate, having failed) China would exercise hegemony over the Asian land-mass.

The EU Customs Union

Since its accession to the “Common Market”,  “British Trade Policy is not to have a British Trade Policy”. The UK hasn’t been in control of its own trade policy since 1973. What the UK has had since 1973 is being trapped – for the first time in its history – inside a customs union – the EU Customs Union.

The EU Customs Union, the only one in the developed world,  is a relic from the “Fifties” –  the 1850s. This is how it came about.

In  German & French “received wisdom”, customs unions are (still !) a peculiar obsession. The 19th century German customs union – “Zollverein” –  was the mechanism associated in the German collective consciousness with the Bismarckian creation of Prussia & then the German Empire.

On 4th September 1914, a few weeks after the  outbreak of the First World War,  Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg issued his letter setting out German war aims. War aim number four1 was to “create a central European economic association through common customs treaties…….”. (A Figaro journalist, Eric Zemmour, describes this as a plan for the “vassalisation économique” of France through the mechanism of a customs union2.)

Two years later, in 1916, when the war wasn’t going too well for Germany, Berlin offered a separate peace to the Belgian Government (then in exile in Le Havre3), involving the evacuation of German occupying forces from Belgium & the signing of a bi-lateral Belgian-German customs union4.   This was turned down by the Allies.

In early 1917, when a compromise peace with Britain, France and Russia might just have been possible, German aims were for a “German peace” with a customs union led by Germany and with the involvement of Austro-Hungary and Romania, thereby solidifying Germany’s hold over its supposed allies and converting them to a de facto part of the peacetime German economy, no different from Alsace-Lorraine and a large slice of Belgium which Germany also proposed to retain.

In the next war, in 1942, when Germany still believed it would win, the Reichsbank organised a conference5 in Berlin to plan how Germany would run the European economy afterwards.  This involved a European Customs Union – Zollverein – very similar to the one we have today.  (It also involved a single currency with – believe it or not – an opt-out for the UK).

 Almost two centuries on, in 2016, with average customs duties worldwide (including in the UK) down to a little over one per cent6, customs unions have lost whatever economic raison d’etre they ever had.

The EU is likely to experience a significant decline as an important trading partner in the future due to demographic issues. These two Global Britain briefing notes (here and here) list the projections for population growth and decline within and outside the EU. It is particularly interesting to see the very different projections for France and Germany.

Ian Milne

1          The full text (translated) is: “We must create a central European economic association through common customs treaties, to include France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Poland “sic”, and perhaps Italy, Sweden, and Norway.”
2          Eric Zemmour, Figaro, 29.9.16 
3          The building which housed the Belgian government in exile between 1914 & 1918 survived the 1944 bombing & still stands in Saint-Adresse, a suburb of Le Havre.
4          Georges-Henri Soutou, La Grande Illusion, 1914-1920, pp 75.
5         The title of the 1942 conference was “Europäische Wirtshaftsgemeinschaft”
6          In 2013, 82 % by value of all UK imports of goods from outside the EU bore zero customs duties. The remaining 18% of such imports bore an average rate of EU-mandated customs duties of 8%. That 8% average is likely to be lower now.

 

Photo by Polybert49

A tribute to Nigel Spearing MP

A Master of Parliamentary Procedure

Mr. Nigel Spearing

Born 8th October 1930 – Died 8th January 2017

A glowing tribute to a man highly respected for his integrity and well known for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and opposition to UK entry to the Common Market and persistent opposition to EU membership

As a Labour MP, Nigel held the Newham South seat from 1974 until 1997 when the constituency was abolished.

A non-conformist Christian, Nigel was my mentor and friend from the days I joined CIB and met him. He was a Vice-President of CIB under Lord Stoddart and Sir Richard Body and before then a well-established elected member of the national executive of our Campaign for an Independent Britain

He was the last Opposition MP to speak before the government minister wound up the debate before the vote was taken to pass the Bill to accept European Communities Act 1972 into UK law, stating at the time that MPs were being asked to sign a blank cheque since the terms of entry had been withheld from them. Nigel made a great play on the Parliamentary democratic bypass still in effect to this day because of Clause 2-1 of ECA 1972. He was without power to have the wording changed from EU legislation being introduced to UK law “without further enactment” to “may with further enactment” to enable full scrutiny and debate by our Parliament. I am quietly proud that I was able to have two films made of Nigel and his Labour MP colleague, Mr Eric Deakin in Nigel’s home, both of them recounting their memories of their opposition to the Common Market in one of the films quoting from Hansard open on their laps. These films can be found on the internet You Tube under Nigel Spearing’s name or in the video section of CIB website here and here. Both films are of historical importance

Nigel was well known for his perilous travelling to all meetings in London on his bicycle as well as his fitness by rowing on the River Thames. Both he and his wife Wendy enjoyed their holidays on their boat on the Norfolk Broads.

I treasure three special memories, including walking the corridors of Parliament with Nigel and being impressed by the way he was so affectionately greeted by older politicians who remembered him. Secondly, I remember as we waited together for a meeting to start he embarked on a long and expert explanation how weather and tidal conditions around the coast of Britain could, and can still, overcome the flood defences and overwhelm London. I wish that day I had a tape recorder with me.

Thirdly, when I was Chairman of CIB Regional Planning Sub-Committee, our meetings were held in an upstairs room in South Kensington in a pub populated downstairs by boisterous Australian back-packers in those far off days. On an occasion the room was packed and I found the meeting difficult to control because of the level of heckling dissenting voices. Nigel sat to one side in the front row listening intently. I noticed his sparkling eyes. Afterwards to my surprise bearing in mind the countless debates he would have attended in his career he told me, ”That was one of the most exciting debates I have ever attended”. In his final years his mind remained focused upon and stimulated by EU matters of great concern to him

Of the e-mails I have received praising Nigel, I have selected a few.

“Nigel Spearing had something of the manner of a benevolent house master. He was very kind and patient with us new boys in explaining the geography, history and procedures of the House of Commons, an institution which he loved deeply. It was this love which drove his resolute opposition to Parliament’s subordination to the EU. He was very generous with his time and advice to all who supported the cause. He was unstuffy and realistic about the way politics worked. He once told me “I was brought up in the Evangelical Christian tradition, so I avoided the scrapes which some of my colleagues got into and the whips never had anything on me”. He used to cycle to our committee meetings in the House of Commons well past his eightieth birthday. He continued as long as he was able. When we knew his mind was beginning to cloud over, he invited us to tell him when to leave. Of course, we never did. As my colleague Stuart Notholt remarked “Nigel is family” and that is how we remember him” – Edward Spalton, Chairman, CIB

I am sorry to hear of Nigel’s death. From what I know about him – mostly of all his tenacity and also the disgraceful manner in which the Labour Party removed him as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee for no reason other than the things which have turned out in the referendum that he was right – his passing is a great loss to the Labour party and the country.” – Sir William Cash MP

“I knew Nigel from fringe meetings etc, a 100% good man.  Sorry to hear of his death but at least he lived to see his objective within our grasp.” Idris Francis (outstanding political activist)

How sad to see yet another of our fellow-warriors passing away. I too met him in 1999; he sought me out about Corpus Juris, we met several times (he came to Vincent House, he took me to the H o C where he had been an MP and introduced me to another EU-sceptic Labour MP, from Wales, whom I had lunch with, and we met again in Bournemouth).

It was he (Nigel) who provided me with the Parliamentary Report on the Tampere EU summit, where the EU decided to “replace” the Corpus Juris idea of a single criminal code for all, with the idea of “mutual recognition” which led to the European Arrest Warrant. I say “replaced” but actually it was a stepping stone to the ultimate Corpus Juris destination.” T.D. Erikson (Journalist)

I am so sorry to hear of the sad loss of Nigel. He was one of the great parliamentarians, having not only a great knowledge of parliamentary procedures but a great respect for them as well. Having been present in the House of Commons when his colleagues voted away the sovereignty of that esteemed House, he worked tirelessly to recover it. His knowledge and experience have been of immense benefit to the campaign to restore Britain’s sovereignty.”  John Harrison (previous CIB Treasurer)

“I’m very sorry to hear of this news. I know from the videos you provided that Nigel was a very eloquent speaker who made a passionate and principled stand against the Europhiles. I hope he was able to derive much satisfaction at the referendum result of 2016 and deserves recognition and our gratitude for the significant contribution he made in bringing us to where we are today.” Nigel Finnis  (Retired television film-maker)

A memorial service will be held in the weeks ahead at a time and place to be later announced

George West, President

The Campaign for an Independent Britain

 

Betty Simmerson RIP

Mrs Betty Simmerson has recently died aged 92 but will never be forgotten.  She and her husband, Reg, were among the first fighters against the United Kingdom joining the EEC and their consistent and active opposition heartened and inspired others to support the fight and to join it.  When Reg died, Betty continued to campaign for our withdrawal from what has become the European Union  and she supported The Campaign for an Independent Britain and many other organisations fighting for the freedom to govern ourselves.  We should all be glad that she lived just long enough to see her own consistent efforts  and those of others, including Reg, to regain the freedom to govern ourselves supported by the British people. Our country is now on the road to recovering its sovereignty so cavalierly sacrificed by successive parliaments since 1973.

Betty will be missed by all who knew her and she has died as a heroine of the great and successful campaign to get our country back. During the Second World War Betty nursed wounded servicemen returning from battlefields on occasions, she told me, severely burned or with intestines hanging out. At night she would be on the roof of her London hospital with a stirrup pump putting out incendiary bombs fires. She is remembered for the occasion when she aimed and hit Edward Heath with brown paper bags filled with flour at a Common Market meeting in Caxton Hall and was dragged away to be interrogated by Scotland Yard. She sold her grand piano to take activists to Belgium to demonstrate against Heath as he signed the treaty taking us into the Common Market and was thrown into prison because Heath had ordered no demonstrations should be allowed to spoil the occasion. Looking like everyone’s favourite grandmother, Betty was truly a British patriotic through and through.

(Photograph shows George West, CIB’s then Chairman, presenting an award to Mrs Betty Simmerson on 4th April 2009 at the CIB Annual Meeting in London.)