Lies and more lies

The European Movement claims that we knew perfectly well what we were doing in joining the European Project. In other words, both our Parliament when it signed the Accession Treaty and the electorate when it voted to remain member of the EEC as it then was in Harold Wilson’s 1975 referendum, were aware that we had signed up to more than just free trade.

In a recent e-mail, the European Movement featured the following article:

Today’s Porky: We only Voted for Free Trade

We thought we were only joining a free trade zone”

Not true. We were never hoodwinked. We actually left a free trade zone (EFTA) to join the EU, specifically because we felt free trade was not enough. The government, setting out its reasons for applying in 1967, stressed that “Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and we can — and indeed we must — play our full part in it”. And before the referendum in 1975, national newspapers on both left and right were clear that political, not just economic, integration was proposed and would be a positive outcome.

Somehow, the European Movement seems to be suffering from selective amnesia. The mid-1960s was a rare period of honesty about the real nature of the European project. On 17th November 1966, Edward Heath had said, “We should frankly recognise this surrender of sovereignty and its purpose.” Four years earlier, however, the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell had observed that “The Tories have been indulging in their usual double talk. When they go to Brussels they show the greatest enthusiasm for political union. When they speak in the House of Commons they are most anxious to aver that there is no commitment whatever to any political union.”

One of the earliest pro-EU Tory MPs, Peter Thorneycroft, had stated that “no government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifices which any adequate plan for European Union must involve. The people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences, not asked.”

Heath’s determination to shackle us to the European project at any price meant that, when it subsequently became apparent that support for membership was so low, pro-EU Tories reverted to type and honesty once again went by the board. When the White Paper, The United Kingdom and the European Communities, was published in 1971, no mention was made of plans for economic or monetary union, nor the loss of sovereignty.

Even after our Parliament had signed the Accession Treaty, Heath said, “There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice our independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.” Heath had not allowed Parliament to read the full text of the Accession Treaty for he knew it would never have been passed if they did. He had to lie not only to the country but to his fellow MPs in order that they would, in effect, sign a blank cheque.

As for the coverage of the 1975 referendum by the Press, the national newspapers were anything but clear about the political nature of the project. Perhaps the many voters who have subsequently said “I voted to stay in because I thought it was just about trade with a Common Market” did not read the articles fully, but the tone of the “remain” campaign in 1975 focussed on the negatives of leaving: – how isolated we would be; how few friends we would have. The Government leaflet A New Deal in Europe did say “we cannot go it alone in the modern world,” but the focus on all the publicity was on how much of our independence would be preserved, not how much of it was to be surrendered.

In conclusion, it is the European Movement which is telling porkies, not its critics. In the 1960s and 1970s, the rank and file never understood the political nature of the European project – in fact, some people still don’t forty years later.

NB:- the European Movement regularly features so-called “porkies” which, on close examination, usually prove to be correct. Anyone wishing to produce further rebuttals of articles by the European Movement should contact [email protected]. The European Movement’s website is http://euromove.org.uk/

(With thanks to the Boiling Frog website and The Great Deception by Richard North and Christopher Booker – always a useful ready-at-hand source of information for rebutting europhiles)

Photo by Kai Hendry

Making a drachma out of a crisis

A letter from our Chairman, Edward Spalton, to the Derby Telegraph

We would be suffering a similar fate to the people of Greece if our politicians had taken us into the euro as many of them wished. We were and still are lumbered with massive government and private indebtedness but have been able to dodge many of the ill-effects because we still have our own currency.

The so-called “bail-outs” are essentially transfers of unrepayable debt, owed originally to German and French banks but now transferred to the public sector. Whatever the result of yesterday’s referendum, the outlook for Greece is bleak.

They already have real austerity. In the Greek NHS, infant mortality has increased massively – up 40%. With the return of the drachma, there would be a prospect of fairly rapid eventual recovery but probably even more hardship in the short term. So it’s a hard choice.

The euro is a political project to create political union. To avoid more countries threatening to leave like Greece, the countries of the Eurozone will have to form themselves into a single, economic, monetary government – in effect becoming one country with a permanent majority of votes within the EU. Such a treaty will take around four years to conclude under EU rules, so could not come into force before 2020. It will make permanent and formal the UK’s existing status as a second-rate member, paying a first-class subscription.

To repatriate any powers from the EU to a member state requires treaty change. Mr Cameron appears to have dropped this demand. Harold Wilson dressed up some very minor administrative alterations as a fundamental renegotiation” in 1975. It was enough to win him his referendum. No doubt Mr Cameron will follow that example.By the second half of 2017, the UK will hold the presidency of the EU and be in charge of issuing all the press releases which follow EU meetings, giving much increased scope for media manipulation. This is the reason for the Government’s abolition of the “purdah” rule, which prohibits it from using its resources to influence the outcome of the referendumThe best he could hope for is that other member states and the EU Commission promise to take his concerns into account when they make their big treaty some time from 2020 onward. This is not a happy precedent. Mr Blair surrendered some of Mrs Thatcher’s rebate in exchange for a promise to reform agricultural policy. That reform never happened.

So Mr Cameron’s referendum is not really about giving people a choice but a manipulative ploy to lock us into the EU permanently in advance of major, impending, centralising change of which he must be well aware.

EU debate disappointment at TPA’s post-election conference

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, in conjunction with Conservative Home, Business for Britain and the Institute for Economic Affairs, held a post-election conference in London on 11th May. The four-hour event covered a number of topics, including Scotland, the election campaign itself and the prospects for change in the EU. Although three of the four organisations co-hosting the event would claim to be cross-party, the meeting had a very strongly Tory flavour to it, with most of the keynote speakers being Conservative Party members.

Dr. Liam Fox was one of those who addressed the conference and his speech sounded a distinctly EU-critical note. He was particularly concerned about further possible calamities within the Eurozone, calling the Single Currency “an economic pass-the-parcel; a time bomb which they all hope will go off when someone else is holding it.” He claimed that senior figures in Brussels live in a parallel universe, quoting Mario Monti, a former Commissioner and Prime Minister of Italy who said recently “We have done so well with the Euro”. Dr. Fox appeared somewhat sceptical about the prospects of any meaningful renegotiation, especially in the light of recent comments by José Manuel Barroso, a former President of the European Commission, who stated that he would support renegotiation “as long as it is compatible with the objectives of the European Union.” Given that the main objective of the EU is “ever-closer union” and the logical end-point of “ever-closer union” is “union”, this does not sound promising for Mr Cameron, said Dr. Fox.

The panel for the debate on reform in the EU consisted of Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s sole MP, Matthew Elliott of Business for Britain and Laura Sandys, the former MP for Thanet South and Chairperson of the European Movement. For someone such as myself who had attended CIB’s rally and the recent presentation on “Flexcit” by Dr Richard North, the level of debate appeared pretty puerile by comparison. Admittedly, with a time slot of only half an hour including questions from the floor, there was not going to be long enough to do this subject justice, but it was particularly frustrating that neither of the other panellists took Laura Sandys to task for repeating Cameron’s statement that we had to stay in the EU to be “at the top table”. This shows a sad ignorance of how the EU now works. So much regulation landed on us by the EU does not originate in Brussels at all. The EU merely acts as a conduit for various organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, UNECE (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) and other global bodies. These are the real “top tables” and we do not have our own seat here. The EU represents us, but not just us. It represents all 28 member states. We would have far more clout in influencing legislation as an independent country, especially given that these bodies are not so keen to see national vetoes surrendered as the EU. (Your scribe attempted to raise this subject when the debate was opened to questions from the floor, but there was insufficient time for all those who raised their hands to be given a chance to speak)

Douglas Carswell stated his belief that David Cameron would try and repeat Harold Wilson’s trick of 1975, trying to sell a piffling concession to the electorate as a major triumph of renegotiation. With that one would agree. His endorsement for Business for Britain and its importance in the forthcoming referendum is a different matter.

Matthew Elliott said that remaining in under renegotiated conditions was better than the status quo. However, his contribution was most disappointing. He clearly shows no understanding of the EEA/EFTA option which would satisfy the concerns of businesses he claims to speak for while opening the door to a much better future. It would be by far the best way of satisfying on the one hand, a desire for a looser trading relationship with the EU while on the other ensuring a seamless exit. One was left with grave doubts as to whether he really does want to see our country regain his liberty.

However, given Laura Sandys’ senior role within the European Movement, it is apparent that fear, uncertainly and doubt are the only real weapons available to those who support our membership. She said that the pro-EU movement had failed to make the case for the positive role played by the EU. To which one must reply that it is because it hasn’t actually played a positive role; it has done far more harm than good. Supporters of our EU membership really don’t have any convincing arguments. Their arguments are very weak and easily refuted, Unfortunately, although right is on our side, we have a long way to go to win the argument irrevocably. Withdrawalists are still not at all clear what to do with the aces in our hand which, if played correctly, should finally persuade the public how much better life will be on the outside. I therefore left the meeting with a mixture of hope and frustration.

“Stronger Together” – highlights of CIB’s annual rally, 11th April

The Campaign for an Independent Britain held a public rally at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, London on Saturday March 11th.

The rally featured speakers from a number of affiliated eurosceptic groups – highly appropriate given the title of the meeting was “Stronger together, looking forward. Bringing the Eurorealist groups together”. The meeting was chaired by CIB’s chairman Petrina Holdsworth and both George West, CIB’s President and our Hon. Secretary Edward Spalton, gave addresses. The other speakers came from organisations affiliated to CIB – John Mills from the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign, Simon Richards from The Freedom Association and Robert Oulds from the Bruges Group.

The prospect of a referendum if David Cameron is returned to power in next month’s General Election dominated the meeting and has unquestionably been a factor in encouraging eurosceptic groups to recognise the need to work more closely together. The speakers agreed that a referendum before 2017 looked to be highly improbable, but it was pointed out that Cameron has selected the second half of that year deliberately to coincide with the UK presidency of the EU. Although a Conservative victory is by no means a foregone conclusion, it is most likely that Cameron’s team have agreed on the choreography with the main players (such as Germany’s Chancellor Merkel) that will enable him to claim a significant concession that will pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes. In other words, he is seeking to repeat Harold Wilson’s trick in 1975, where nothing of any significance was really agreed.

All the speakers acknowledged that we start as the underdogs, although underdogs have a long history of pulling off surprising victories. Simon Richards suggested that several different campaigns to suit different sections of the electorate may be one way forward. John Mills mentioned his involvement with Business for Britain and the importance of winning support from the business community. He mentioned the slogan used by the “out” campaign of 1975, in which he played a prominent role: -“Out of Europe, into the world”. Given the gradual re-orientation of our trade away from the EU in recent years, this ought to have resonance forty years later.

Robert Oulds emphasised the need to be able to sell an exit model that will not cause job losses. He explained the reasons for his support for the EEA/EFTA model as used by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. He also explained why the “Swiss”, “Turkish” and “WTO” options would not be feasible as an immediate exit route, although he also stressed that while EEA/EFTA would be the only route to a seamless exit, it is not an ideal long-term relationship between an independent UK and the EU. He emphasised the volatility of public opinion. Euroscepticism tends to increase in times of economic downturns.

However, the cause is not lost. Bruges Group surveys indicate that when the voters are offered a choice between the EU and EFTA – in other words, between a political Europe and a trading relationship – the result is overwhelmingly in favour of EFTA. He stated that both Richard North and Hugo van Randwyck have met with senior officials from EFTA, who indicated that the UK would be very welcome to re-join. We must be positive, said Mr Oulds – emphasising joining something rather than leaving something.

A series of videos of the day’s proceedings will be posted to the website in the next couple of weeks. However, as a post script, Edward Spalton mentioned that, in the 1975 referendum, his father voted to stay in because although he felt distrustful about the whole Common Market business, “If that man Tony Benn is against it, there must be something good about it!”

Given that Tony Blair has come out so strongly in favour of us staying in, could history repeat itself and a thoroughly mistrusted politician once again act as a recruiting sergeant for the side he opposes? We can but hope.