Friday, February 19, 2016

This is a club we should never have joined

So the lights burned brightly through the night in the chancelleries of Europe last night without reaching an agreement. The occasion? The latest bid by a British Prime Minister to change at least one or two of the rules of the European Union that are currently most irksome to the British electorate. David Cameron, the smooth former PR man, was hoping to conclude his charm offensive and win some concessions which would be welcomed back home and allow him to hold a referendum and back the case for Britain to remain a member of the EU.  Of course he was following in the footsteps of the 'Iron Lady' who had famously banged her handbag down on the table and demanded her - well Britain's actually - money back.

Neville Chamberlain
   The whole theatre of the current Cameron initiative merely serves to highlight the huge difference between the British way of doing things and that of what earlier generations would have called 'Jonny Foreigner.' Of course some sort of deal will be done, the issue however is will it really mean anything? Turn back the years to the Munich Agreement of 1938 when then PM, Birmingham boy Neville Chamberlain returned from Europe flourishing a piece of paper and to a cheering crowd gathered around a British Airways aircraft, extravagantly declared it was 'Peace in our Time' - Britain and Germany would never fight and the future of Europe would be one of peace.

By 1946 Europe was beginning to emerge from the ravages of the Second World War which had been the actual outcome of the Munich Agreement. It was said "The Second World War had one victor, the United States; one loser, Germany; and one hero, Britain." Winston Churchill was the personification of the hero due to his wartime leadership and gift for finding just the right phrase for each occasion - the enduring sound bites. By 1946 he was talking about the United States of Europe and by 1949 the Treaty of London had established the Council of Europe. Meanwhile the repair of collateral damage was being organised by the British Army with the European Coal and Steel Community being the first practical example of a co-operative production and marketing.

Ted Heath
So where did this whole thing go wrong for Britain? The EU  was as much a British idea as anyone's but some how we found ourselves on the outside as it evolved into The European Common Market and kept out by General Charles de Gaulle's use of the French veto. De Gaulle was the highest ranking officer who made it to Britain following the fall of France and was kind of invented as the leader of the Free French by Churchill - a rallying point and propaganda opportunity. His war years spent in Britain would have given him ample scope to figure out that the British way was at odds with the European ways of doing things. There was little public interest in joining the Common Market as it was presented as a trading group, certainly not a political alliance, still less a single European country. There was no referendum to decide should Britain be in or out and anyway the French veto kind of made the decision for us and after all it was only 6 war torn countries banding together. But one leading negotiator, Edward Heath was sufficiently determined to get Britain in which when he became Prime  Minister himself he achieved in 1973 having signed away many of Britain's  rights and assets including access to our own waters for fishing. In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson held Britain's first ever referendum in which 67% of the electorate voted to remain members.

The last election of members to the European Parliament in 2004 was won by the United Kingdom Independence Party [UKIP] with24 seats and 4.36 million votes leaving Labour [20] and Conservatives [19 ] in 2nd and 3rd places.

 This is the first of a series of articles leading up to the UK referendum.


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