Back from Kenya to find Britain divided by Europe

At 5 am this morning, I landed at London’s Heathrow Airport after a near nine hour overnight flight from Nairobi. It was wonderful to spend almost a week with my son Richard, his wife Emily, and their daughter Catrin (now just five).  It was Catrin’s half term and we able to spend a lot of time together which we both enjoyed enormously.

Back at home, I find a nation in turmoil – OK, a Conservative Party in crisis – over the issue of Britain’s continued membership of the European Union which is to be the subject of a referendum on 23 June. We are going to have four months of this!

As I recall, it was a Conservative Government – led by Ted Heath – that took the UK into what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1973.  Again, as I recall, it was a Labour Government – led by Harold Wilson – that renegotiated the terms of membership and held an in/old referendum on 5 June 1975 (at the time I was a Special Adviser working for the Home Secretary in that Government).

At some point in the 1980s, the roles of the political parties reversed with the Conservatives going on and on and on about Europe and Labour accepting that membership is best for Britain. In 1975, I voted for the UK to remain a member; in 2016, I shall do the same (note to Boris Johnson – it’s called consistency of political principle).

If you would like to know more about how the European Union works, I’ve produced a short guide which you can access here.

One Comment

  • augusto

    Yes, Roger, I hear your malcontent. If the eurodollar has proven to be a very bad idea (and wisely the UK has retained the pound), the European Union as it is structured now is plainly a bad idea.

    Actually it started with good intentions. I believe it was in 1958, the year of my birth, that six countries, West Germany, France , Italy and the so called Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg; btw this acronym was popular in Italy, but I’ve never heard of it anywhere else. So, a plain vanilla agreement on commerce, no big goals like removal of frontiers (a good idea) nor the establishment of a central government, like the US.

    And so starting in 1973 many countries started to join the so called EU, including the UK. Note that in 1973, Norway had a vote, and they rejected the idea of joining the EU. I read your piece on how the EU got formed. 28 countries, I didn’t think it was that many. And here come the crux of the argument. A central government beyond borders and individual parliaments has never been formed, at least not one like Washington DC, overseeing all the other member states; because you point out like many the population and the economics of EU may be larger than the US, but the US formed slowly, not deliberately, over a 200 year span.

    Therefore, as it is right now the EU model is doomed to fail; and this idea of voting itself out for the UK has been around for decades, probably since the joining of the UK. Voting itself out would be liberatory for the UK, and hopefully pointing out to many other country members.

    I welcome your rebuttal; we may not agree on this subject, but isn’t what democracy all about? Exchange of ideas. Welcome back from Kenya


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