For 50 years, Prime Ministers have used duplicity, obfuscation and downright dishonesty to con – or try to con – the British public.1962
HAROLD MACMILLAN made the first, failed, attempt to get Britain to join the Common Market. The move was eventually vetoed by the French President, Charles de Gaulle, in 1963.
However, even Eurosceptical Cabinet ministers such as Enoch Powell were taken in by Macmillan’s protestations that entry was merely about the organisation of a free-trade bloc.
In fact, as the Treaty of Rome that founded the Common Market pointed out, the goal was of an ‘ever closer union’ economically and, more crucially, politically. That last element was kept very quiet.
THE Tories’ 1970 General Election manifesto promised that Britain would once again negotiate entry to what was by then known as the European Economic Community. TED HEATH did more than negotiate: he took us in. Having said that Britain would join only ‘with the full-hearted consent of the British parliament and people’, Heath pressed on with entry even though the enabling Bill passed its second reading by only eight votes in the Commons.
The people were never consulted. Heath didn’t even tell his Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, that signing the Treaty of Brussels to secure our accession committed us one day to joining a single currency – Sir Alec forced Heath to admit this afterwards.
Heath also said that the common agricultural and fisheries polices would have no adverse effect on our farmers or fishermen. The consistent dwindling of our fleet since 1973 was a direct result of his policy and contrary to what he had promised.
HAROLD WILSON’S victory at the two 1974 General Elections was partly won on a promise to renegotiate the expensive terms of Britain’s membership of the EEC, and to have a referendum on whether to stay in. Though he painted the concessions he had won from Brussels as a great improvement, they were so inadequate that Mrs Thatcher had to go back to Europe to demand, and win, a far larger rebate.
Two pamphlets saying the deal was brilliant were sent to every household at the June 1975 referendum. They also protested that there would be no further sacrifices of sovereignty. Again, such promises were in direct contravention of the Treaty of Rome.
BEFORE the scales fell from MARGARET THATCHER’S eyes about the real agenda in Europe, she argued that the Single European Act (SEA) was essential to found the single market within what by then was called the European Community – the ‘Economic’ had been dropped because the community was about far more than just economics. In fact, the SEA did away with our veto on various important matters and opened the way for massive regulation from Brussels and greater interference in what had always been domestic matters. More worryingly, the habit started of important regulations being passed into British law by being debated late at night in an empty Commons or being forced through by Orders in Council.
JOHN MAJOR’S Tory government was very nearly brought down by the Maastricht Treaty. Ironically, he had represented it as a ‘great triumph’ when he agreed terms in the Dutch town just before Christmas 1991.
Mr Major was triumphant because he had secured an opt-out from the Single Currency and the Social Chapter: the truth was that, from then on, constant pressure would be put on Britain to opt in.
The Treaty established the European Union, with so-called pillars of common interest such as home affairs, justice and a common security policy.
Fears about loss of sovereignty were countered by Major and his ministers on two fronts: first, that signing up would give us more ‘influence’; second, that the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ – the EU only undertaking actions that could not be done better at national or regional levels – would prevent centralisation.
In fact, the EU has subsequently sought to expand its areas of competence, there have been few if any signs of more British influence whatsoever and the single currency is an ever-present threat.
LUCKILY for TONY BLAIR, the Treaty of Amsterdam came along just at the time when he was enjoying New Labour’s honeymoon period and basking in unprecedented public adulation. There was little appetite for an argument about the Treaty, or interest in its contents. This was fortunate for Mr Blair because the Amsterdam Treaty followed on from Maastricht in expanding the ‘competences’ of the EU, poaching yet more areas of sovereignty from member states.
A treaty that was said to be merely helping facilitate the smooth running of the EU in fact paved the way for a superstate.
It confirmed citizenship of the union and gave the EU the right to intervene in a range of matters concerning the fight against crime, social and employment policy, environmental and public health policies.
And it enabled the EU to operate a formal – and aggressive – common foreign and security policy.
Robin Cook boasted: ‘We are confident that we can emerge from Amsterdam with a text that will retain the national veto over issues of common foreign and security policy’. They did, but only temporarily.
THE Treaty of Nice was represented by the Government as a way of enabling the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 members. It was all about ‘improving’ institutions. In fact, it was about giving an enormous amount of additional power to Brussels.
It was all about ensuring ‘enhanced co-operation’, but to do this it removed the veto that member states had over anything that might be defined as resisting ‘enhanced co-operation’.
It reduced from two to one the number of British commissioners, enhanced the powers of the unelected President of the EU and paved the way towards Cabinet style government in the EU.
Qualified majority voting was extended in such important areas as appointing members of the EU’s Court of Auditors, and the member states lost their vetoes in 39 areas. As a result, the Treaty represented a further dilution of British ‘influence’ and a further surrender of sovereignty.
OF ALL the inexactitudes uttered over the years, none – except perhaps those of Ted Heath – can match the whopper perpetrated by PETER HAIN. The proposed European constitution would give Brussels control over our foreign, defence and security policies, as well as allowing it to intervene in almost every area of governmental activity.
In fact, it is proposed that British legislators would be able to consider only those matters allowed by Brussels.
It would enable centralisation of the taxation system, and seems to imply that entering the euro is a necessary part of signing up to the new constitution.
Mr Hain has said there would be no referendum on the issue because it is merely a ‘tidying-up’ exercise.
In other words, the British people are not to be consulted on the most fundamental alteration of their sovereignty since the Norman Conquest.