Lord Stoddart of Swindon, an independent Labour peer and former Whip in the House Commons between 1975 and 1978, has written this interesting and exclusive article for Get Britain Out:
Who Governs Britain?
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (1957 – 1963) came to believe Britain had become ungovernable and needed to “feel the chill wind of competition from Europe,” if the country was to survive. Britain certainly felt that chill wind with the demise of many great industries and a decline in the manufacturing industry as a percentage of GDP from 32% in 1972 to 10.5% in 2013. Furthermore, our trade deficit with what is now known as the European Union, has been constant and rising, reaching £50billion in 2014. So much for the trade benefits of the European corporate state!
However, in 1962 a blast of common sense and patriotism came from Hugh Gaitskell in his Leader’s address to the Labour Party Conference in 1962, when he warned joining what was then the European Economic Community would put a thousand years of history at risk. Events have certainly borne out his prophecy. Treaty by treaty, step by stealthy step the EEC has been converted to the European Union of which we are all, including The Queen, citizens and whose ambitions are ever closer union and the elimination of nation states. There is little left of British policy which is not now either decided or influenced by the EU. Even Britain’s annual budget has to be submitted to the European Commission for scrutiny and comment.
The Labour Party had maintained its opposition to joining the EEC and opposed the parliamentary bill to do so introduced by Edward Heath. This meant he reneged on his election promises he was only seeking a mandate to negotiate, no more and no less and any decision to join would need the whole-hearted consent of the British people. The bill was opposed not only by the then Labour Opposition, but also by others, including some Tories from the patriotic wing of that party. In the event it was passed at second reading by a margin of only eight votes – hardly representing the whole-hearted consent of the British people. Heath refused a referendum on the basis there was no essential loss of sovereignty (White Paper 1971). This was a big lie since he knew perfectly well the Rome Treaty of 1957 envisaged ever closer union.
Following the defeat of the Heath government by Labour in 1974, which had promised to withdraw from the EEC and had secured the endorsement of Enoch Powell, it was expected that the new government would set the wheels of withdrawal in motion. Instead, the Wilson government, in an act of betrayal of the Labour movement and Enoch Powell, embarked upon a sham re-negotiation and recommended continued membership of the EEC. This split the Labour Party and Wilson was forced to concede a referendum, which was held in 1975. We, thus, had the extraordinary situation where the Labour Party itself was in favour of withdrawal, but a Labour government recommended we remain in. With the government, the Tory official opposition, big business, the City and virtually all the national and the withdrawal camp being out financed by ten to one, it was inevitable that the pro – EEC side would win. Remarkably, though, in spite of the onslaught by the big guns, a third of voters decided they wished to secede from the EEC.
That brings me to the present situation where the country has been promised a referendum in 2017 by Prime Minister Cameron. This may sound encouraging but, I fear it is not as good as it sounds. There are many obstacles to be overcome before any referendum can take place. For example, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and most of the smaller parties are against the holding of a referendum and even the Conservative Party is split on the issue, so there will be real difficulties in getting a bill through the House of Commons.
Even if a bill is passed by the Commons it still has to be agreed by the House of Lords and that will be most unlikely, given the present composition of that House. Whilst it is true that if the Lords do not approve the bill, the Parliament Acts could be used to force it through, this is bound to cause delay to the timetable for a 2017 referendum. A further fly in the ointment is the United Kingdom takes over the presidency of the EU in July 2017, so we could have situation where the British government will be lauding the benefits of the EU at the same time or just before any referendum takes place.
There is also the position of the Prime Minister to consider. He favours continued membership of the EU and his government refuses to answer my questions in Parliament on whether, if their objectives cannot be achieved by negotiation, they will recommend withdrawal. Furthermore, Cameron believes in a Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals and is a great supporter of Turkey’s accession to the EU. He must, surely, realise Turkey has a population of some seventy million, 90% of which is of the Muslim faith, has huge military forces and that 90% of its land mass is in Asia. I fear that Mr Cameron will pull the same trick as Wilson did in 1975 by claiming concessions which are either trivial or not concessions at all.
However, assuming there is a referendum at some time or other, the same old forces will be at work frightening the people about leaving the EU. The same lies about loss of jobs will be told by the government, the same warnings about being side-lined on the world stage, how the City will collapse and our economy lapse into decline. Foreign countries will also back up the stay in side and the USA has already warned that Britain should not leave the EU. Of course the EU itself, and many of its component states will do their utmost to prevent Britain from leaving, not only because they will be losing one of their biggest financiers, but because they fear we will thrive outside their crippling embrace.
Despite all this, there are weapons which can be used against the euro fanatical battalions. The most effective of all will be to expose their record and above all, how they predicted if the United Kingdom did not join the euro currency it would be cease to be among the world leaders. They predicted we would be friendless, that the City would lose out to Frankfurt and there would likely be complete financial and economic collapse. However, because we did not scrap the pound for the euro, the City has remained in prime position and our economy is growing whilst many of those in the EU, including France, are either stagnant or in decline – and there is rioting in the streets there as a result.
These people put their own selfish interests above those of the United Kingdom, its democracy, its history of self-government and freedom. The real issue is: who governs Britain? It is not simply about trade, but about who runs our country, whether it is by our own elected parliament and government or by a polyglot, unaccountable bureaucracy sitting in a foreign land. Given good strong leadership which believes in Britain and its people, pursuing policies which give priority to this country and its interests, Britain can thrive and be a power for good throughout the world.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon