The man we must all thank
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has, like Gulliver, broken the chains of the Lilliputians that have bound her for the past 47 years. On Thursday 12 December the nation voted overwhelmingly and irrefutably to ‘Get Brexit done’. It granted a huge parliamentary majority to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives to do just that. In so doing, the electorate has sent a clear message that it disapproves of those unrepresentative political and media elites who have over the past three years done their utmost to sabotage its 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union.
‘Getting Brexit done’ will start with the technicalities of securing parliamentary approval of the Withdrawal Agreement so that the country may formally exit politically from the EU by the extension date of 31 January, 2020. Then will commence the transition period during which it is hoped an agreement on future trading relations will be reached. In broad terms, Brexit will mean that the UK will no longer have most of its legislation (or indeed any) dictated by an unelected Commission in Brussels. The House of Commons will, for the first time since 1 January 1973, be free to pass any legislation on any subject it sees fit. Its laws and the decisions of its Courts will no longer be subject to override by a politically-motivated European Court of Justice. Altogether it means that the UK is at long last taking back control of her own affairs and that she now intends re-establishing herself as one of the leading independent self-governing democratic nations in the world.
It has been a long and hard struggle. It began with the then Prime Minister Edward Heath seriously misleading the British people as to the nature of the European Economic Community that he took the country into in 1973. When he lost office a year later his successor, Labour’s Harold Wilson, had a cabinet that was split down the middle as to whether Britain should remain in the so-called ‘Common Market’, yes or no. His face-saving solution was to hold in 1975 a referendum. It resulted in a comfortable Yes majority but the trouble was that hardly anyone knew anything about the Common Market back then; not even prospective MPs. I remember, as a candidate fresh from contesting for the Tories a London seat in the October 1974 general election, attending a party meeting to discuss policy on the referendum where the main reason advanced for supporting Yes was merely that the UK’s entry had been a Tory act.
The 1975 referendum result ensured that the Common Market was publicly viewed as a positive for the UK for the remainder of the Wilson/Callaghan administration and for much of the first two terms as PM of Margaret Thatcher. However, by the mid-1980s many were becoming alarmed by the increasing pace in the transfer of powers from the Westminster parliament to Brussels. Mrs Thatcher herself became Eurosceptic and in her famous 1988 Bruges speech said, ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at a European level’. Such views were anathema to many powerful pro-EU members of her own party who conspired together to bring about her downfall. They included Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine and, most disgracefully and dishonourably, John Major who succeeded her as PM in 1990 and who during his premiership, until 1997, was responsible for the transfer on a wholesale scale of further powers from Westminster to Brussels, including that resulting from the notorious Maastricht Treaty of 1992.Things were going very badly for those of us protesting, singly and unorganised, against this dismantling of Britain but it was during John Major’s period of office that there emerged on the political scene a man who more than any other deserves the lion’s share of the credit for freeing Britain from control by the EU. His name is Nigel Farage. Without his tireless work over the past 25 years in establishing first the United Kingdom Independence Party and latterly the Brexit party; his presentational and political skills and his personal charisma, the pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to agree to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2016 would have been negligible – and easily resisted. His work also as an elected Member of the European Parliament since 1999 is often overlooked, except by those who know of and watch his frequent appearances on YouTube where his scathing and lacerating critiques of leading members of the EU are always highly entertaining and have been so effective in publicising the cause.
I count myself fortunate in having had the pleasure of working with him. Having for many years tried unsuccessfully to influence the Conservative party from within, I eventually resigned and joined Ukip. Some time later Nigel asked me to take over his role as chairman of the South East of England region as he had just been elected leader of the party. I then had the honour of working with him for about 4 years before I retired home to Australia. I recall one incident that for me sums up Nigel’s character.
In preparation for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament, I had set up and chaired a committee of three to interview and select candidates. Nigel was not only the Leader of the party but also a sitting MEP of ten years standing and thus exempt from the interview and selection process. He, however, insisted that he be treated no differently from any other prospective candidate and that I should interview and question him every bit as rigorously as I would any other candidate.
Many other questions on Brexit issues arise, including Scotland and the SNP and Northern Ireland and the DUP/Sinn Fein battle, but space does not permit me to tackle them this time. For now, suffice it to say that the real people of Britain have spoken and their message is that they want their country to once again be their ‘land of hope and glory, mother of the free’.