A citizen’s perspective.
Sir Winston Churchill quoted in 1957:-
“ We genuinely wish to join the European free trade area, and if our continental friends wish to reach agreement, I am quite sure a way can be found and that reasonable adjustments can be made to meet the essential interests of all.”
The UK joined the European Community in 1973 under Edward Heath, later ratified by a referendum in 1975 under Harold Wilson.
So what went wrong? For the last 3 1/2 years, the politicians and citizens of the United Kingdom(UK) have been torn between those wanting to remain in the European Union and those wanting to leave.
If the majority of the politicians in the UK had wanted to leave, the UK would have been out by now.
A BBC survey showed the following results for MPs who had announced their intentions: 73% wanted to stay in the EU, 27% wanted to leave. The results of the 2016 referendum gave 52% of the voters wanting to leave, 48% wanting to stay, and that I suspect is why the current impasse exists.
So where does democracy lie, with the people or the politicians? If you look at a voting map of the UK, all of Scotland wanted to remain, most of England wanted to leave with small pockets of remain, notably around London. In Northern Ireland, the majority was to remain. The vote was very close and it has split the country.
The argument came down to money and control. The money the UK pays into the European Union and the lack of control they have in running the country. But with the control came benefits, the most important being the freedom of movement of people, goods and services. You could be a citizen of the United Kingdom and work relatively freely in any member state of the European Union. The same with goods which could be moved freely due to the elimination of customs duties and trade quotas.
The membership fee is distributed to other member states, depending on their needs, some of which included the United Kingdom.
Immigration was probably the most emotionally charged of them all. People coming to the UK and swamping public resources provided by the National Health Service and the benefits system. And, although immigration has generally been good, the infrastructure has not been expanded to cope with it. Currently, most people struggle to get a doctor’s appointment within two weeks. Facebook didn’t help at the time; my newsfeed was constantly showing me the images of immigrant floods, criminal behaviour of immigrants and immigrants being accommodated in five-star hotels. Obviously, since then, the actions of Cambridge Analytica have come to light
Another point to consider is that the UK is an island nation and this tends to make them a little insular and did help to define the British identity. The British have always claimed to be British and not European. Neither were they invaded during the Second World War so there’s no shared experience.
The leave campaign was fond of using this particular Churchill “quote.”
“We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”
Sadly, this is two quotes 23 years apart.
“We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.” This was written in 1930 for America’s Saturday Evening Post and reflected on the extent and influence of the British Empire. A United Europe was only a pipe dream.
The second part, “If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.” was not said by Churchill after the war, but during the war on the eve of D day and came about during a row with De Gaulle over the American involvement in the Second World War. The full quote is:-
“We are going to liberate Europe, but it is because the Americans are with us. So get this quite clear. Every time we have to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea we shall choose. Every time I have to choose between you [De Gaulle] and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.”
Now it is 2019 and the UK is not much further than it was 3 1/2 years ago. A deal has sort of been agreed, but the Government does not have the majority to push the Bill through for the 31st October deadline. An extension has been agreed with the EU, so the details of the Bill can be properly scrutinised (although cynics would say ‘create further delay ‘). An election has been proposed for the 12th December.
And the citizens are confused, angry and frustrated. A democratic vote was taken 3 1/2years ago to leave the EU. Where does democracy lie?