Letter to the Editor, 10th August 2019

Sir,

Following the heavy parliamentary defeats of Theresa May's Brexit plan, the time has come to review the mantra that "Brexit means Brexit", and to ask why the quest for Brexit arose - and why it persists.

As I see it, the main objections to Britain's continuation in the EU project, whatever the detail, are all ultimately linked to retaining a semblance of an independent national identity with a unique culture in an increasingly interconnected world.

Ever since we joined, Europe has been on the path to something called Ever Closer Union. I well remember voting to stay in Europe, back in 1975, when I was voting to be part of a common market. Any suggestion that I had also been asked to vote for Britain to be part of a political union had not been top of the agenda and I was dismayed when subsequently I was issued with an EU passport instead of a British one...

I share with the "leave"; campaigners of 2016 a desire to protect our country from further European political integration, and to increase or at least retain powers for our national Parliament. In the 90s, I supported the "keep the pound" campaign, so as to retain a means of controlling our domestic economy, and like the leavers, I still do not support any suggestion we should join the Eurozone.

These issues formed the main aspirations of the leave campaign: all of them tackled and potentially resolved on the basis of the deal for remaining in the EU that David Cameron announced on 19 February 2016. Indeed the text of Cameron's deal very clearly states "the Treaty references to ever closer union do not apply to the United Kingdom". As Cameron said, putting it simply, "Britain will never be part of a European superstate." Regrettably too little was made of these major reforms during the campaign to remain. These pledges could well have persuaded more moderate leavers that their concerns were being met without the need for Brexit and the consequent loss of the multiple benefits of continuing membership.

Rather than pitting us against each other over a false divide, it is time to acknowledge and examine the common ground between leavers and remainers. Our Parliament needs to look again at Cameron's deal to remain, so that the split in the country can begin to be healed, and potential break-up of the UK can be avoided.

Instead of devoting its skills to a negotiation to leave the EU, any new government should be persuaded to devote its skills to a negotiation for "staying in". Perhaps, it could even improve on the terms of the deal with Europe that David Cameron announced. It is certainly a good basis for negotiation with the other countries of the EU as it had their approval in 2016.

As "a reluctant remainer" at the time of the Referendum, I have long favoured and still hold the view that Britain's interests are best served by being "In Europe - but not run by Europe".

Roger Mace
Honorary Alderman







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