A sea change in attitudes

In an attempt to inject a positive note, following the debacle of the general election, I believe that there has undoubtedly been a sea change in attitudes to membership of the EU since the referendum.

I remember when I first became politically aware to any extent, at about the time when Heath became leader of the Conservative party in 1965. Those of us who took an interest in these things knew that he was a supporter of the European project and even then feared for the country were he to become Prime Minister, as at that time the Labour party was still basically opposed to involvement. When he did succeed in winning the election in 1970 it became obvious that he was determined to take the UK into the embryonic single European state and the first organised resistance came into being.

However those of us who spoke or campaigned against EU membership were treated as eccentrics, or worse xenophobes, who did not understand the issue. The Conservative party, at one infamous conference, declared itself to be the party of Europe, with only four delegates opposed, while almost every media outlet either ignored our warnings, or looked upon us as not worthy of consideration, or inclusion in any debate on the subject. Those politicians who did take our side were ignored or dismissed as extremists. This was never more true than in 1975 when the truths spoken by Enoch Powell on the right, and Tony Benn on the left, were derided, while smug, complacent social democrats like Roy Jenkins offered us inducements such as cheap wine, without admitting that the cost would eventually be our democracy.

These attitudes continued to hold sway for many years, despite the efforts of first Michael Foot to convince the electorate of the dangers of involvement with Brussels, and the later, somewhat belated conversion of Margaret Thatcher to the anti EU camp. We who tried, via organisations such as ‘Operation Out’ and the Campaign for an Independent Britain, to place the true nature of the ambitions of the architects of the European project before the public were dismissed with contempt, not least, even in those days, by the talking heads of the BBC.

So it continued for decades, with the anti EU voices being sidelined and, for those of us who were not public figures, such as the MPs opposing Maastricht, finding that our letters to the press went unpublished, and that there was no avenue to success within the main political parties, unless one accepted involvement with Brussels as a given, not to be disputed. Of course once we had established UKIP this climate changed but, nevertheless, we were still treated as outsiders and our arguments scorned by those who claimed to know better.

When UKIP made significant inroads in various elections the Europhiles had to admit that their efforts to pretend that there was no alternative to EU membership could not be sustained, but of course they ridiculed every statement we made about the dire effects of continued involvement and the main stream media, led again by the BBC, refused to give any credence to the optimistic forecasts we made about life outside the EU. Almost every political commentator, and the self appointed spokesmen for business interests, continued to sing from the same song sheet, that it was imperative that we remained within the EU.

However, since the referendum, despite all the efforts of the Remainers to undermine Brexit, we at last see the arguments we have been putting forward for so long appearing in the press, hear commentators now accepting the truths about the EU, which were once denied, and read many articles by those involved with businesses, other than those of the CBI, declaring that the future can be bright post Brexit.

Although we always knew what we said to be correct it still seems almost a fantasy that at last we are believed and that our cause has been recognized by those not of the liberal elite as being right. There is a long, hard road ahead, and the Remainers have had successes in the past months, but, after many years of being a voice crying in the wilderness, we can no longer be dismissed as irrelevant.