The following briefing paper was launched by the campaign group, Better Off Out, on St George’s Day and explains well what our continued membership of the EU would mean for England.
In 1973, Britain joined what was then the European Economic community, before reaffirming its commitment in a 1975 referendum that explicitly described the community as “The Common Market”.
At the height of the Cold War, when Britain’s economy was stagnating and the country was becoming renowned as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’, it was sold as a purely economic arrangement between nine Western European nations. At our moment of entry in 1973, the contemporary Prime Minister was unequivocal: “There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.” – Ted Heath, television broadcast, January 1973
At first, we were enthusiastic members of the club, with even Margaret Thatcher – who signed us up to the Single European act, which promoted a combined European foreign policy and gave more power to the European Parliament initially in favour of membership. Since Black Wednesday in 1992, however, our relationship has been grudging at best, with the UK forced to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), before deciding not to join the disastrous single currency project (despite Tony Blair’s best efforts). Forty-one years on from our first referendum, it is clear that this is no longer solely about economics (if it ever had been), with most of our laws made in Brussels, membership costs running to the tens of billions per year, and plans afoot for an EU army – very little of which the British people want any part.