Brexit: Not Turning Our Backs On Our Neighbours

My letter published in the Times on 25th October testified as to what were in my experience of the Referendum campaign the four things which Leavers did NOT want. These are:

  1. No continuing right of 450 million EU nationals to move and settle in the UK as of right.
  2. No compulsory payments to the EU’s budget.
  3. No right of EU boats to fish in Britain’s internationally recognised waters (the UNLOSS Treaty of 1964).
  4. No role for any foreign court, including the European Court of Justice, in Britain’s internal affairs.

These are the incontestable rights upheld by all of the 165 non-EU countries in the United Nations, ranging from Angola to Uruguay. This is all – just simple assertions of a sovereign people wishing to rule themselves.

Nowhere did I find anyone saying or even implying they wanted to “turn their backs on EU countries”, still less insult them.

Yet asserting these 4 principles has brought forth a torrent of castigation of Leavers from influential writers like Max Hastings (“Our rudeness to European allies is shameful”, Times October 31st) to a lady letter writer who recalls living through the Second World War and talks about “turning our backs on nations that have always been our friends”.

Both these correspondents clearly have difficulty in distinguishing between clients and allies, between friends and partners, as does most of the British political establishment. Nations, like people, change in their affections – only blood ties are on-going as we saw when New Zealand for instance, thousands of miles from the conflict, offered her one ocean-going frigate to help Britain’s tightly stretched fleet in the Falklands conflict.

That Leavers are now grievously disappointed at the difficulties and threats thrown up by the EU negotiators is understandably true, but our language is mild compared with the comments you can hear in various Continental parliaments, of which “perfidious Albion” is among the mildest.

In a few days’ time Remembrance Sunday will bring to mind the one and a half million gravestones of British and Empire soldiers from the two World Wars who are buried in 9 of the 14 pre-2004 EU countries – former enemies and allies alike. For this reason alone, and there are many others, British people and their kin in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, couldn’t “turn their backs” on “Europe”, even if they had other reasons which self-evidently they haven’t. Today, Britain stands ready to fulfil its obligations to defend its NATO allies in Europe as it has done continuously since 1945.

It is the European Union and its poking into every “nook and cranny” of our national life, which the British want to leave, not the Europe of friendly people, splendid buildings (ancient and modern), magnificent countryside, tremendous mountains and coastlines which we love to visit, and welcome these same people as visitors to our land.

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