HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
The year of 1975 saw the first appearance of ‘The Sweeney’ on British television, the Bay City Rollers reached number 1 in the charts with ‘Be My Baby’, and ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ debuted at cinemas to great effect.
It was the year of the awful Moorgate tube crash, the end of the Vietnam War, and the year Margaret Thatcher (mercifully) replaced Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party. Nineteen Seventy Five was also the last -and only- time Britons had the chance to vote on our country’s relationship with its European continental neighbours.
Forty years ago this month British voters chose to stay in the European Community, which we had joined two years earlier. Back then, the public was asked if Britain should stay in the Common Market, which many equated with increased opportunities for trade, more jobs and a much needed boost for the economy.
Ahead of taking Britain in to the EEC, in June 1971 Prime Minister Heath’s government circulated a White Paper to every household in the country, which promised the (rightly) sceptical public that “there is no question of Britain losing essential sovereignty”. Viewed from today’s perspective we know Heath could barely have been more wrong; such an assurance about the risk to our right to govern ourselves was either naïve, deceitful, or possibly both.
The European Union of modern times is anything but a mere trading market. Unidentifiable, unelected Brussels bureaucrats interfere in the affairs of democratically elected Governments; foreign judges overrule our courts; and an unmanageable, unsustainable single currency has brought other European economies to their knees.
Back in 1975, the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins –another deluded Europhile- declared that the result “puts the uncertainty behind us, it commits Britain to Europe”. However, the fundamental changes in our relationship with the European Union and subsequent loss of sovereignty has left the British people hungering for a diet of less Brussels.
That’s why I’m delighted that during the past week the new Conservative Government has started the legislative process for a straightforward in/out referendum on Britain’s future in the EU. The referendum will be held by the end of 2017, following the Prime Minister’s negotiations with Brussels for a fairer settlement. David Cameron has been clear that immigration, welfare and competiveness will be at the heart of this.
1975 also saw Status Quo release their album ‘On the Level’, but when it comes to Europe the status quo is not good enough; it is time to level with the British people – the EU isn’t working and must change, and whether we stay or leave is no-one’s choice but theirs.