Don’t be fooled: EU enthusiast Teresa May is intent on subverting Brexit (Robert Henderson)

Robert Henderson

In office for less than 48 hours, Teresa May showed her true colours and intentions for Brexit when she made the remarkable promise that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will not be activated until there is agreement between Westminster and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This has the effect of allowing the UK’s departure indefinitely. In a separate statement SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has supported this idea. May has also visited Wales and said she wanted the Welsh government to be “’involved and engaged’ in Brexit negotiations.”

The fact that May’s first act after choosing a cabinet was to go running off to Scotland to meet the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon before embracing the patently absurd idea that both Scotland’s wishes to remain in the EU and the majority UK wish to leave the EU could be reconciled shows this was planned before she became PM . Her visit to Wales, doubtless to be followed by one to Northern Ireland, reinforced the suspicion, if it needed reinforcing, that she is intent on sabotaging Brexit.

There is plenty of other evidence of May’s duplicitous intentions . At her first cabinet meeting she said “we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit”. This is nonsensical if May is committed to Brexit. Regaining sovereignty is what Brexit is about and sovereignty defines what a country is.

What is May’s motivation for this behaviour? Like a majority of Tory MPs she does not want to leave the EU and is intent on finding a way of subverting Brexit. She can do this in two ways:

(1) May will use the excuse of accommodating the wishes of Scotland and, Wales and NI to delay the UK’s exit as long as possible in the hope that unforeseen events, for example, the UK economy goes into prolonged recession, will give her an excuse to hold another referendum.

(2) May will agree terms with the EU which stitch us back into the EU with things such as free movement and she will justify such an agreement on the grounds that Scotland and NI and possibly Wales will not agree to anything less.

All of this would go against what the British voted for on 23rd June. You might say neither this government nor Parliament would tolerate such a rejection of popular will. The problem is that despite the clear majority to leave most MPs, including Tory MP s, wish to remain inside the EU and two thirds of May’s cabinet are remainers. The House of Lords is also solidly for remaining in the EU. In principle Parliament could accept whatever deal is reached with the EU. If it is several years down the line, as it almost certainly will be if Article 50 is activated, this could mean that the voters will have been exhausted and confused by the whole process and fail to protest effectively enough to prevent the stitch up happening.

There is also the possibility that May could distract or “buy” the acquiescence of Tory Brexiteers to a sell-out of the Brexit vote by giving them some red meat such as increasing defence spending and the permitting of new grammar schools.

But even if the British voter is outraged by such a betrayal what exactly could they do to stop it happening? At the next general they could vote against any MP who voted to accept what might be called a Quisling agreement. But who exactly could they vote for? Ukip is the obvious party and there is now a real opportunity for it to gain a serious Commons presence. But it is unlikely to form a government in the near future because history shows it takes a great deal to shift voters en masse to a new party and even in the event of Ukip potentially holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, if a coalition of Labour and the Tories was formed UKIP would be left out on a limb.

It is true that May has appointed three leading Breiteers to posts which will either directly or indirectly impinge on the Brexit negotiations. David Davis (Minister for Brexit) , Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), and Liam Fox (Minister for Trade Deals) to her cabinet . Davis and Fox are long term Brexiters; Johnson is a Johnny come lately Brexiteer whose steadfastness on the issue is highly questionable. But whatever they wish to do these three will probably be no more than window dressing.

May has given Johnson a deputy Alan Duncan who is a remainer and a close associate of May and has been known to refer to Johnson as ‘Silvio Borisconi’ . Fox cannot agree any trade deals until the UK has left the EU and David Davis is already at odds with May over her promise that Article 50 will not be activated until the devolved home countries have agreed to the terms of the deal agreed with the EU.

David Davis wants article 50 to be activated by the end of the year while May has left the date uncertain because of her promise to Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland to agree what is to be sought from the EU before entering negotiations . This puts her directly at odds with Davis and probably Liam Fox and Johnson. There is also dissention in cabinet over when Article 50 will be activated.

Another sign of May’s insincerity can be found in her appointment of Amber Rudd as home secretary. Immigration is issue which won matters most to the public. It is what won the election for the leave side. Yet May’s Home Secretary is soft on immigration . In addition, Rudd and Boris Johnson have suggested that there should be no net immigration target since it cannot be met. Unless Brexit permits full sovereign control of our borders it will not be Brexit as the voters understood it.

With all this going against a clean and honest Brexit it is not too difficult to imagine Davis resigning or being sacked long before the negotiations with the EU are concluded. Fox could follow him out. Johnson is such a slippery individual anything is possible including a Pauline conversion to EU membership. It is possible that the negotiations could end up in the hands of remainers.

I am against using Article 50 because it allows the EU to control matters and leaves the UK as an EU member for at least two years after the Article is activated, but Davis, Johnson, and Fox are all signed up to its use so at present it seems unlikely that an alternative way of leaving will be used. However, it is possible that could change once the public realises that for several years the UK would not be able to control EU immigration and that EU directives including new ones have to be followed. The only thing which can be said for Article 50 is that it in theory means there is no going back. Once activated the UK is irrevocably on the way out. Of course the EU has a record of breaking laws when it suits them it is not out of the question that a combination of EU power brokers and Europhile MPs could simply cancel the UK activation of Article 50 and leave the UK in the EU.

There are two possible alternative means of leaving the EU . Clause 62 of the Vienna Convention on Treaties might allow a much quicker departure (3 months) on the grounds of a fundamental and unforeseeable change of circumstances but only if all the member states of the EU agree to it . I suspect that would end either in denying the UK to depart because on the grounds of such a change of circumstances or embroiling the UK in some form of long-winded arbitration.

The other option would be for Parliament to do what long term campaigner for the UK to leave the EU Lord Stoddart has proposed, namely, repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act and amendments to start the ball rolling. I would support this followed by legislation to both assert the Sovereignty of Parliament (not strictly needed but a belt and braces approach is just as well bearing in mind our Europhile judges) and give a certain legal status to existing EU inspired UK law which can then be kept, amended or repealed as Parliament decides.

The future is more than ordinarily uncertain but one thing is certain. We know May’s “Brexit means Brexit” is in all probability a bouncing political cheque which she cynically issued knowing it would not be honoured.


  1. I haven’t re-read Richard Blake’s “The Break” for a little while. But I do fancy that he wrote about this woman in that novel (names changed of course.)

  2. Another great article, Robert. I’m starting to think Farage shouldn’t have stepped down. He’s not perfect, but I don’t see any of the alternative people heading UKIP as better. We need UKIP to become not just narrowly anti EU, but anti globalist, which means against non-EU migration. The principle we should be able to control EU migration is correct, but by the same token if we lack doctors due to the stupidity of our education system, take them from Poland and not Pakistan, for heaven’s sake. Let’s call it the British Movement Against Globalism.

    • I agree entirely. However, it would be very difficult now for UKIP – even under a new leader – to try and backtrack on its rhetoric about “Indian doctors” and assert a preference for Polish doctors, to the extent that they are necessary. That said, they could always stress ethno-cultural compatibility and reiterate their intention to cap migration at something like 50k to circumvent such accusations. They only ever took up this silly line due to accusations of ‘racism’ from the media, which could have been dealt with in more effective ways, e.g. in pointing out that Europeans, by and large, are caucasian…

      Certainly, though, to the extent that migration is desired, limiting it firstly to Europeans on a preferential basis makes sense.

  3. The woman enjoys not even the thin veneer of democratic legitimacy. Her new position is not the result of an election, but of an event that enjoyed far more democratic warrant (to the extent that such a thing matters/is valuable) than the usual voting ceremony undertaken in the UK. As such, she should be given the boot if she cannot see it through swiftly and efficiently, and feels the need to resort to such underhanded shenanigans to delay Brexit, and any PM salary clawed back. I had hoped she would avoid this sort of foolishness, but it appears that whoever is pulling the strings here will not allow it.

    • Also, regarding the SNP; the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the Union, on the understanding that this could entail, down the line, Brexit. Sturgeon would do well to accept this, although her own self-interest and political raison d’etre would be harmed in the process. Whilst I have nothing against the idea of Scottish secession or a future Scottish independence referendum, trying to argue that Brexit should factor as a catalyst for one or somehow requires the Scottish government’s approval is nonsense and should be rejected as such. This woman ought to be put in her place, and not used for political gain. Alas, it is Theresa May who is now in the position to do so…

    • I signed it, regardless of the following:

      Government responded

      The rules for exit are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. As the Prime Minister said on 27 June, this is the only legal way that has been set out to leave the EU.

      ▼Read the response in full

      The rules for exit are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The Government set out the process for Article 50 in the policy paper, ‘The process for withdrawing from the European Union’, published on 29 February 2016. Paragraph 3.2 in the paper states that:

      The UK’s membership of the EU is established by the EU Treaties, and Article 50 is the process set out in the Treaties for Member States to follow when leaving. It is the only lawful way to withdraw from the EU. It would be a breach of international and EU law to withdraw unilaterally from the EU (for example, by simply repealing the domestic legislation that gives the EU law effect in the UK). Such a breach would create a hostile environment in which to negotiate either a new relationship with the remaining EU Member States, or new trade agreements with non-EU countries.

      The House of Lords EU Committee report on ‘The process of withdrawing from the European Union’ of 4 May has also said that “If a Member State decides to withdraw from the EU, the process described in Article 50 is the only way of doing so consistent with EU and international law.”

      The Prime Minister said on 27 June in his statement to the House of Commons on the referendum that “the only legal way that has been set out to leave the EU is by triggering Article 50”.

      The Prime Minister has been clear that the decision to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU will be for the next British Prime Minister and the next Cabinet.

      Foreign and Commonwealth Office

      In layman’s terms, why should we be giving any credence at all to EU laws that we no longer want to be subjected to, and who runs and operates this “international law” which they are afraid of breaking?

      The exit and relations were always going to be somewhat “hostile”, seeing as it could crash the whole project down – so why exactly can’t we just take our ball home and say we aren’t playing any more – and just put up with the short term wrath?!

      On this basis, Article 50 is NOT the only way that could be taken….or is it?

      • What you quote here is simply the government’s response to the petition to date. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will have to be debated in Parliament, and what the government might say doesn’t necessarily bind Parliament. It’s therefore important to sign the petition.

  4. If I was in May’s position, and if I really wanted to make Brexit happen, the first thing I’d have done is set a date – say, in October – for a second Scottish referendum. It can be done in three months, as we’ve just seen. This time with three options: (a) leave UK, stay in EU, (b) stay in UK, leave EU, and (c) leave UK, leave EU (true Scottish independence, that last one!) And to announce that, regardless of the result, Article 50 would be triggered the following day.

    And if she wanted to do the same with the Welsh and the Northern Irish, fine too.

    So I have to agree with Robert that May is merely playing games. But then, I’m not a poitician…

  5. I have contacted Lawyers for Britain, who believe that the referendum result is constitutionally binding, whether they are prepared to launch a legal challenge to force through Brexit in the event that it is stalled for too long or made clear that it will not occur.

    As much as I am tempted to believe May will flop on this in the end — and there are plenty of reasons to think so — I get the feeling it would simply be too politically suicidal to do so, especially after saying repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit”, suggesting that EU migrants already here might lose their right to remain, and insisting on no free movement.

    Yes, politicians betray us, and we have no friends in the political class; however, I am minded to adopt a position of extremely cautious, critical, and analytical optimism — for now. The twists and turns of this debacle seem to take a new route on an almost daily basis.

    • I’ve skimmed over their arguments at:

      My initial reaction is that, unfortunately, they are wrong. They seem to argue that the referendum is constitutionally binding because there was no provision otherwise in the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and because the language used by the Government in Hansard and in the referendum campaign itself indicates an intention that the plebiscite would be binding. I don’t find these arguments very convincing.

      By virtue of parliamentary sovereignty, Parliament cannot bind itself. To an extent, this is a settled view rather than a rule or theory in its own right, but in matters such as this, it can be regarded an axiom. In my view, the only sense in which the referendum result – whatever it may have been – could have been made constitutionally binding is by inclusion in the Act of a requirement that the Government immediately lay a Bill before Parliament giving effect to the result. The Act does not contain such a provision.

      My view would be slightly different if the majority for Leave had been greater. I would still have rejected the arguments from Lawyers for Britain, but I think a greater majority for Leave across the UK would have put the Remainer parliamentarians in a much weaker position as there would be an argument that, sovereignty having been handed to the people to decide this particular question, Parliament must now act to implement the people’s will.

      • Just to continue my post above, in the event the majority for Leave had been greater, I think Parliament would not be binding itself. It would, rather, be acting on a specific question in response to the overwhelmingly expressed view of the British people. Otherwise, Parliament cannot bind itself and retains free reign to act as it wishes. The only sense in which something can be constitutionally binding is that the Government or the Crown is bound to a particular act: i.e. signing a treaty or laying a Bill before Parliament. Parliament remains free to accept or reject the substance of these things as it wishes.

      • I’ve read the lawyers’ arguments too, Tom. And the quotes from Hansard and, even more, from Cameron’s propaganda booklet, convince me that these lawyers would have a decent case in any society based on honest rule of law. Of course, that means nothing in current circumstances.

        But though I’m no constitutional scholar, I must dispute your claim that “parliament cannot bind itself.” I think they did bind themselves, all those years back in 1972. And if that’s so, they gave away any “sovereignty” they might have had, right there. So, in my view, these lawyers are right.

        • In view of your comment, I’ve just been looking again at the 1972 Act.

          In my view, Parliament did not strictly bind itself in 1972. I think you must have in mind the rule of construction in section 2(4) of the Act, which states:

          [quote]”(4)The provision that may be made under subsection (2) above includes, subject to Schedule 2 to this Act, any such provision (of any such extent) as might be made by Act of Parliament, and any enactment passed or to be passed, other than one contained in this part of this Act, shall be construed and have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this section; but, except as may be provided by any Act passed after this Act, Schedule 2 shall have effect in connection with the powers conferred by this and the following sections of this Act to make Orders in Council [F7or orders, rules, regulations or schemes].”[unquote]

          This is mainly a reference back to sub-section 2(2), which provides for prerogative Orders in Council and statutory regulations to be made to give effect to the Communities Treaties. You must think that this, in effect, amounts to Parliament binding itself, but it seems to me that it is always open to Parliament to repeal this.

          There is also the Factortame series of cases to consider:

          In my view, these established only political devolution of decision-making to Europe, not legal and constitutional devolution of sovereignty.

          • Tom, I said I’m no constitutional scholar. And I think you’re trying to blind me with “science.” (Just like the climate profiteers).

            Let me try to put my argument in simpler terms. If you accept that a society has a right to make an agreement with another society, then how can you not accept that they have a right, later, to rescind that agreement – unless the agreement specifically said they couldn’t?

            And if in the case of EU accession it did say that… then we the people were conned, and should prosecute the bastards responsible.

            • I’m not trying to blind you with science. I know no more about the law than the average person. I’m just attempting to demonstrate how, in my opinion:

              (i). Parliament cannot bind itself, and this is not just a settled view, but a constitutional axiom of Britain; and,

              (ii). the 1972 Act does not subvert the axiom that Parliament cannot bind itself.

              It is clear that the 2015 Act that brought about the referendum contained no provision whatever binding Parliament to its result. If it were intended that Parliament would be bound by the result, this would have been stated and the precise conditions under which MPs would, exceptionally, consider themselves bound would also have to have been spelled out explicitly.

              This did not happen, and that being the case, Parliament is under no legal or constitutional obligation whatever.

              To answer your comment, I don’t think most people are suggesting we can’t withdraw from the EU. There will of course be some who think that this should be the political reality, as they will see the EU as a new organic geopolitical combination – a new nation-state, if you will, with its own inherent legitimacy – and will view Brexit as illegitimate in and of itself, but they will be the minority fanatics.

              However, societies are complex things and I don’t think your analogy works, although I appreciate you might be using it merely to illustrate a point. This was not a simple contract where one party enters into an agreement with another. Our relationship with the EU began as an international treaty in which Britain was committing itself to political and economic integration with the then-EEC, which was and is a dynamic process. Unless the result of the referendum represents an overwhelming rejection of that process, those of us who wish to withdraw are placed in a difficult position because we are arguing against almost half the population. The difficulty is compounded if the government of the day lacks the fortitude to take swift action and instead would prefer to delay. As we delay more, the mandate for Leave will erode. I think this is what is now happening. I still think Brexit will happen – I think to block this would be seen as too brazen – but it will be ‘Brexit-lite’, the Norway Option, which more or less puts us back at square one, give or take.

              I certainly want us to withdraw from the EU immediately, leave the Single Market, ban free movement into Britain and restore our sovereignty – and much else besides. I agree that the result of the referendum should be morally and politically binding on Parliament. To ignore the referendum result or try and reverse it would be a great catastrophe for Britain’s long-term national interests, in my opinion. However, the referendum result is not, in itself, legally or constitutionally binding. No serious argument can be made that it is, and that being the case, the Establishment’s Plan B, the Norway Option, is now being put in hand, with their loyal gopher, Theresa May, at the helm. This is partly why I was, and remain, angry at the Scots. I recall on referendum night, as the English results came in, the Leave vote pulled away comfortably. It was the Scots who narrowed the margin and it is they who have left us in this predicament.

              • No Tom, I can’t agree.

                You say: “Our relationship with the EU began as an international treaty in which Britain was committing itself to political and economic integration with the then-EEC.”

                I looked up the 1975 referendum booklet. It said nothing at all about political integration. (It did say at one point something like “bring together the peoples of Europe,” but who back then would have understood that as the meaning?) So how can you say that anyone voting in that referendum had supported any commitment by “Britain” to political integration with the then-EEC or anything else?

                And if 37 per cent of the population eligible to vote aren’t enough to decide a single issue, then how much bigger a majority should be required to decide who will form a government? After all, that gives them a “mandate” to do what they want to us for several years. Shouldn’t it require at least, let’s say, 51 per cent of eligible voters?

                Moreover, I don’t understand why you think that a small majority has no legitimacy. If a board of 25 directors votes on an issue 13 to 12, does that invalidate the decision? Surely not. I can see the problems with “tyranny of the majority,” but when push comes to shove, do 17,469,601 people have the right to overrule 17,469,600? Yes or no? Isn’t that exactly the problem “democracy” and voting are supposed to solve?

                I’m sure you’re aware of my view that the inevitable result of such “democracy” is to pull societies apart. But right now we’re in the worst of all possible worlds. According to those that consider themselves our lords and masters, some outcomes – the ones they favour – have “legitimacy.” Others don’t.

                I do remember saying before the referendum something like, “Whichever way it goes, there will be a lot of angry people.” I think I was right.

                • I think the dichotomy you appear to be making between political and economic integration is false and does not reflect reality. Political integration is co-dependent with, and co-determinant of, economic integration – even coterminous with it. You can’t truly have one without the other. Politics and economics occupy the same space conceptually and practically. Who controls the currency controls the nation, etc., and so on. This was understood by the architects of the original European Communities after the War, with their PhDs, habilitations and educations at the elite lycées and finest Grandes écoles. Unlike English thinkers, they were steeped in ‘political economy’, but it was understood by our own governments anyway. It was also understood by those, on both the Left and Right, who warned against EEC membership – especially Enoch Powell, who during the referendum campaign of the mid-70s you refer to, made clear the ‘political dimension’ of the EEC.

                  Supranationalism and, ultimately, continental federalism, have been their project all along – and explicitly so. The true nature of the EU is that it is a pooling of executive competences across Member States, allowing the elites to act untrammelled and unchecked, with the illusion of ‘democracy’ provided by a largely toothless, Soviet-style congress, in the form of the European Parliament. This was admitted publicly in so many terms, and it was discussed as a factual objective in secret by our own [treasonous] civil service, as released papers have revealed.

                  As an aside, I happen to think Pan-European unity is a noble and worthy goal – for the Continentals – as long as it retains national identities, and as long as the Continentals keep thalassocratic Britain out of it; and, crucially, as long as we British can resist the temptation to scheme against and break-up every attempt at Continental union. But it’s a matter for them. We should not have been dragged into it.

                  I wasn’t alive in 1975, but I will defer to your knowledge and experience in regard to what was officially transacted between the British public and its government. All I can say is – if the British public in 1975 couldn’t figure out that economic, commercial and trade integration would also mean political integration, then either they are dimmer about politics than I thought, or they have turned a blind eye to the reality of the matter. I suspect it’s the latter, as I don’t think the public are generally dim. I think, if anything, the public are in a conspiracy with the elite and have consented to this, in much the manner that a prisoner consents to an amenable term of imprisonment. They were ‘persuaded’ and willingly played along and, let’s be honest, have played ‘dumb’ ever since the advent of the popular franchise. As I related on a different thread, when I was growing up, ordinary people still spoke of ‘the Common Market’ long after Thatcher’s Single European Act had accelerated the integration process. The illusion that this was just a trading bloc of some kind was maintained, even as domestic policy in Britain was affected for the worse. But it was an illusion that the British public chose to give credence. They had a chance in 1975 to bring us out, but they chose to believe the lies they were told – and they were lies, quite shameless lies.

                  Turning to your other points, I don’t think the analogy of a Board of directors is helpful. In an English company, the binding status of Board decisions is codified, or at least implied by the Board’s status as decision-maker or executor of company decisions. That is not the case constitutionally for referenda of the British electorate. Parliament retains supremacy. A better analogy might be to liken the British electorate to the customers of a blue chip company, and Parliament might be likened to a general meeting of that company, with the Cabinet analogous to the Board. Yes, the company must be mindful of what its customers say, and yes, ultimately the consumer is sovereign and, collectively, customers can bring down a company through direct and indirect actions, but it is the general meeting (analogous to Parliament) that makes the key decisions and delegates other powers to the Board (analogous to Cabinet), which decides the company’s direction and charges the company’s officers (analogous to civil servants) with day-to-day operational decision-making.

                  The public’s power is of a reserve nature in this scenario. Parliament can ignore us. At the same time, if Parliament might be unwise to ignore us and might face an armed revolt. Of course, then we come back to the whole issue of gun control and the need for an armed population, which was part of the English constitutional settlement. But the absence of widespread gun ownership does not, in itself, change the constitutional position. We can still revolt, armed or not.

                  I haven’t said the small referendum majority in 2016 for Leave has no legitimacy. Quite the opposite: I consider the result to be morally and politically binding on Parliament and government. I believe it would be very dangerous for the elite to go against it, and they (most likely) won’t because they have always had Plan B (the ‘Norway Option’) open to them. They will now give full effect to this, using their paid lackey, Mrs. May. However, strictly speaking, the referendum result is not legally and constitutionally binding. It cannot be. That would be the case even with a large majority for Leave, it’s just that a large majority would have shifted the political calculus more in favour of leaving the EEA outright (or, at worst, negotiating special status within the EEA).

                  • Well I was alive in 1975, in fact I saw Enoch Powell speak during the referendum campaign, and he certainly did warn against the political dimensions of the EEC. So those who now try to say that they thought they were only signing up to a free-trade area delude themselves. The public were lied to, that is certainly true, from Heath’s oft-repeated, and clearly dishonest, assertion that there would be ‘no loss of sovereignty’ to the wholesale pro-EEC propaganda of the MSM – from memory, only the Morning Star was against it.

                    “In a recent debate in the House of Commons our Minister of Agriculture said: ‘If one were to ask the average British person whether he would rather have two shillings in his pocket with our present economic sovereignty or four shillings without it, I have no doubt what answer he would give.’ Neither have I; but it is the opposite answer to that which the Minister meant. The average British person would reply: ‘I don’t believe I shall get four shillings by giving up my sovereignty; but I wouldn’t if I did, because I never have and I never will.’
                    Given this widespread resentment, the British Government find themselves forced to argue against their own case, by representing steps towards economic and political unification as remote and in any event capable of being slowed down or vetoed by Britain as a member of the Community. When at home, Ministers find themselves talking down such documents as the Werner Report and quoting with approval any statements from their opposite numbers on the Continent which imply reluctance to hasten the pace of unification. There are, however, three distinct contradictions in this attitude. One, as I have noted, is that it involves arguing against the very grounds on which British accession itself is commended. Secondly, it involves asserting a British attitude which is highly suspect at Brussels; it is necessary to stress the constitutional impossibility of one British parliament binding its successors and the intention of Britain to act as a brake on unification. Finally, it is little consolation to those opposed to losing national sovereignty to be told that it will only happen later on and that sovereignty will be retained in detail after entry, provided it has been ceded in principle before entry.
                    It must be admitted that the news which the British hear from inside the Community is extremely puzzling to them, and that this assists our politicians in the necessary process of anaesthetising the British people while they undergo the operation to remove their national sovereignty.”

                    Enoch Powell in 1971.

                    • Charles G; “So those who now try to say that they thought they were only signing up to a free-trade area delude themselves.” Sir, I was not deluding myself. I believed Prime Minister Heath when he assured us that there would be no loss of essential national sovereignty, and that the supremacy of EEC law only applied to certain trade areas, and that we could veto anything we didn’t like. I also took one look at the ‘outers’ – Tony Benn etc, and concluded (erroneously perhaps) that their interests were not the same as mine. I made a further fatal error in dismissing the warnings of Mr Powell as the ramblings of a bitter man who had recently been sacked by the Conservatives and had recently urged people to vote Labour out of mere spite. I can only try to excuse my misjudgements by saying that I was young and no more interested in politics than were most ordinary voters. I just took it all at face value.

                      I voted to stay in a free-trade area called the ‘Common Market’. It was sold to the British people as being about trade and nothing else. Whenever the issue of sovereignty, or of further union, arose, it was instantly dismissed.

                      Yes, we could have read the Treaty of Rome, but most people didn’t. We relied on the advice of politicians whom we thought we could trust. Back then, of course, we hadn’t enjoyed a long tradition of politicians, whose allegiance lay elsewhere, deliberately trying to hoodwink the voters, so perhaps we were naive. I certainly was, but I’m sure I speak for millions – tens of millions – of British voters who felt as I did and voted accordingly. That is not self-delusion, sir.

                    • For what it’s worth, my recollection of what happened in 1975 is the same as Hugo’s. I was young and completely uninterested in politics. I didn’t look behind the arguments that were fed to me, and I didn’t vote in the referendum. Knowing what I know now, I was naive. I suspect the main reason that relatively few young people voted in the recent referendum may be similar.

                    • Charles G – I was not deluded, I was deceived. As were millions, tens of millions, of others. To describe me as a “salesman’s dream” implies that my gullibility was exceptional. I do not believe that is a fair criticism. Mine was the majority position. Twice as many voters believed Heath as saw through it all. The whole process was designed to stop people finding out the truth. You only have to read document FCO 30/1048 to see that this was official government policy at the time, and of course it still is.

                    • “I was not deluded, I was deceived”. You were persuaded to believe something that wasn’t true – you may pick your nits as you wish. Furthermore, you were persuaded by someone who had clearly lied on the issue of the Common Market in 1970. So what possible grounds you had to believe him in 1975, on the same subject, I can’t imagine.

    • I think there is a very strong case for the courts, if it got that far, deciding that it is binding simply because all the politicians behaved as though it was binding. I defy you to find in referendum literature or in speech any leading politician saying it is not binding.

  6. Quite a plausible analysis, unfortunately.

    The referendum was obviously a stunt that misfired and the last few weeks have been about the establishment scrambling to regain control. This has now been pretty much achieved – with the bonus that a lot of people who should know better have been fooled into thinking that they have a radically new government.

    As for Davis, I think the plan is that he will be allowed to get himself into some kind of argument with Brussels that will neatly necessitate his resignation. Which May will “reluctantly” accept, of course.

    What a pity that he didn’t go to the Home Office instead, where he might have been able to do something useful. But of course nothing that radical was ever on the cards.

  7. Neil Lock – you may have looked up the 1975 referendum booklet, but maybe you should be looking at the Treaty of Rome. I distinctly remember Heath telling us late in life that the Treaty of Rome promised full political union and that we knew what we were voting for in 1975. You didn’t bloody say that at the time, did you, Mr Heath? “No loss of essential national soverignty”, wasn’t it?

    As for the referendum being binding (or not) in law, the issue as I see it is that it doesn’t commit the government to a specific course of action within a specific time frame. We have voted ‘out’, and the government is saying ‘Ok, we’re working on it’. They can keep this up for years, without specifically denying the referendum outcome. Then there will be an election in 2020, and who knows what might happen between now and then?

    I suggest we should view this issue through the other end of the telescope; the EU has been more than fifty years in the making. If we leave and prosper, there will be a stampede for the exit, and the entire EU will collapse in five minutes flat.The EU and its fellow travellers simply will not allow this to happen.

    Also, it has long been a fundamental requirement of the Conservative Party that its leaders shall support the EU ‘project’. There was one leader who failed to meet this criterion, and we all know what happened to her. I cannot accept that this fundamental principle has suddenly and so easily been jettisoned. Furthermore, if the will of the people is implemented, it will be the first time in the history of the EU/EC that this has happened; Denmark killed off the Maastricht Treaty in a referendum and was told to go & vote again. Ireland likewise killed off Nice and was told to think again. France and the Netherlands vetoed the Constitution for Europe and were ignored. Ireland, unbelievably, was told to do a re-run for the second time on the Lisbon Treaty. The Netherlands rejected the Ukraine deal. All these treaties (except possibly the last one) were killed stone dead by these referenda, but like Zombies (or is it Vampires?) they just don’t stay dead. So why should our referendum be any different?

    The other major issue that I have with Article 50 is that para.4 reads as follows; “4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.”. So what exactly is David Davies’ role in all this? Does he in fact HAVE a role? The EU has said (obviously in my view) that they are not interested in holding preliminary informal discussions prior to our invoking Article 50. Of course they’re not! Why would they hold talks with us when they can hold talks without us, once we have applied to leave? They (the European Council – the heads of State of the other 27 member States plus the Commission President) will shut themselves away in a room and emerge two years later to tell us under what terms they will permit us to leave. We remain bound by the Treaties for the duration, of course, and under the Lisbon ‘Passerelle’ clause, they will be able to amend the Treaties by unanimity without having to worry about our veto, since we won’t be there to veto anything. I believe that by the time they have chewed us up and spat us out, the British people, when they learn the terms of our withdrawal, will be on their knees begging to be let back in again.

    Ok, you say, let’s just repeal the 1972 ECA and be done with it. The problem is that if we do so, we shall be acting illegally and in breach of our Treaty obligations. I don’t for one minute think there will be tanks through the Channel Tunnel, but the French, for example, could (literally) pull the plug on us and plunge our computer-dependent country into darkness.

    I have been in this game for over twenty years, and I have never wavered in my belief during that period that if we want out, we will have to fight our way out.

    • Hugo, sorry I didn’t read your comment here before responding to the one higher up. But we’re essentially in agreement. The one difference I see between this and (at least) the Dutch referendum was the turn-out. 72 per cent is a lot. If I remember, the turn-out for the Dutch one was in the low 30s.

      • These posts seem to have got hopelessly out of sync! If there is no minimum threshold for turnout specified before the referendum, then it should make no difference. As it happens, I believe it would have been quite proper to demand a 2/3 majority on a 2/3 turn-out before our referendum could change the status quo, but those were not the terms, and as Mr Cameron said, ‘a win by one vote is still a win’. I bet he regrests saying that now 🙂

        • He may or may not regret it. He might have been working for our side all along. Or his calculation may have been that to impose a 2/3 majority requirement would have caused more problems than it solved. Remember that the margin in England is much wider than 4%. That’s just an average, but in most of northern and eastern England, the margin is well above 66%, and in very many areas, touching on 75%. It’s overwhelming. Even in most of southern England, the majority was for Leave in every district.

          Now imagine a scenario in which the UK-wide vote is narrow but England votes overwhelmingly to Leave. We would be in a national crisis because it would mean that the Celtic nations and ethnic minorities in England would be stopping the native English withdrawing from the EU. Perhaps Cameron calculated that, if it came to the worst, it would be better to have Plan B (‘Norway Option’) than press England into a continued unhappy relationship with the EU.

  8. Hugo Miller – if you believed Edward Heath then you were certainly deluded. This was the same Heath who campaigned in the general election of 1970 on the basis of: ‘negotiate, no more no less’, and who then took us into the Common Market three years later without any further consultation. He made little of the EEC issue in 1970, although his intentions were always clear. He was awarded the Charlemagne Prize for his treachery. If you believed Ted Heath, you must have been a salesman’s dream in those days.

  9. In the matter of politicians lying, I would agree with Charles and I would reiterate what I have said above: government lies are normally a conspiracy between the liars and the lied-to. As harsh as it might seem, the claim, ‘We were lied to’, does not cut the mustard. Politicians and other official types lie all the time. This is not an excuse for poor decision-making on the part of voters. Normally, the relevant facts are in the public domain, it’s just that the public are choosing to believe the liars.

    We were lied to about mass immigration, not just by politicians but also by experts. But the public believed the lies, because they wanted to believe them – either because they wanted to be conformist, or gave into official bullying, or because it suited their individual self-interest to accept the policy.

    Yes, the politicians and civil servants are villains. But the public are villains too.

    We were lied to about the Iraq War – not, as most people seem to think, about the existence or otherwise of so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction’, but about the real motives for the War and also the capability of those weapons. Yet at the time of this War, most of the people favoured it. Indeed, overwhelmingly so.

    I was not alive in 1975, but it is quite apparent even to me that the public were lied to quite shamelessly by the elite. Though Heath et al were not lying in a strict sense as much as being wilfully disingenuous. When they said things like, ‘No loss of essential national sovereignty’, they meant ‘no such loss now’, but papers revealed from the official archives show that it was known at the time that the EEC was a project for political integration. All this talk of it just being a Common Market was nonsense.

    But the public chose to believe these lies. Remember that being lied to does not result in an involuntary response. We must decide whether or not to believe what we are told. Those who voted at the time must accept their share of responsibility for keeping us in, since the true facts about the EEC were widely known at the time. You can’t just blame ‘traitor Heath’. At best, you were suckers.

    What Huge Miller says above about the history of how the EU treats the popular will, and also how Article 50 might work in practice, tells us what we need to know about the current situation. Article 50 is a trap. It provides that the UK would leave after two years whether or not negotiations are concluded, but that will not happen. Instead, we will be locked into the agenda and priorities of the EU, and in particular, the Franco-German axis.

    However, I disagree with this:

    [quote]”Ok, you say, let’s just repeal the 1972 ECA and be done with it. The problem is that if we do so, we shall be acting illegally and in breach of our Treaty obligations. I don’t for one minute think there will be tanks through the Channel Tunnel, but the French, for example, could (literally) pull the plug on us and plunge our computer-dependent country into darkness.”[unquote]

    This is overly alarmist. It would not be illegal to take the repeal route. It is not ‘illegal’ to resile from treaties. We would be asserting our national sovereignty and acting in accordance with our own constitutional laws. Given your own summary of the situation, I think the only conclusion has to be that we must repeal the 1972 Act now and exit immediately, otherwise we risk being dragged back in, or at best, having to settle for the Norway Option.

    • Ah, this is where it gets interesting; yes, you are quite correct, it is not illegal to resile from treaties – intergovernmental treaties that is. But Lisbon is different. It was formerly called the ‘Constitution for Europe’, remember (Europe, please note, not the EU). This treaty abolished the existing, intergovernmental, EU, and it created a new entity, a unitary state, also called, confusingly, the European Union. A new country called ‘Europe’ in fact. We are no longer a ‘nation’ co-operating with other nations; we are a mere Member State of this new country. The Lisbon Treaty is now our Constitution, and if we ignore the procedures set out in Lisbon, we will be in clear breach of our treaty obligations.

      We can debate it all we want, but ultimately, whichever way you cut it, this issue will be decided by the European Court of Justice. Now, we can, and I believe we should, just tell the ECJ to get stuffed, but we should recognise that if we do so we will be acting illegally, and be prepared to defend our actions with whatever resources are necessary. It is interesting to note that South Carolina in 1861 had a perfectly lawful right to secede from the United States, but they were crushed by the illegal use of force on Lincoln’s part. We, by contrast, enjoy no such legal right to secede from the EU, except via Article 50.

      And Charles, I do wish you want stop insulting me and the tens of millions of others who were duped into voting to stay in the first referendum. I might be wrong, but I believe that this notion of politicians deliberately trying to inveigle us into a course of action that they knew we did not want, was a new departure in British politics. “We must deny with our lips what we are doing with our hands” as Arnold Toynbee once put it. In 1975 it wasn’t called ‘Europe’; it was ‘The Continent’ and the Continent was the place to be. All the sensible players on the stage argued for free trade with the Common Market, and it was only the nutters who were opposed to it. Even Margaret Thatcher was duped, for Heaven’s sake, and she was a professional politician, so how do you expect ordinary people such as myself, a humble bus driver at the time, to know what Machiavellian scheme was being hatched in secret behind our backs? If you knew at the time what was being planned for us, then I congratulate you on your prescience, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us were ‘deluded’. “Trick me once..” etc.

      • There was no intention to insult you, Hugo, if it came over that way then please accept my apologies. I certainly wouldn’t claim to be any more ‘prescient’ than anyone else, and I didn’t need to be, the facts were there for those who took the trouble to look at the evidence. Those who believed Heath in 1975 were tricked by him more than once, but once was enough for me. I voted for him in 1970, because I believed him when he said ‘Negotiate, no more no less’. Yes, I too was misled, but when he reneged on that promise three years later I didn’t allow him to be mislead me again.

        Furthermore, it wasn’t just that he had revealed himself as a lying Euro-fanatic, and someone who was clearly prepared to say and do anything to get this country into the EEC. Enoch Powell, Peter Shore and many other honest and decent politicians like them, spelled out in great detail what it was all about. I really don’t understand, nor accept, that any thinking person could have believed that we were just entering into some free-trade arrangement with Europe. We had VAT imposed on us, the CAP, free movement of people, high net-contributions (second highest in the Community) and many other rules and regulations from Brussels.

        • I venture to suggest that who fooled whom in 1970-75 is rather less important than what is to be done today.

          • Granted, but the past should inform us – if it’s needed – of the dangers of believing anything that pro-EU politicians say. And that is surely highly relevant to this article and thread.

            • Yes, but ruling class interests change over time. In 1970, a replacement was needed for the Empire, and an excuse for doing over the unions. Today, there is an arguable ruling class interest in getting out of an organisation that isn’t economically useful and membership of which pisses off the serfs.

        • Glad to hear I am no longer classed as ‘deluded’ 🙂 I don’t really want to labour this point, since as Sean says it’s historic, but Powell had recently been sacked by Heath, then he had urged people to vote Labour, and now he was opposing membership of a ‘free trade area’. These seemed to me at the time to be the actions of a bitter and vengeful man, and I therefore dismissed them. Peter Shore was just a long haired old leftie, and Tony Benn, well, I don’t know what to say about him, but anyway I disregarded them both. All the sensible people seemed to be in favour of free trade, as was I, and millions of others. We just took the whole thing at face value – why wouldn’t we? (don’t answer that!). .

          ‘Prescient’ of course is not the correct word, because as you correctly state, all the facts were in the public domain, but the fact is that they were being concealed as far as was possible while the positives, true or not, were being emphasised. A kind of ‘project fear’ in reverse.

          VAT seemed to me as just another way of raising tax – a replacement for Purchase Tax – so what? You say it was ‘imposed’ on us – yes, but following the instructions in FCO 30/1048 it was not dressed up as an imposition.

          This document, for those who are not familiar with it, says in essence that our membership of the EEC would be bound to cause problems, and that the European origin of such problems should be concealed from the public, adding (I paraphrase) ‘It will take the public thirty five years to figure out what is going on, by which time it will be too late’. Their timing was spot on – it is indeed now ‘too late’. The introduction of the Lisbon Treaty has imprisoned us inside the EU, with the only legal escape route being via Article 50. In other words, post-Lisbon we can only leave on their terms; prior to that we could have just repealed the 1972 ECA and walked away. We shall find out just what this means for us over the next two years.

          To recap, I think what I am trying to say is that you would have to have been pretty politically aware to realise what was going on, and most people weren’t. I wasn’t, for sure. It took the Maastricht Treaty to get me seriously involved. There was one word that ran through that Treaty like the lettering in a stick of Brighton rock – and that word was “irrevocable”. That did it for me. Prior to 1990, my growing concerns were assuaged by the knowledge that Maggie would always defend our country against overweening European ambition. She did, and she paid the price for it.

  10. I don’t want to labour the point either, and I promise this will be my last word in this thread, but please have a look and listen to that ‘long haired old leftie’ you ‘disregarded’ in 1975.

  11. This whole ‘Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire’ theory of history does get a little tiresome. Yes, they lied in 1975. They lied shamelessly, and then they lied again, just for good measure. But that’s their nature. Does anybody really think they tell the truth? Because if you do, then I’d like to mention that I have a used car for sale on eBay. It’s a real goer. Only done 50,000 miles. Really.

    You know they lie, but that’s just human nature. The reason people go on about politicians lying is because they don’t want to take responsibility themselves. Nearly everybody was in favour of the Iraq War and ‘believed’ Mr Blair’s ‘lies’ until they decided they were against it. Then, suddenly, Blair was a ‘liar’ and a ‘war criminal’, or whatever.

    The public are villains and hypocrites – every bit as much as politicians. It’s just that politicians are better at it, which is why they’re successful at politics in that they make a living out of it. As I’ve said before, politicians were not brought up on South Sea islands. Their morals and ethics reflect those of the people they grew up with and the society they have been socialised into.

    The only real difference today between the plebieans and the elite is that the elite are just better liars, and the plebieans are jealous.

    They lie about everything.

    If David Cameron told me it was raining and hailstoning outside, with record thunder storms imminent, I’d strip down to my swimming trunks and look for the Factor 10 sun lotion. If she said it was hot and sunny, I’d put on my best winter mac, wellingtons, gloves and scarf, and I’d ensure I had my umbrella before venturing out.

    I’m not sure his successor, Theresa May, is quite as brazen. Cameron really was a brazen, shameless liar. He really took the dog’s biscuit at Crufts. The man missed his vocation: there’s a used car garage full up of stock somewhere.

    P.S. That’s a great speech by Peter Shore. Makes me nostalgic for the old-style politicians who were colourful characters and could deliver REAL speeches.

    • “The only real difference today between the plebieans and the elite is that the elite are just better liars, and the plebieans are jealous.”. Really? I assume, then, that you count yourself as neither a Plebean nor a member of the Elite? So what does that make you?

      I am happy to be called a Pleb, in which case I have to say I find your statement above highly offensive. Some of us – most of us – regard lying as reprehensible. Jealous of Cameron, or of Blair? I wouldn’t want their reputations for all the tea in China!

      • I regard serious lying as morally reprehensible as well. But that’s an easy thing to say. I might as well say I oppose murder. We’re not going to find many objections to the proposition that wrong-doing is reprehensible.

        But here I’m summarising – perhaps in a colourful way – how the world works realistically, rather than how it perhaps ought to work in a dream from a fit of fancy.

        In reality, people lie, and if everybody habitually told the truth instead, I’m not altogether sure that would produce a better world. It might produce something much worse. At any rate, it’s the way we are and the social world must be judged accordingly. There must be – or at least, I assume there is – some kind of evolutionary reason (and, if I may say clumsily, ‘purpose’) why people tell serious lies and also why people believe serious lies. There must be some evolutionary advantage to it.

        Since it’s the way people are, deception is the hallmark of our political system and almost every singular social institution that is a projection of human sensibility. Marriage is a lie. Capitalism is a lie. Politics are lies. You may find these truths offensive, but then, that merely serves to demonstrate my point thus –

        (i). that people readily believe lies, especially meta-lies; and,

        (ii). even when they don’t believe them, they believe them anyway; and,

        (iii). there must be some deeper, primordial imperative or bio-social dynamic that causes this, or at least explains it.

        To put it plainly and bluntly – it’s the way we have been wired.

        I’ve had this out with Neil Lock before (I can’t remember which thread it was), when he was telling us how wonderful the American people are and how evil their rulers are. I made the point that if the American plutocracy are so evil, then why do the American people put up with them? Is there not a moral responsibility on the American people as well? This type of anti-elitist moralising that people engage in – the whole ‘Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire’ thing – is misguided because it ignores the responsibility of individuals, who choose to believe official lies.

        • None of which supports your unlikely contention that ‘ordinary people’ are jealous of politicians because the latter are better liars. I am not an habitual liar, but if I told you I had never told a lie then of course I’d have just confirmed myself to you as a liar. But, jealous of Cameron? Of Blair? Come off it.

          Your post above illustrates why I prefer animals to humans – with animals you always get total honesty, whereas with humans there always seems to be a subtext, and you often have to read between the lines of what people are saying to divine their true meaning. Most people seem to find that easy, but I’m just useless at it.

          And yes, I agree, if everybody was totally honest with each other all the time, it may not necessarily make for a better world.

          • What I meant when I suggested “ordinary people” are jealous of the elite is that there is class envy at work when people accuse elite personalities of significant lying. The reason I think this has already been explained – you have to believe a lie for it to have any materiality. If the public believed the lies about Iraq, even though the propaganda was plainly absurd and could be demolished in, if you’ll forgive me, 45 seconds, then what right do they have to even accuse Blair and others of lying? The public are liars themselves. At least politicians have an excuse for lying – in Blair’s case, it’s probably blackmail and the promise of a pay-off.

            I can understand why it’s difficult to accept that basically everything is a lie, and an individual’s advancement through life and level of acceptance from others depends on their ability to tell whoppers. I believe the human facility for serious dishonesty, on the one hand, and credulity and gullibility on the other, are two sides of the same coin. Both confer an evolutionary advantage. They must do, otherwise we wouldn’t be so easily conned and we wouldn’t try and lie to other people. If there was no evolutionary benefit or adaptive advantage to such behaviour, we simply wouldn’t do it.

            The evolutionary advantages of lying probably go beyond simple personal self-interest and day-to-day survival. It’s likely that lying also enables complex socialisation, including the aggregation of human associations found in everything from tribal to feudal to urban societies. We need to have brains that allow us to believe ridiculous assertions. Whether it’s that the King is divinely ordained or that we must fight a war in France and seize Calais or the nation will perish, or Iraq can launch missiles in 45 minutes or Quaddafi must be overthrown for the sake of humanity, or whatever is the latest bollocks this week, most people will believe this stuff. They have IQs somewhere in the 90 to 100 range and their brains operate on hive programming. The facility to tell giant whoppers and the facility for believing them are probably located in the same part of the brain and perform complementary functions.

            My basic contention is that human beings, on average, are built to tell lies and deceive each other. Some do it better than others. The really clever ones who are good at it are the ones who in ancient societies became the priests and the clerics, and in our society make up the Establishment. I would even question whether in ancient and primeval societies, simple physical strength was at all a political necessity for rulers. I suspect we have always been overlorded by dishonest intellectual elites, but I’m not an anthropologist (or anything else). In my experience – it could be I am wrong, I admit I am quite a cynical person – success or failure through life is largely dependent on an individual’s ability to tell believable lies, and most people are manipulable if you know how. Power systems, whether in politics, or in companies and businesses, or in universities, or whatever, are built to optimise psychological control and manipulation, of which force and the threat of force is only a small part. Of course, I’m using the term ‘lie’ in a very broad sense. This argument, now I think about it, could be quite problematic for the general libertarian case, as it hinges on human beings having a certain moral and intellectual capacity that I suspect, in the majority of cases, they do not have – but again, I could be wrong.

  12. It’s all based on a lie – the lie that you are free when everything you do is at gunpoint. So, ultimately the people of this country are complicit for enthusiastically supporting that system. The Berlin Wall fell – the fact the government has all the guns isn’t the issue, the fact is the overwhelming majority of people support the use of force against the individual who dares to want to live free.

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