Finally, after 48 years the 1972 European Communities Act will cease to have effect on Friday night. This was the Act of Parliament upon which our accession to what was then the European Economic Community, better known as the Common Market, was based. It gave primacy to law made by the European Community over any law made in our own Parliament: It was the original ‘surrender Act’.
It was, of course, given democratic sanction and legitimacy by a referendum in 1975 in which voters were asked if they wished to remain within the Common Market. I campaigned and voted in that referendum for a ‘no’ vote: a vote to leave. We were heavily defeated: the people voted to remain by a margin of almost two to one.
Those voters however, were assured throughout the campaign that this was a purely economic arrangement from which we would benefit from freer trade and that there would be ‘no essential loss of national sovereignty’. Nevertheless we were warned by a vigorous No campaign which demonstrated that we had handed over control of our fisheries, abandoned our economic partnership with friends in the Commonwealth like Australia and New Zealand; and we would discover that, in time, the Treaty of Rome, to which we had acceded, really did mean what it said about ‘ever closer union’. We heard both sides of the argument and we made our choice with our eyes open.
The pressure for another referendum grew over the decades entirely as a consequence of the way that the European Economic Community developed into the European Union on a trajectory to become a super state with its own constitution, government, parliament, supreme court, currency, flag and national anthem. It became ever clearer that with each successive European Treaty (The Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon) that we were losing control of our laws, our money, and our borders; that increasingly we were being governed by people who we had not elected and whom we were unable to remove.
To be fair, European advocates of this endeavour never made any secret of their intent, they were open and honest about what they were seeking to achieve. It was our own UK politicians who kept on insisting that the treaties they were signing-up to really didn’t mean what they said.
In my estimate, David Cameron’s greatest legacy (-however he campaigned and voted in the 2016 referendum), is that he committed to having a referendum in his 2015 election manifesto and he implemented the promise when he won it. I was at the very centre of his regime and I well recall the evolution in his thinking: notwithstanding his support for remaining in the EU (though he certainly wanted fundamental reform of it), he recognised that remaining required renewed consent from the British people and he had reached this conclusion well before the electoral pressure from UKIP made it an imperative.
All that is history and we are leaving
We have good friends in the EU with whom we share many interests and objectives. We will continue to pursue those shared goals and to co-operate closely. We will however, no longer be joining them as they evolve into a United Stares of Europe. We will once again be governed by people whom we elect, and whom we can remove.