Goodbye Project Fear, Goodbye Brussels
We have been insulted, ridiculed, and abused, but we stuck to our guns. Now, a surprising number of economists think we can prosper outside the sclerotic, regulatory nightmare that is Brussels. The future is ours for the taking
I have never been one for the trappings of celebration. I really don’t care if my passport is red, blue or white with pink spots, as long as it doesn’t have the words ‘European Union’ on it.
I can’t get excited about Big Ben bonging, as long as we leave the EU at 11pm on 31st January in orderly or disorderly fashion. And I shan’t be joining a late night party outdoors in London in January, thank you.
A bottle of decent champagne for me: I have nothing against France or its products, and if I longed for symbolism I might follow it with some Italian chianti and a German schnitzel. And some reflection: more than anything else, this is a time for sombre reflection.
We started the movement to leave the EU in 1991, before it was even called the EU. We began campaigning because of what we read in the draft Maastricht Treaty. ‘Europe’ -- of course they meant the countries of the European Union, and it is important not to conflate the two -- was to have a flag, an anthem, a currency and an army: all the trappings of a nation, into which ours would be undoubtedly subsumed.
I remember now what I thought then, 28 years ago: that after all this time, 1,100 years since Alfred had united the Anglo Saxons, nearly three hundred years after the Act of Union, we were going out without a last hurrah, as we might have done if we had lost one of our many wars, but with a whimper. The Government never referred to what it was signing as ’The Treaty on European Union’, only to ‘1992’ when all kinds of wonderful opportunities were supposed to be presented to our exporters.
Back in 1973, when people had asked what was meant by ‘ever closer union’ the Heath government said not to worry our pretty little heads, that was just the way Johnny Foreigner talked. In 1991, John Major knew he couldn’t get away with that, so he just called it something else. '1992' sounded modern.
They called us mad as we made speeches to a few curious attendees in village halls. The BBC had a policy of not allowing us to be heard, except in terms of ridicule. Lunatics, swivel eyed nutcases; I have been called a fascist, a nazi, just for objecting to my country being effectively annexed without even the option of voting on it.
They said Britain could not survive outside the EU: ‘We can’t go it alone’. They said we knew nothing of economics, of business. Yet now, a surprising number of economists think we can prosper outside the sclerotic, regulatory nightmare that is Brussels. Rather than, as a friend said, ruining the lives of her children we seem to be presenting them with some attractive opportunities.
And they accused us of nationalist warmongering. When I told one EU apologist I was in favour of us leaving he replied ‘Aren’t you in favour of peace?’. This was shortly before the streets of Athens were plastered with pictures of Angela Merkel with a toothbrush moustache. It never occurred to them that peace, such as has been achieved between America and Japan these 75 years, could happen without common regulations on vacuum cleaners and courgettes, but simply by not fighting.
We have been insulted, ridiculed, and abused, but we stuck to our guns. And we won. Let’s say two bottles of champagne: there’s plenty to think about now we are out.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
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