Arron Banks, the insurance tycoon and Brexit campaigner who bankrolled both UKIP and Leave.eu, has launched a vitriolic campaign to deselect Remain-supporting Tory MPs who represent ‘Leave’ constituencies.
Mr Banks, whose application to join the Conservatives was rejected, said the aim and slogan of his campaign, called ‘The Blue Wave UK’, is to:
‘Make the Conservatives Conservative again’
But if Conservatives are to be ‘Conservative again’, they would naturally support Britain’s membership of the EU.
That’s because, traditionally, all Tory Prime Ministers and governments had, until now, strongly and consistently favoured Britain being in the European Community.
- It was because of Conservatives that the UK applied to join the European Community in the first place.
- It was because of Conservatives that the UK eventually joined the European Community.
- It was because of Conservative support that Britain’s continued membership of the European Community was won by a landslide in the first referendum of 1975.
- It was because of Conservatives, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, that the Single Market of Europe came into existence.
- The Conservative government in the 2016 referendum officially supported the UK’s continued membership of the European Union.
- Most Conservative MPs voted for Remain in the 2016 referendum.
Since the European Community was founded in 1957, with just one exception, the passionate resolve of all past Conservative Prime Ministers was that Britain should join it and remain in it.
That one exception is today’s Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Mrs May is Britain’s only Prime Minister ever to go against membership of the European Union and the cherished Single Market of Europe.
Some argue that Conservatives of today are not the same as Conservatives of yesterday. They have become more like UKIP.
Indeed, shortly after Mrs May became Prime Minister, the then UKIP MEP, Roger Helmer, told BBC Radio 4 in October 2016:
“I like what Theresa May is doing.
“She seems to have picked up about 90% of UKIP’s programme. In some ways, she’s gone far beyond what we would have done.”
Theresa May is taking Britain out of the EU, whereas all previous Prime Ministers (both Tory and Labour) wanted Britain to be in.
If only today’s Conservative MPs – and today’s Tory Prime Minister – were true Conservatives of the past, then the party that championed our membership of the European Community would not now be relishing the prospect of Britain’s departure from it.
What would past Tory Prime Ministers make of their legacies being destroyed by their own party?
▪ WINSTON CHURCHILL: It was one of the Tory party’s greatest leaders, Winston Churchill, who passionately promoted the ‘Union of Europe as a whole’ and is recognised as a founder of the European Union.
In his famous Zurich speech of 1946, Churchill said,
‘We must build a kind of United States of Europe.. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important..
“If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.’
At London’s Albert Hall, in May 1947, just a few months after his Zurich speech, Churchill spoke as Chairman and Founder of the United Europe Movement to ‘present the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part..’
In May 1948 Churchill said in the opening speech to the Congress of Europe in Holland, that the drive towards a United Europe, ‘should be a movement of the people, not parties’.
Churchill, who also proposed a European ‘Charter’ and ‘Court’ of Human Rights, continued,
‘We aim at the eventual participation of all the peoples throughout the continent whose society and way of life are in accord with the Charter of Human Rights.’
During this momentous speech, Churchill proclaimed:
‘We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.’
“I think that the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community..”
“We might well play a great part in these developments to the profit of not only ourselves, but of our European friends also.”
“By negotiating for British membership of the European Economic Community and its Common Market, the present Conservative Government has taken what is perhaps the most fateful and forward looking policy decision in our peacetime history.
“We did not do so lightly. It was only after a searching study of all the facts that we came to accept this as the right and proper course.”
Mr Macmillan continued:
“By joining this vigorous and expanding community and becoming one of its leading members, as I am convinced we would, this country would not only gain a new stature in Europe, but also increase its standing and influence in the councils of the world.”
Of great pertinence to today, Mr Macmillan added:
“Accession to the Treaty of Rome would not involve a one-sided surrender of ‘sovereignty’ on our part, but a pooling of sovereignty by all concerned, mainly in economic and social fields.
“In renouncing some of our own sovereignty we would receive in return a share of the sovereignty renounced by other members.”
▪ SIR ALEC DOUGLAS-HOME: Mr Macmillan’s successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was briefly prime minister for one year from 1963. He supported Britain’s application to join the European Community, although Harold Macmillan’s application had been vetoed by the French President, Charles de Gaulle.
In his party’s manifesto for the general election of 1964, Sir Alec stated:
“We remain convinced that the political and economic problems of the West can best be solved by an Atlantic partnership between America and a united Europe. Only in this way can Europe develop the wealth and power, and play the part in aiding others, to which her resources and history point the way.”
Later, as Foreign Secretary in Edward Heath’s government that took Britain into the European Community, Sir Alec said in a speech in Parliament in June 1971 on the importance of the United Kingdom’s membership:
“I think the time has come when we must say to the public in our country that the future prospect ahead of us is uncertain unless we can expand our markets and unless we can become part of a bigger organisation; for trade, for investment, and also for political reasons.”
The following month in Parliament he said:
“I have never made it a secret that I cannot see an alternative which would offer as good a prospect for this country as joining the E.E.C. [European Community].”
And he also stated:
“I, too, have concluded through the years that membership of the Community would be advantageous to Britain.”
On the evening of 28 October 1971, Mr Heath addressed the House of Commons during the momentous debate on Britain joining the European Community. He said:
“Surely we must consider the consequences of staying out. We cannot delude ourselves that an early chance would be given us to take the decision again.
“We should be denying ourselves and succeeding generations the opportunities which are available to us in so many spheres; opportunities which we ourselves in this country have to seize.
“We should be leaving so many aspects of matters affecting our daily lives to be settled outside our own influence. That surely cannot be acceptable to us.
“We should be denying to Europe, also – let us look outside these shores for a moment – its full potential, its opportunities of developing economically and politically, maintaining its security, and securing for all its people a higher standard of prosperity.”
Mr Heath added:
“..tonight when this House endorses this Motion many millions of people right across the world will rejoice that we have taken our rightful place in a truly United Europe.”
▪ MARGARET THATCHER: Two years later, in 1975, the Labour government offered the British people a referendum on whether the country should remain in the European Community. Tory leader and future Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, strongly campaigned for the country to remain in the Community.
In a speech in Parliament on 8 April 1975 supporting Britain’s continued membership of the European Community, Mrs Thatcher said:
“Membership of the Community enhances our effective sovereignty by giving the British Government increased influence and bargaining strength.”
“That is what sovereignty in the modern world is really about and that is why Britain is stronger inside the Community than she would be outside it.”
And pertinently to today, Mrs Thatcher said:
“If we were now to withdraw, it would be a leap in the dark. We should not have any idea of the trading conditions into which we were coming out or of the effect on sterling.”
In another keynote speech on 16 April 1975 during the referendum campaign she said:
“It is not surprising that I, as Leader of the Conservative Party, should wish to give my wholehearted support to this campaign, for the Conservative Party has been pursuing the European vision almost as long as we have existed as a Party.”
As Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher also pushed for, and made possible, the Single Market of Europe.
In September 1988 in Bruges, Mrs Thatcher gave a major speech about the future of Europe. She said:
“Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”
Mrs Thatcher added:
“Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better, appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.”
Crucially she said in support of the Single Market:
“By getting rid of barriers, by making it possible for companies to operate on a European scale, we can best compete with the United States, Japan and other new economic powers emerging in Asia and elsewhere.”
▪ JOHN MAJOR: It was former Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, who negotiated and won Parliament’s backing to sign the Maastricht Treaty, that among other benefits gave us EU Citizenship rights allowing us to reside, work, study or retire across a huge expanse of our continent.
He called for Britain to be at ‘the very heart of Europe’.
“I speak as one who believes Britain’s future lies with Europe.”
And Mr Major warned about Britain walking away from Europe:
“We would be breaking Britain’s future influence in Europe. We would be ending for ever our hopes of building the kind of Europe that we want. And we would be doing that, just when across Europe the argument is coming our way. We would be leaving European policy to the French and the Germans.
“That is not a policy for Great Britain. It would be an historic mistake. And not one your Government is going to make.”
And Mr Major crucially added:
“Let us not forget why we joined the Community. It has given us jobs. New markets. New horizons.
“Nearly 60 per cent of our trade is now with our partners. It is the single most important factor in attracting a tide of Japanese and American investment to our shores, providing jobs for our people..
“But the most far-reaching, the most profound reason for working together in Europe I leave till last. It is peace. The peace and stability of a continent, ravaged by total war twice in this century.”
▪ DAVID CAMERON: Theresa May’s predecessor, Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, also strongly supported Britain’s continued membership of the EU, and his government’s official advice to the electorate during the Referendum was to vote for Remain.
In a speech on 9 May 2016 in support of the UK remaining in the EU during the referendum campaign, Mr Cameron said:
“I believe that, despite its faults and its frustrations, the United Kingdom is stronger, safer and better off by remaining a member of the European Union.”
And he added:
“We are part of a single market of 500 million people which Britain helped to create. Our goods and, crucially, our services – which account for almost 80% of our economy – can trade freely by right. We help decide the rules. The advantages of this far outweigh any disadvantages.”
Most pertinently to today’s debate within the Tory party on what kind of Brexit Britain should have (which has still not been settled), Mr Cameron said:
“The Leave campaign are asking us to take a massive risk with the future of our economy and the future of our country.
“And yet they can’t even answer the most basic questions.
“What would Britain’s relationship be with the EU if we were to leave? Will we have a free trade agreement, or will we fall back on World Trade Organisation rules?
“The man who headed the WTO for 8 years thinks this would be, and I quote, ‘a terrible replacement for access to the EU single market.’
“Some of them say we would keep full access to the EU Single Market.
“If so, we would have to accept freedom of movement, a contribution to the EU budget, and accept all EU rules while surrendering any say over them.
“In which case, we would have given up sovereignty rather than taken it back.
“Others say we would definitely leave the single market – including, yesterday, the Vote Leave campaign – despite the critical importance of the Single Market to jobs and investment in our country.
“I can only describe this as a reckless and irresponsible course. These are people’s jobs and livelihoods that are being toyed with.
“And the Leave campaign have no answers to the most basic questions.”
“I believe it is clearly in our national interest to remain a member of the European Union.”
And she concluded then (as opposed to now):
“Remaining inside the European Union does make us more secure, it does make us more prosperous and it does make us more influential beyond our shores.
“I believe the case to remain a member of the European Union is strong.”
So yes, Mr Banks, lets support your campaign aim to make “Conservatives Conservative again.”
The truth is that today’s Conservative MPs who support Britain’s membership of the EU – the ones you want deselected – are in fact the true Tories.
We need those traditional pro-EU Conservatives, more than ever, to represent the majority of Britons who now don’t support Brexit.
- Video: Winston Churchill makes the case for a United Europe
- Video: Former Prime Minister, John Major, on the case for another referendum
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