Compare our past Prime Ministers to the current incumbent. Whatever you may have thought of them at the time, by contrast to Boris Johnson, they now seem positively honourable and principled.
Of course, none of those past Prime Ministers was perfect, and all of them had vastly different policies, some of which you may have supported or been vehemently against.
But on the issue of Britain’s membership of the European Community, they were unanimously agreed: they all wanted us IN.
Indeed, that was also the overall view of the country. By a massive 2-to-1, the referendum of 1975 confirmed Britain’s overwhelming support for remaining in the European Community.
And for most of the four decades that followed, Britain as a whole was not unhappy with our continued membership. There was no mass call or demand for us to leave.
In surveys year after year, on the top key issues that most concerned Britons, EU membership wasn’t even mentioned.
Even one year before the referendum, polling showed that support in Britain for our continued membership was running at 3-to-1 in favour.
It was only in the months leading up to the referendum, and the three years since, that Britain has become so calamitously divided on the issue of Europe.
Politicians who should have known better sowed the seeds of division, falsely claiming that the country’s problems were caused by our membership of the European Union.
Now, instead of trying to heal the country, and bring us back together, our current Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, is flagrantly and unnecessarily deepening those divisions, with his aggressive, inciteful language and strident actions, including breaking the law.
Remember, that even Boris Johnson claimed in his Telegraph column in 2013 that, ‘Quitting the EU won’t solve our problems.’ He wrote then,
‘The question of EU membership is no longer of key importance to the destiny of this country’.
He probably continues to believe that today, somewhere in his head, where rational brain cells hopefully still reside.
But those cells are now overridden by his destructive, mendacious and unlawful actions that are ripping the country – and the union of our United Kingdom – apart.
Johnson is under the control of the baying, populist demands of the far-right of his party, and the dark, shadowy Svengali strings being pulled by his chief advisor, Dominic Cummings.
Unfortunately, many across the country are still being grievously misled into thinking that EU membership is the cause of our problems, and that everything will be just fine once we’ve left, even with a severe, no-deal departure.
Compare that with the combined wisdom of ten consecutive past Prime Ministers, all of whom wanted Britain to be in the European Community, in the interests of our country’s welfare and well-being.
Really, could they all have been wrong?
▪ PRIME MINISTER HAROLD MACMILLAN – CONSERVATIVE, 1957 to 1963
In 1961, Mr Macmillan applied for Britain to join the European Economic Community, just four years after it was formed with the signing of the Treaty of Rome by six other European countries.
Mr Macmillan explained to the nation:
“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.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER SIR ALEC DOUGLAS-HOME – CONSERVATIVE, 1963 to 1964
Mr Macmillan’s successor, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, was briefly prime minister for one year from 1964. He supported Britain’s application to join the European Community. Sir Alec 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 EEC [European Community].”
▪ PRIME MINISTER EDWARD HEATH – CONSERVATIVE, 1970 to 1974
It was Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, who joined Britain to the European Community following the backing of Parliament after 300 hours of debate.
Mr Heath explained to the nation just before we joined:
“The community which we are joining is far more than a common market. It is a community in the true sense of that term.
“It is concerned not only with the establishment of free trade, economic and monetary union and other major economic issues, important though these are — but also as the Paris Summit Meeting has demonstrated, with social issues which affect us all — environmental questions, working conditions in industry, consumer protection, aid to development areas and vocational training.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER HAROLD WILSON – LABOUR, 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976
In 1975, just two years after Britain joined the European Community (also then called ‘the Common Market’), Prime Minister Harold Wilson offered the nation a referendum on whether to remain a member.
In that referendum, Mr Wilson endorsed the ‘Yes’ vote which won by a landslide – by 67% to 33%.
Before the referendum, Mr Wilson told the House of Commons on 7 April 1975:
“My judgment, on an assessment of all that has been achieved and all that has changed, is that to remain in the Community is best for Britain, for Europe, for the Commonwealth, for the Third World and the wider world.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER JAMES CALLAGHAN – LABOUR, 1976 to 1979
As Foreign Secretary during the first referendum on Europe in 1975, James Callaghan supported the ‘Yes’ vote for Britain’s continued membership of the European Community, having led the negotiations for Britain’s new terms of membership.
“Britain is in, we should stay in.”
And he also said:
“The Government asks you to vote ‘Yes’, clearly and unmistakeably.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER – CONSERVATIVE, 1979 to 1990
During the referendum campaign of 1975, the Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, strongly campaigned for Britain to remain a member of the European Community.
In a keynote speech at the time 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.”
During her tenure as Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher is credited with pushing for, and making possible, the Single Market of Europe.
In September 1988 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.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR – CONSERVATIVE, 1990 to 1997
It was 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.
At the Tory Party Conference of 1992, just six months after John Major won a surprise victory in the General Election, he said to the party faithful:
“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.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR – LABOUR, 1997 to 2007
Tony Blair, Labour’s longest-serving Prime Minister and, so far, the longest-serving Prime Minister of this century, was and still is a natural pro-European.
In a keynote speech to the European Parliament in 2005, Mr Blair said:
“I am a passionate pro-European. I always have been. My first vote was in 1975 in the British referendum on membership and I voted yes.”
He added that the European Union:
“is a union of values, of solidarity between nations and people, of not just a common market in which we trade but a common political space in which we live as citizens. It always will be.”
Mr Blair concluded:
“The broad sweep of history is on the side of the EU. Countries round the world are coming together because in collective cooperation they increase individual strength.”
▪ PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN – LABOUR, 2007 to 2010
Gordon Brown was the first Prime Minister from a Scottish constituency since the Conservative’s Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1964. He came into power just as the world was going into economic meltdown.
But he saw the European Union as being uniquely placed to “lead the world through global crisis.”
In a speech to the European Parliament in 2009, Mr Brown said:
“Today we enjoy a Europe of peace and unity which will truly rank among the finest of human achievements and which is today a beacon of hope for the whole world.”
He was proud to say that Britain today was a country “not in Europe’s slipstream but firmly in its mainstream”.
▪ PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON – CONSERVATIVE, 2010 TO 2016
David Cameron was the only leader of a main political party to call for a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Community.
During the subsequent 2016 referendum campaign, he urged the country to vote to ‘Remain’ in the EU, which was his government’s official position.
In a keynote speech before the referendum he said:
“Britain is better off inside the EU than out on our own. At the heart of that is the Single Market – 500 million customers on our doorstep…a source of so many jobs, so much trade, and such a wealth of opportunity for our young people.“Leaving the EU would put all of that at risk.
“Expert after expert – independent advisers, people whose job it is to warn Prime Ministers – have said it would shrink our economy.”
▪ ALL OF THESE 10 PRIME MINISTERS had good points and bad points. But during their premierships, they all without exception supported our membership of the European Community as being in Britain’s best interests.
Could they all have been wrong? Please think about it.
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