I joined the Liberal Party (not Lib Dem in those days) in 1961. I was the local Liberal Political Agent in the 1964 General Election (when Harold Wilson won with a four seat majority). In later years I got to meet Harold Wilson on a number of occasions (he was the after dinner speaker) and I grew to like him and in particular his stories, with which he would regale you with for a couple of hours over brandy and a couple of pipes of tobacco
Years later we moved to Carlisle and I became, in due course, the Chairman of the Cumbria Liberal Party and the Carlisle Liberal Association. . I was the Agent for Alan Beith when he was elected as MP for Berwick upon Tweed in 1973. As a result, in the 1975 European Communities referendum I was the Joint Chairman of the YES campaign in the North West of England, sharing the role with Willie Whitelaw (Minister of State for Northern Ireland at the time), who was MP for Penrith and the Borders, a role currently occupied, but hopefully not for long, by Rory (did you see me on TV?) Stewart.
I mention this because I am very conscious about what the British public were told when we had the referendum to join the EEC (Common Market). The concept of joining a political union was simply not on the cards in 1975. The people of the UK never agreed to become part of a political union with other members in Europe. – Yes, we were a founder member of NATO, and continue to be so. The difference is that we pay our way in NATO, whilst other EU countries do not.
The political element crept in with the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which founded the EU and renamed the European Economic Community to become the European Union. The people of the UK were never asked their opinion on this change (although our Government decided that we would not become part of the Euro).
I do not intend to dig deeper into the varying political raison d’être of the EU, suffice it to say that I have no quarrels with any of the “trading” aspects of the EU (which after all is what we joined in 1957 as the Iron & Steel Community and the European Free Trade Area) however I believe that NATO is preferred to an EU Army and that the EU is a trading block, not a united political union.
Finally, I come to the whole question of legal competence. The UK operates a different legal system to the Countries of Europe.
Continental Europe utilizes what is known as the Napoleonic Code of Law whilst the UK operates four different codes of law. English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish. Essentially these are all based on “common law”. The law is developed by judges in court, applying statute, precedent and case-by-case reasoning to give explanatory judgments of the relevant legal principles. These judgments are binding in future, similar, cases and for this reason are reported.
The EU system, based on the Napoleonic Code, requires Judges to determine what the legislature intended when it wrote the law, and not to give any consideration to what other Courts determined in identical cases in previous cases. When Judges can arrive at different conclusions, without reference to previous decisions, it is hardly surprising that the decisions of UK Courts are often reversed when taken to the ECJ.
Finally, only between 5% and 8% of UK businesses export to the EU.
Bearing that in mind, does it make any sense that, if I have the cane bottomed seats in our Kitchen “Bar Stools” replaced because Maureen decided to kneel on them to get goods out of the Kitchen Cupboards, that the repairer, in Matlock, Derbyshire, should get their work CE Certified and stamped? That is just one example. The UK is replete with similar examples, that (thank god because we are British) we simply ignore because we have the common sense to ignore what a Beurocrat in the EU decided was good for us!
However – that is just my opinion. I would encourage everyone with a varying view, to comment. The upcoming election will benefit from the best infomed opinions it can lay its hands on.