Permit me, through your columns, to respond to those who accuse me and others of voting to leave the European Union out of ignorance.
I voted ‘leave’ because, way back in 1992, I read the full text of the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) and I suggest that before continuing to express their ill-founded prejudices ‘remainers’ should do the same.
At that time I was the Member of Parliament for the Ludlow constituency and one of the very, very few MPs who actually read the treaty, in spite of my writing personally to each and every one of my Conservative colleagues urging them to do so.
Incredibly, the then Foreign Secretary, having signed the treaty on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, is reputed to have said ‘now we must go home and read what we’ve signed ourselves up to’ or words to that effect!
In the 1990s the Conservative Parliamentary Party was just as split on the question of European Union as it is today and Prime Minister John Major only succeeded in getting the ill-fated Maastricht Treaty on to the statute book by dint of making it a ‘vote of confidence’ in his administration – a somewhat pyrrhic victory given that the consequence was a crushing defeat at the ensuing 1997 General Election!
In 2001, whilst still an MP, I left the Conservative Party – or rather, it left me – because, in spite of all its protestations to the contrary, particularly at election times, it remained committed to British membership of the EU and the ‘ever closer union’ spelt out in the treaties.
So where are we today?
Sadly we appear to be right back to where we were in 1992, but with one significant difference.
On 23rd June 2016 the British people told their elected representatives, in no uncertain terms, that they wanted out of the European Union.
There was no ambiguity about it – given the choice of Leaving or Remaining the electorate voted Leave by a majority of well over 1 million votes, but what of the poor old Conservative Party?
The immediate reaction was that the Tory Prime Minister, who had pledged himself unequivocally to deliver whatever outcome the voters chose, quit!
They then elected in David Cameron’s place a ‘Remainer’ whose ‘Chequers agreement’ now looks destined to lead at the next General Election, which might not be long delayed, to yet another Tory annihilation.
Will they never learn?
In the wake of Theresa May’s abandonment of her oft-stated so-called ‘red lines’ in the EU negotiations, her deaf ear towards the concerns of her Party activists and not least her alienation of up to 17,410,741 ‘Leavers’, we see a resurgent UK Independence Party.
In opinion polls, UKIP support has increased in recent weeks from 3% to 8%. Under their new leader, Gerard Batten MEP, the party is well on the way to regaining the sway it held at the time that the level of its popular support so threatened Tory electoral prospects that David Cameron was forced to concede the EU Referendum, just to get them off his back.
The result of that referendum dealt the Tories a potential winning hand, but the way they have played their cards and continue to do so is beyond belief!
The UK held all the aces but Mrs May’s government have allowed each and every one of them to be trumped, to the extent that those who thought UKIP’s job was done are now coming round to the realisation that it is, after all, the only show in town!