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HomeNewsPaul T Horgan: Brentry took years, expect Brexit to be equally tortuous

Paul T Horgan: Brentry took years, expect Brexit to be equally tortuous


Judges are not there to merely implement law in the way Parliament dictates, but to interpret it according to pleadings from Her Majesty’s subjects. This country has seemingly always had issues with the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary. It does not help that we do not have a written constitution.

However, there are advantages, not least that the State does react to changing circumstance relatively well. The United States of America has still not come to terms with the advances in firearms technology and the establishment of standing armed forces usurping a well-regulated militia as being necessary to the security of a free State. Its constitution’s second amendment equates the Kalashnikov rifle to a muzzle-loading musket and ignores the enormous defence budget.  And don’t get me started on when states want to secede from the Union.

Some perspective is needed here. People seem to have forgotten how Britain entered what was then known as the European Economic Community. Forget Brexit for a moment and consider Brentry. I am not referring to the Bristol suburb.

Britain entered the EEC on January 1st 1973, an event commemorated in cupro-nickel by a special fifty pence coin. No-one at the time noticed that the design, nine hands in a circle-fondling session replaced the image of Britannia with her Union Jack shield. It was not the case that the then prime minister, Edward Heath, rolled up to Brussels in his ministerial Rover in autumn 1972 and, after a quick chat with a cabal in a gloomy smoke-filled back room over a green baize-topped table, was initiated into the gang before someone broke out the Johnny Walker. No. The idea of joining was first proposed in 1961.

“On 27 July 1961 the Cabinet agreed that the British Government should make a formal application to accede to the Treaty of Rome”, wrote Harold Macmillan in his autobiography. The decision was announced to a Parliament eager for answers four days later. There had been much discussion and debate before that day.

This was not even the first step. Britain tried to initiate a free trade area with the members of what would be the signatories to the Rome treaty back in 1956. Macmillan sought harmonisation between the European Free Trade Area, which included Britain, to the nascent EEC. Charles de Gaulle vetoed this in 1958.  France’s intent at that time was not so cordial. De Gaulle would issue two more vetoes in the following years.

De Gaulle wanted to create a Franco-German axis to compete with the Anglo-American special relationship as well the Warsaw Pact. In this axis, three would have been a crowd and France might have been at risk of being a minor partner.

However, Parliament debated Britain’s application. You may read the debate here. On the 3rd August, the House divided: Ayes 313, Noes 5. One of the Noes was Michael Foot, apparently defying a whip.

Labour abstained. They tried to modify the motion such that Parliament would note, rather than support the decision. As with the rise of fascism on the Continent in the 1930s and the threat of the USSR in the 1980s, Labour demonstrated an inability to react to foreign events. So much for internationalism. Eight days later, East Germany started erecting the Berlin Wall. Some years later that benighted country was chosen by our current Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as the ideal holiday destination for him and his latest squeeze, or the Shadow Home Secretary as she is currently known.

A child, having completed their first year in infants school in summer 1961, would have its provisional driving licence, a string of O-levels and be in its first job on the day Britain finally entered the EEC. And we still believe that Brexit will be done and dusted by 2019.

The delay in entering the EEC was mainly due to the vetoes by Charles de Gaulle. “The British will only enter the EEC over my dead body”, he may as well have said, as he had been in his grave for slightly over two years when Britain finally joined.

Leaving the EU is a political matter. So it seems reasonable that politicians of all hues should have their say. Brentry was a tortuous affair, taking the better part of two decades. It took a veto of one country out of six to make it so. There are now twenty seven other countries in the EU. It took a single region of one of the smallest countries to derail a major trade agreement between Canada and the EU. International politics, despite the camaraderie of the group photographs at the summits, is a hard-nosed affair with all parties, however small, acting in their own interests.

This one will run and run. If you have children in reception, they may have their GCSEs by the time we are fully out. R (Miller) -V- Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is but one of numerous twists and turns to come. Be patient.

(Image: R/DV/RS)

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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