Former diplomat Robert Chase gave a talk on “Some historic and diplomatic arguments for Brexit” at our April dinner starting with key events in Britain’s history, which helped develop our strong sense of separate national identity.
Tied to Europe for 300 years as a province of the Norman Empire, links with Europe were shattered by defeat in the Hundred Years Year’s War, by Henry VIII's break with Rome and Parliament's victory over Charles 1st which rendered the monarchy subservient to Parliament. For 200 years Britain was under threat of invasion by the Catholic Monarchs of Europe. Excluded from Europe, Britain became a global maritime and colonial power. Napoleon's conquest of Europe resulted in the ravaging of Germany, which sowed the seeds of Franco German enmity and competition for supremacy, which contributed to two World Wars.
The origins of the EU lay in Monnet and Schumann's desire to eliminate future wars through the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. This was a first step in the creation of a European Federation under the leadership of France and Germany to replace the nation states of Europe. De Gaulle vetoed British entry to the EEC, believing Britain was ‘incompatible with Europe’ and was hostile to any pan European project. As an unwanted applicant, Britain had to accept harsh terms. The FCO mistakenly believed that the UK could play a leading role as a bridge between USA, Europe and the wider world.
Robert said that he supported the Common Market but, was opposed the Maastricht Treaty which introduced the Euro. PM Major's decision not to adopt the Euro was necessary to safeguard the British economy and democratic freedoms. Being outside the Eurozone meant the UK was excluded from key decision making even though still largest per capita contributor to the EU budget. The role of Westminster was being reduced to that of a parish council. The choice now was citizenship of a province of a European Superstate governed from Brussels by non-elected officials or remaining citizens of a sovereign nation state governed by elected representatives in Westminster.
The speaker at our next dinner on 8 May 2019 will be the Guardian Columnist Raphael Behr. If you would like to come along please call our Chair, Paula Welch on 07510 851722 or visit www.europeanmovementeastbourne.uk