Saturday, 2 April 2016

InFacts: Maggie’s 1975 pro-Europe case remains strong today

InFacts: Maggie’s 1975 pro-Europe case remains strong today

by Victor Sebestyen

"In 1975 Thatcher tended to use a “big picture” narrative about Britain’s place in the world and our global influence. She seldom became bogged down in the minutiae and the duller details. “As we look at our island story we see that our people have always been at their best when they have been outward looking,” she said at the start of the campaign in the House of Commons. “Political and economic power in the world today is based on continents and on populations the size of the Americas, Western Europe, Russia … Where power resides, there must British influence be exerted.”

Many of the issues in the debate are almost exactly the same as they were 40 years ago. For many diehard Eurosceptics the crux arguments were then, and still are, about sovereignty. Thatcher tackled them head-on.

Joining any international organisation took some sovereignty away, she admitted. Being a member of NATO meant obligations “at least as far reaching as those under The Treaty of Rome. Britain has for generations thought of herself as a power that was different in kind. Proudly so. It is this sense of distinctiveness that (the antis) play upon when they promise ‘independence’ by return of post. But their prospectus ignores the fact that almost every major nation has been obliged…to pool significant areas of sovereignty so as to create more effective political units.”

Many Vote Leave campaigners now argue that Britain should be like Norway – obtain a trading agreement with the Union but stay outside its institutions. This was an option back in 1975 too and Thatcher mentioned it several times on the campaign trail. But she rejected the idea on the same grounds pro-Europeans reject it now. “The choice is whether to be outside…and yet have to accept everything it decided on trading provisions, including standards….or whether to stay in and have an influence over decisions that will seriously affect the whole of our economic life,” she said."

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