40 Years

In his last column of the year, Booker of the Sunday Telegraph has a cracker of an article, well worth reading in full, combining the themes of climate change and the EU noting that 2012 was the year that these long held beliefs are beginning to collapse.

Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of our membership of the EU (EEC as it was known then) “the maddest political experiment in history” where there will be much coverage, some of which has already started. As Booker alludes to, fighting such comprehensive belief systems has been a lonely and frustrating business. Oppose the EU, and you are called “xenophobic”, “a nutter”, or “Little Englander”. Question climate science and the insults consist of “climate-change denier”, “anti-science”, a “flat earther”. But all that has changed:

For many of the major stories which have long been followed by this column, 2012 has been the year when long-dominant belief systems and fondly held illusions have been conspicuously falling apart, portending a time of agonising reappraisal when familiar certainties give way to greater realism and painful rethinking.

On Tuesday, for instance, much coverage will be given to the 40th anniversary of the day in 1973 when Britain finally junked “1,000 years of history” – in the famous words of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – and threw in her lot with the attempt to create an all-powerful super-government over the nations of Europe. (Gaitskell had shrewdly predicted, in his speech back in 1962, what the Common Market, as it was then known, was intended eventually to become.)
It is 20 years since this column began regularly reporting on the damage that our membership of the European Union (as it was then about to become, under the Maastricht Treaty) was starting to inflict on our national life. In those days, to question our membership was to be dismissed by all right-thinking people as a crank, a nutter, a xenophobe who could not be taken seriously. When at the start of 1992, I first began reporting horror stories about the tidal wave of new regulations hitting so many British businesses with the approach of the Single Market, along with the destruction of our fishing industry and much of our agriculture, we were still locked into that forerunner of the single currency, the ERM (almost unanimously supported, it is salutary to recall, by every political party and right across the media).

Forty years on from our entry into “Europe”, as we see “the project” plunge deeper into the misery and chaos it has brought on itself by its even more hubristic desire to give the EU its own currency, British attitudes to our membership have changed beyond recognition.

Reality has kicked in, which Booker notes must inevitably be painful and bewildering, for those that hung to such beliefs for so long

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