The reasons why the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union are often misunderstood, particularly on the Continental side of the Channel.
M. Barnier has told us that as a young Gaullist one of his first political activities was to campaign in the French referendum on the admission of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark to the EEC. A few years later I was just old enough to vote in the first referendum we held in 1975. I voted in favour of the UK staying in the EEC.
My uncle Geoffrey Howe was always a firm supporter of the UK’s engagement in the EC. As a lawyer, he was the architect of the UK’s constitutional Act of Parliament in 1972 which gave direct effect to the treaties and suspended the UK’s normal constitutional rule of the supremacy of Parliament in favour of the primacy of Community law.
He was later Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. His conflicts with her about European policy are well known and eventually led to her departure from office.
But despite this personal background, and despite my original support for our membership of the EEC, by the time of the 2016 referendum I was firmly convinced that the right path for my country was to leave the European Union. So I was pleased to lead the lawyers’ official campaign group for a ‘Leave’ vote.
The fundamental reason is this. The ever growing spread of EU laws into wider and wider areas removes the democratic right of the British people to live under laws which are decided upon by their elected representatives in Parliament.
The spread of Community law (and later EU law) and the consequent loss of sovereignty has always been regarded in the UK as a negative feature of our membership. It has been tolerated in the past, because it was perceived to be in the economic and trading interests of the UK to join a trade bloc with internal free trade.
But alongside the ever wider spread of EU law, the pattern of the UK economy has been changing in ways that dramatically reduce the benefits and increase the disadvantages of belonging to such a bloc.
To read Martin Howe’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.