Two thousand & sixteen has been an amazing year for me and the vote to Leave the EU, on the 23rd June, was the culmination of a fight that began on the 1st January 1973, when Ted Heath took Britain into the Common Market, 44 years ago; saying he had a mandate from the British people after the Conservatives won the General Election in June 1970.
The reason why I was so unhappy about Britain joining the Common Market? Let me explain. I was 14, studying for ‘O’ Levels, when an exam question would inevitably be “Should Britain join/not join the Common Market. Discuss”. In those days we were expected to conduct a lot of extracurricular research and it was then that I became a lifelong Eurosceptic.
I still had hope, however, as the Labour Party, which had historically been against membership of the Common Market, were elected in 1974 after Harold Wilson promised to give the people a referendum on membership of the Common Market. During the 1975 referendum I campaigned for NO but unfortunately, although we told the British people the truth, we lost, despite the fact that at the start of the campaign more than 60% of the electorate had wanted to leave the Common Market. This dramatic turn of events is explained in part by Michael Cockerell’s excellent documentary, entitled, “How We Fell For Europe” which was broadcast in June 2005 around the time of the 30th Anniversary of that referendum (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wqAONXOxSk). It lasts an hour but is well worth watching especially as those wishing to stay in the EU appear to have employed similar tactics, to those used for the Yes Campaign, as a blueprint for the Remain campaign. However, I never gave up and in 1993 I became a founder member of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
As for the referendum campaign itself, mine started in September 2015 when I attended the launch of the Better Off Out’s Wiltshire campaign in Devizes. This was the beginning of a great working relationship between myself and Rupert Matthews, Director of the Better Off Out Campaign and Simon Richards, Chief Executive of the Freedom Association which parented them. Their launch was followed by those from Leave.EU, Grassroots Out and Vote Leave. We in UKIP had of course never stopped campaigning. (What I found so rewarding about the referendum campaign was the friendships that I forged, with people from across the political spectrum, who shared the vision of a Britain free of the EU.) In the weeks running up to referendum day I was extremely busy participating in EU debates, and attending as many street stalls as possible for the various campaign groups who wanted Britain to Leave the EU, across the South West. All this culminated in Poole when, after an overnight vigil, we could declare that the British people had voted to Leave the EU. A dream come true and a lifelong ambition achieved.
So what of the future? On that joyous occasion on the 24th June I never envisaged that six months later we would still be campaigning for Britain to Leave the EU in the face of the relentless Project Fear campaign still being waged by the mainstream media. During the campaign David Cameron told the British people he would invoke Article 50 the very next day but here we are, six months later, and it still hasn’t happened. An unfortunate delay which has enabled those unhappy with the result on the 23rd June, to go to court in an attempt to thwart the will of the people.
As far as I can see the only people who say they didn’t know Leave meant leaving the Single Market are those who voted Remain. In my experience everyone I meet who voted for BREXIT knew what it meant and the majority of those voted for Britain to once again be an independent, sovereign, self-governing nation free to make its own laws and trade deals in the same way as other independent countries such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, the USA and China.
What has sustained me over all these years is the knowledge that I was doing the right thing and that extricating Britain from the clutches of the EU was a battle worth fighting. I am certain that my father (RN), his brother (RAF) and my maternal grandfather (RAF) didn’t fight for our freedom in World War II for successive UK governments to hand our sovereignty over to the EU so that we could be governed by a foreign power.
In voting to Leave the EU we’re not turning our backs on the 27 remaining countries, with their population of 440 million people. We still want to trade with our near neighbours. It’s just that full BREXIT provides us with an opportunity to once again forge trading relationships with the rest of the world, especially with the 53 Commonwealth Countries whose population (2.5 billion) and economies are growing. The future for BREXIT is bright.
As for UKIP, our future too is bright and we will do our best to ensure BREXIT happens.