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Britain’s Manufacturing Future

A speech to the Staffordshire Moorlands Democratic Conservative Association at Leek on 5th October 1992, “The Real Alternative to Rule by Brussels”


  • Bankruptcy of Political and Economic Class
  • Delusion about Europe
  • Fundamental Nature of Economic Crisis
  • Primacy of manufacturing as a source of gain in standards of living
  • Means of achieving change


1        Introduction

1.1      The present crisis is more fundamental than just a currency and economic crisis.  It is in fact the symptom of the bankruptcy of the British political class to understand the world we live in and what to do about it.  The leaderships of Conservative, Labour and Liberal-democrat parties have been at one in upholding the Government’s strategy – if such it can be called – of maintaining Britain in the ERM and ratifying its political analogue, the Maastricht Treaty.  This strategy has been upheld also by quasi-political bodies such as the CBI and the Institute of Directors, and also by the Treasury, the Bank of England, practically all the chairmen of our major companies, and all but a handful of economists.  Despite the complete disaster which their opinions have inflicted on our country, none of them has had the grace – so far – to acknowledge they are wrong.  Instead they choose to blame other people, or things – the Germans, the Bundesbank, the workings of the ERM – thus further heaping shame and humiliation on our country and people.

As someone who has lived and worked abroad in many Western countries, I have long held the view that Britain is the worst-governed of the major Western countries – that Britain has survived in spite of (not because of) the political class and what may be termed the corporate business establishment.  The fundamental reasons for our misgovernment – both in plentiful evidence at the moment – are firstly, the all-pervading liberal philosophy which acts as if the world conformed to its illusions about other people’s good intentions, and secondly, the shear elementary incompetence of the higher Civil Service and their political masters when measured against the requirements of the job.

1.2      Thus in his memoirs Nigel Lawson is not only unrepentant about his attachment to the ERM, he apparently continues to believe that the Continental political classes would be content to leave it at that – a form of local Bretton Woods arrangement.  The fact is that Continentals have always seen the ERM as the first, most vital stage on the way to currency union which in turn is the keystone for political union, as confirmed once again by a leading member of the Bundesbank Council in London recently.  Lord Lawson’s illusion about the purpose of the ERM is but one particular example of the delusion which still, despite everything, grips government and opposition alike, to the amazement of every single foreign commentator here, on the Continent and in the USA, namely that the Continental Political Classes are not really serious about political union.  The fact is they are – the Schumann Plan, the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty are all designed to lead to that end.  Each of these steps follows a path laid out in 1943 by Jean Monnet, the father of the EC, and documented line by line in his memoirs, which have been available in English since 1978.  Thus in the preface to the Coal & Steel Community Treaty (Schumann Plan 1950), which Monnet largely wrote: “Europe must be organized on a federal basis.  A Franco-German Union is an essential element . . .”  It is deceit and wilful folly by British politicians to pretend otherwise.

1.3      That the British Civil Service is good at administering rules, writing elegant position papers about our decline and running committees is widely acknowledged abroad.  That the Westminster parliament can, on occasion, be an impressive expression of democracy is also understood.  But the key, absolutely central issue – on which everything else depends is our country’s ability to sell abroad at least as much as it imports.  It is as vital to win the industrial battle as it was to win the battle of El Alamein, whose 50th anniversary we remember this month.  Quite literally in comparison nothing, but nothing else, really matters and has mattered for at least 70 years, since the end of the First World War.  Economic failure between the wars was the root cause of our weakness in 1940 just as it is the root cause of the crisis today.  The vast majority of the higher Civil Service have nothing to contribute to repairing this failure since they have no expertise in manufacture, which is at the heart of our failure.  It is as if the chauffeurs were in charge of repairing and redesigning the car.  The ignorance level is truly amazing.  Thus a senior Treasury official, reflecting a widely held view among economists, was quoted recently as denying that manufacturing was important to Britain – giving Switzerland as an example of a service based economy.  In fact Switzerland’s manufacturing exports output per head are three times Britain’s.  On the input side, its share of Nobel Prize-winners per head of population in the last 25 years is the highest in the world.

Why is manufacturing the key?  To answer this we have to ignore macro-economic analysis which dominates media comment and look instead directly at the physical world.

2        Essential Elements of Wealth

Broadly speaking people actually want, are prepared to pay for and measure their standard of life by, five categories of product: shelter, clothing, food, transport and entertainment.  Services such as banking, insurance, government are not wanted in themselves, but as means to obtain these five.  Education and health are conspicuously not services people in this country expect to pay for – but things they put up with as a means to the five categories of tangible wealth.

The first four of these products consist essentially of tangible and therefore tradable goods (although housing materials like bricks are unlikely to be exported).  Modern entertainment (including tourism) depends increasingly on three of the other four.

Now, again broadly, it is increases in the efficiency with which tangible goods are made which provides the real increases in our standard of living and therefore real growth in the economy.  Our ability to make more for less is what growth actually boils down to.  Where does this ability come from?  On the whole, labour is much the same as it was – people work at about the same rate (indeed some elements such as bricklaying rates have gone down).  Where there have been quoted increases in labour productivity, such as in telecommunications and in the mines – it is usually due in the main to investment in improved technology.

Accepting these simplifications for the moment, we can see that industrial products with the central element of manufacture are basically the sole source of increased wealth in an economy.  Every activity not directly connected with the technology, production and marketing of industrial goods is, in business terms, an overhead.  Proof of this is easy to see: since 1980 labour costs have risen by two to three times; the cost of a technological product like steel or plastic is much what it was then (meaning the real price has more than halved); the cost of electronics goods such as computers has dropped phenomenally in real terms.  Taken over a wide range of products, real cost reductions for industrial goods average out at something like 6% per annum.  It is this real cost reduction which pays for the so-called growth in the economy as a whole.

3        Source of Britain’s Economic Problems

If a country’s real wealth is dependent on its industrial output then the proportion of the national workforce working in industry (including agriculture and fishing) will determine this overall rate of growth when it is in competition with other countries employing much the same technologies.  For Britain, the proportion is about 30% while for Germany it is about 40%.  This means that for equal efficiency improvements in their industries of say 6% mentioned above – in Britain this is spread over the remaining 70% of the population – giving about 2% overall (which we actually achieved in 1981-88) – in Germany it is spread over a smaller number of overheads – giving growth of about 2.5% per annum.

Now this is on the assumption of equal improvement rates.  Because Germany’s industry is bigger – about one and three quarter times bigger than British industry – it is very unlikely that Britain’s improvement rate can be as great as Germany’s – and the gap will increase between the real output of the two economies.  This effect is not a result of financial policies, Bundesbanks, and other economic tinkerings – it follows directly from the fact that our industry is too small for the population it is called on to support.  The attempt to maintain a fixed parity, let alone a common currency, can only result in unemployment in Britain being permanently on a trend above that of its major competitors, as nature adjusts the buying power of the British population to that which its wealth generation represents.

Not only has this unavoidable adjustment since the 1970s been concentrated on those who have lost their jobs, the job losses have been concentrated on those who actually produce the real tradable wealth in this country to such an extent that there is now one person in financial services for every three in manufacture.

4        Means of Achieving Change

The first act is to recognise that we are not, repeat not, dealing with something that can be corrected by fiscal or monetary means.  Proper policies are needed for these areas, of course, but what we need is a physical expansion of British industry by about one third to match the current proportions in Germany.

We have to grasp the nature of our problem.  Much of our industry is as efficient as any, some of it (pharmaceuticals) is world class, but we simply do not have enough divisions in our industrial army.  Left to itself, British industry will continue to contract faster than its competitors – as it has done under every government since the war.  With the noticeable exception of firms in the pharmaceuticals industry, no major British manufacturing company has managed to expand its output in real terms for many years.  Our so-called “Captains of Industry” are, at best, just that – captains, able perhaps to perform tactical manoeuvres, but seemingly incapable of mustering the generalship to lay the long-term foundations of success stretching forward in time.

We will need therefore to approach our problem with all the seriousness of a world war.  In 1940 the British army escaped from the Continent without weapons, rather as our economy has just escaped from the ERM – but as Winston Churchill reminded a nation euphoric with relief: “Wars are not won by evacuations”.

Likewise we must organise ourselves to reoccupy the industrial territory we have evacuated in the last 30 years.   This will have to be done on two fronts:

  • by reducing imports and
  • expanding exports and production for home consumption.


4.1     Reducing Imports

I believe imports of consumer goods will have to be restrained by quota for a period of say five years, or by the most massive campaign in which buying a foreign, especially German product, where a British product is available, is seen as a deeply unpatriotic act.

I believe that the major chain-stores, which account for most of the retail business, must be leant on to adopt the type of British ordering policy which Marks & Spencer have developed, where suppliers are helped to achieve the quality required by the store and they build up a long-term relationship which, provided quality is maintained, is difficult to displace.  Most of the other chains clearly do not do this, but scour the world for bargain basement short-term deals to give a temporary advantage over their rivals.

4.2     Expanding Production

It is total nonsense to say, as the present Government does, that nothing can be done because of the world recession.  In fact Britain, having the world’s largest manufacturing trade deficit per head, is in the perfect position to set about expanding home production, first for import replacement – then (later) for export.  Note that construction per se is a net importer and therefore not the industry to lead the country out of the slump though it may play a part later.

In order to increase our industry to Germany’s proportion, will need a massive increase in investment of about £15 billion over say 8 years to 2000.  Large though this sum appears, it is only about £250 per person per annum.  It is only about one quarter of the £120 billion say that Germany is paying for reunification.  The British people will make this small sacrifice of current satisfactions if they are offered a battle plan for success.

4.3     Where the money could come from

The present cost of EC food levies is about £10 billion (over and above what the farmers receive), the budget payment to Brussels is about £3 billion (increasing to about £5 billion under Maastricht).  So £13 billion of the £15 billion per annum needed is there for the taking by withdrawal from the EC.  The remaining £2 billion can be obtained by a levy on financial institutions.

4.4     How could the money be deployed

Entirely new institutions will be needed, but the basic idea is that this money should not be in the hands of Captains of Industry, who have generally failed woefully to justify the scandalously high salaries they have awarded themselves.  At this stage it is only necessary to remark that there are about 250,000 qualified engineers and manufacturing managers who are either wholly or partly unemployed.  There is the resource we need to tap for the second British Industrial Revolution.

5        To Sum Up

a          The current crisis is the symptom of a fundamental problem. 

b          It is not self-correcting with any of the measures the political and business establishment understand.

c          Integration with Europe will make matters worse and only withdrawal from the EC will give us the freedom and cash to implement the needed measures.

d          Because of its incompetence the political and business establishment cannot undertake the huge change required.

e          New institutions are therefore needed to superintend the major industrial expansion needed.  A new political forum is therefore needed to explain matters to the British people and gain their support.

6        Why should they listen to me?

Qualifications for talking to you on these fundamental themes:

1          Twenty-one years ago I made a small contribution to a little booklet entitled “British Business for World Markets”, where we pointed out inter alia that the EEC was not a free market but a managed market, that this would imply massive direct and indirect costs for Britain, that the EEC would imply a substantial loss of market share in engineering, that the Commission would turn Europe into a bureaucratic parade ground.

            If we were wrong it is only in the modesty of our predictions.

2          In the last decade since I returned to this country from 6 years’ work with ICI Europa in Holland and Belgium, I have consistently attacked, in the national media, the defeatism of our political establishment and its attachment to Europe as a substitute for thinking about and solving Britain’s economic problems.

3          I believe there is No Middle Way between political extinction in a European Union and sovereign independence – booklets I have published on this theme and “The Meaning of the Maastricht Treaty” spell out the reasons, which are amply supported by Continental politicians and civil servants.

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Powerless to prevent a European state

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 30th October 1990.

Your editorial (Oct. 29th) is wrong to say that Britain has a weak negotiating position in respect of the EEC.  We have no negotiating position to stop a United States of Europe coming about because all the Continental countries fervently wish it to come about.  Our wishes and theirs are mutally exclusive, and no soft-voiced diplomacy will alter this.

Furthermore, the British people do not “appreciate the material benefits which close association brings” because there are none.  Free trade may bring benefits, though vastly exaggerated, but this arrangement is open to any Western European country, whether in the EC or not.

If British politicians as a whole could bring themselves to accept these basic facts, we would then start negotiating sensible arrangements with the future European Union, as one sovereign power to another. Here our position is strong because we take about £16,000 million more of their goods than they take of ours, and no German or Frenchman will wish to jeopardise that.

As for currencies, why does Sarah Hogg try to frighten us with talk of a European super currency?  The ecu will be just a currency, a medium of exchange, like the yen or the dollar, against which the pound will have a rate as it does against these currencies today.

Again all this talk of hanging on to the City’s role is so much special pleading.  If foreign banks want to relocate their head offices in Frankfurt or Paris, let them – and the absurd rents in London will fall.  In fact the loss of the City’s casino role in our economy would be of enormous benefit to us.  Perhaps then it could get down to the task of financing the manufacture of goods that even Germans would want to buy.

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The myth about monetary union

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 4th July 1990.

The Vice-President of the German Bundesbank said on the BBC Today Programme in February that “of course, a country which merges its currency completely cannot remain independent politically”.

These views are commonplace on the Continent, which is why monetary and economic union is seen as an immediate precursor to a United States of Europe.  Mr Ridley has only exploded the myth that there is any halt between our agreeing to monetary union with the rest of the EEC and our complete loss of status as an independent nation.

Monetary union and political union are effectively inseparable and the Government’s foolish pushing of the idea of a hard ecu is merely one more attempt to fudge the issue and avoid a split in its own ranks.

Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet should face the fact that the “unhappiness” expressed by commentators about Mr Ridley’s remarks is as nothing to the deep unhappiness felt by millions at the way a Government, faced merely with a barrage of words, rather than bombs as in 1940, cannot find the simple courage to say: “Whatever the rest of the Continent does, we will not take Britain down the road to political extinction.”

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The Surrender to Europe, What We Give Away

A letter to the Editor of The Field magazine which was published in November 1989.

It was written in answer to a letter from Martyn Bond, Head of Information Office, European Parliament, London, SW1. This followed an article by Professor Bush published in The Field in their August 1989 issue which you can find in the Papers and Articles Section.

Mr Bond wrote in his letter: “The Single European Act was not ‘smuggled through the British Parliament despite the misgivings of the Prime Minister’. It was approved by 319 votes to 160. The Prime Minister herself voted in favour.”

Mr Bond also wrote: “Professor Bush asserts that ‘many decisions in the Council of Ministers are taken now on the basis of one country, one vote’.  In fact, fewer are now taken on this basis than in the past, and more are taken on a weighted basis, according to a key unanimously agreed by all member states and ratified.”

Mr Bond also wrote: “Professor Bush asserts that ‘Britain’s trade with Sweden, a non-EEC member, and theirs with Germany is as free as Britain’s with Germany’.  This is nonsense, as repeated attempts by other members of EFTA to become full members of the EEC have shown including Austria’s current application.”

Mr Bond also wrote: “He [Prof Bush] continues, ‘None of the improvements in our manufacturing industry in the last few years owes anything to the EEC entanglement, any more than Germany’s industrial renaissance did.’ Both assertions are false, ignoring the importance of markets (potential demand) in investment decisions. More representative and well-informed sources (CBI and Bank of England) argue a case opposed to Professor Bush’s in their surveys and reports.”

Stephen Bush replied:

If Mr Bond had cared to consult some of his fellow countrymen up and down the country in April to July 1986, he would have found that few would have ever heard of the Single European Act which was passed through Parliament in that short time.  Contrast this with the exposure given to the current Health White Paper.

Readers will have appreciated that the weighting in the European Parliament I referred to was by countries, and to repeat – seven countries with a combined population of 51 million have around 134 seats to Britain’s 81 for a population of 57 million.

Virtually all of the tariffs on industrial goods in trade between European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members and the EEC were abolished on 1 July, 1977.  In 1988, per head of population, Sweden exported £440 worth of goods to Germany, while the UK exported £170.  Sweden has a policy of not joining the EEC.

Markets are an essential feature of investment decisions, but I deny that the power-hungry European Commission and Parliament are needed to supply this ingredient.  Product quality and market knowledge are the overriding factors as the success of Japanese goods testifies – despite the barriers that were erected against them by the EEC.

Rather than rely on blind faith about the EEC I prefer to use my eyes.  While 85 per cent of our colossal manufacturing trade deficit (about £14 billion in 1988) is with the EEC, our trade with our single biggest customer, the USA, is fundamentally in balance, in fact £2 billion in surplus in 1987.  Whatever ‘informed opinion’ in the CBI may tell Mr Bond, its own members invest most of their overseas capital in North America, not in the EEC.

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How we became subservient to the nations we rescued in war

An article which appeared in The Field in their August 1989 edition.

A letter which followed from this article under the title “The Surrender to Europe, What We Give Away” can be found in the letters section.

Three years ago the Yorkshire town of Ripon celebrated the eleven-hundredth annivesary of its Charter, a set of rights given in 886 by Alfred the Great.  Following defeat of the Danes eight years earlier, Alfred had put together a new law code, based on custom and the code of the earliest English King 300 years before.  At a time of extreme danger and upheaval, by pragmatic good sense our greatest King laid the foundation of England with boundaries which have barely moved a mile in 11 centuries.  This continuity is unmatched in history.  Indeed, until the recent insensitive disruption, even the county boundaries had hardly changed.

Three hundred years after Alfred’s death, King John was reminded in Magna Carta that Kings of England are bound by the same law as binds their people.  A further 300 years on, Henry VIII broke with Rome over precisely the issue which faces our nation today: namely, who or what is to be the supreme source of law in this country?  For all the politicians’ talk about ‘pooling’ sovereignty, that is what the issue is about and that truth is clearly dawning.

Just as in the 1530s, so in the 1980s the inclinations of the governing establishment are divided between those whom Henry VIII called ‘Englishmen papistical’ and ‘Englishmen entire’.  Thomas More, the leader of the former, in specifically defining limits on English sovereignty declared, “I am not bound to conform to the Council of one realm against the General Council of Christendom” – words which, with the substitution of Europe for Christendom, are precisely those enjoined on our Prime Minister by the ‘Europeanists’ today.  England in the 16th century faced immense danger from the hostility of a vastly stronger Continent.  Thoms Cromwell’s robust reply, “This realm is an empire”, ultimately carried with it the support of the English people, as will the Prime Minister’s Bruges speech in due course.

From 1534 until the present, the single most significant statement of the way we are governed is the 300-year-old (this year) Bill of Rights, which reaffirmed the ancient liberties of the subject and his right to be governed by laws sanctioned only by the Parliament of this country.  Doubtless because of fear of drawing attention to the incompatibility of this most fundamental of our freedeoms and what is being proposed by the European Commission, the authorities have offered no public celebration.  The Post Office, ever subservient to passing fashion, has issued no stamp commemorating this momentous event, preferring instead to remind our people of such riveting events as the Telegraphic World Congress and the International Postal Union.

The contrast of our national continuity with the situation on the Continent could hardly be greater.  There, most states (with the exception of Denmark) are of recent creation – West Germany 1953, Italy 1870, Belgium 1831 and so on.  Whole countries have been chopped up, put under other regimes and put back again.  Even France and Spain date only from the 15th century in anything like their present boundaries.  Parliamentary government is of even more recent creation – unstable (Italy has had 40 governments since the war) and tending towards frequent lapses into tyranny and revolution.  In the last 200 years every EEC Continental country has been freed from its own or its neighbour’s tyranny at least once, and in the case of France three times, by British soldiers on their own, or in company with their English-speaking allies from the British Empire and the United States.

Because national boundaries and systems of government on the Continent have changed so frequently, there has arisen a strong tendency to rely on bureaucracy – the one permanent feature – issuing instructions on the basis of general enabling laws.  It was the civil service in France which provided the strong defence of French interests as governments came and went in the third and fourth Republics.

It is clear that the EEC Commission is a precise reflection of these tendencies, having a strong preference for issuing directives and instructions using an enabling Act – in this case the Single European Act (SEA) – as its legal cloak.  It was a deception to represent this Act, which was smuggled through the British Parliament in 1986 despite the misgivings of the Prime Minister, as merely another stage in completing the common market.  It is a device adopted by European federalists to achieve by stealth what would be rejected by the British people if they were given chance to vote on it.

The imposition on our country of rules issued by the European Commission using the majority in the Council of Ministers, allowed by the SEA, now impinges directly on every one of us.  ‘EEC threat to British farmers’, ‘EEC VAT ruling will hit hospitals and school fees’, ‘EEC will bar upland forest grants’, ‘EEC threatens village halls’, ‘Britain bows to EEC over lorries’, ‘EEC restricts bird shooting’, are but a selection of recent news headlines.

Voting techniques in EEC affairs are a travesty – many decisions in the Council of Ministers are taken now on the basis of one country, one vote, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, whose combined population is 51 millions, have seven votes to the one vote for Britain’s 57 millions. Even where weighted voting applies – as in the European Assembly in Strasbourg – the aforesaid seven countries have 134 seats to Britain’s 81.

The extraordinary thing, unbelievable if it were not happening, is that the British people pay huge sums of money to belong to this system.  Something in the order of £2 billion per annum is now pased to Brussels and this figure is achieved only after time-consuming applications for grants and rebates from a much larger gross sum initially paid.  Put in perspective, this sum is about the annual cost of the whole British university system.  Between 1973, when Britain joined the EEC, and 1988, £11 billion was paid, enough for instance to rebuild over the same period the whole of the railway network from scratch.

Why, it may be asked, are we doing this?  The reason usually offered by Europeanists is that of belonging to a large free market of some 300 million people.  The key point, which they never mention, is that this market is open to any European country whether they belong to the EEC or not. Britain’s trade with Sweden, a non-EEC member, and theirs with Germany is as free as Britain’s with Germany – freer in many cases because of smaller non-tariff barriers to trade.

Another reason often advanced is that membership of the EEC is necessary to prevent our technological domination by the USA and Japan.  The technological benefits of large units are, however, vastly overstated by politicians eager for roles to play.  With the possible exception of a moon-shot and certain nuclear missile projects, there are probably no technological goals outside the competence of an industrial nation of 60 million people.  In the USA, the world’s most powerful computers and the most advanced work-stations are made by relatively small firms staffed by gifted individuals.  In Britain, three companies produce three out of the five best-selling therapeutic drugs in the world – an astonishing achievement.  Most, if not all, European joint ventures are essentially there to guarantee sales in the participating countries, rather than for production or technology reasons, Concorde being perhaps the outstanding example.

So if free trade and technology are not the reasons for our membership, what is?  We are left with simply a word, ‘Europe’, and a sense that we must belong for fear of being left out.  It is the belonging for its own sake rather than any calculation of national advantage which motivates the main advocates of European unity in this country.  In fact, over large parts of the political establishment ‘Europe’ has become a matter of blind faith – the more disquieting the facts about it, the more we are led to think that we must believe in it.

‘Europe’, including its topical controversy, the European Monetary System, is in fact merely the latest in the futile quest for external quick fixes to Britain’s economic problems.  “I wish to dissipate, if I can, the ideal dreams of those who are always telling you that the strength of England depends on what it possesses beyond these shores.  Rely upon it, the strength of Great Britain lies here within the United Kingdom.”  So spoke Gladstone in 1879.  It is entirely apposite today.

None of the improvements in our manufacturing industry in the last few years owes anything to the EEC entanglement, any more than Germany’s industrial renaissance did.  It is the labour and capital efficiency of our industries which matter – as farming has demonstrated continuously whether inside or outside the EEC – together with access to world markets and that farsighted commitment to long-term research so clearly shown by our pharmaceuticals industry.

The political establishment, largely ignorant of the requirements for a successful modern industry, but still anxious to play a world role, gave up on Britain after Suez in 1956, taking directions first from Washington and, increasingly now, from Brussels.  Fear has been a dominant emotion in the British political establishment for a long time – fear of Germany before the Second World War, fear of Washington’s disapproval after it, and now, most absurd of all, fear of being left out.

This timidity has been accompanied by a carelessness with our national assets which no French government, for instance, would contemplate.  The Continental Shelf Act of 1964 handed to Norway large sections of the North Sea oil rights to which it was not entitled under international law, while British fishing rights in those same waters were put into a common EEC pool by Mr Heath’s Government in 1973.  Even our supreme asset, the English language, was compromised by the assurance given to France that Britain would not contest the position of French as the EEC’s official language, a language which is only the third most widely spoken mother tongue in the EEC and, in the world, less widely spoken than Portuguese.

Language is, perhaps the most fundamental point of all.  When in 1929 the French foreign minister, Briand, circulated his project of a European federal union, it was rejected by the then British Government in language which admitted of no ambiguity.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Snowden, declared that Britain would not be the ‘milch cow’ of Europe.  While in the intervening 60 years Britain has consistently opposed a federal union, signs are that powerful, probably predominant, Continental interests are determined to realise the Briand concept of European unity.  By this is meant a sovereign Government, the only meaning of the world ‘unity’ to which its Continental advocates attach any importance.

We are at a crossroads for which Alfred’s and Henry VIII’s England provide the only parallels: whether or not to continue to exist as a self-governing nation.  We have nothing of substance to fear from a separation from the EEC.  As a member of the society of English-speaking nations, we have an enormous asset.  English provides a channel to the wider world beyond Western Europe as important to the entrepreneurs of Elizabeth II as the sea was to the merchant venturers of Elizabeth I.  In freeing ourselves from this latest Continental entanglement we have everything to play for and nothing to fear but fear itself.

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Where threat lies to sovereignty

A letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph which was published on 4th July 1989.

Mr Heseltine (letter June 29th) conspicuously declined to answer my question about what limits, if any, he would set on the transfer of British sovereignty to Brussels.  Instead we have the usual obfuscation about all alliances imposing constraints on a nation’s freedom of action.

Most people, however, can see the difference between an alliance like Nato with its specific and limited objectives and the Single European Act which, inter alia, allows the 11 other members of the Council of Ministers to issue instructions to Britain on matters that have nothing to do with free trade, which was what the British people have been led to believe was the objective of joining the EEC.

As for the EEC being a means of avoiding economic domination by the United States and Japan, Mr Heseltine should contemplate the make-up of our colossal manufacturing trade deficit, 85 per cent of which is attributable to our trade with the EEC (chiefly Germany).  By contrast our trade with our biggest customer, the United States, is fundamentally in balance, as it has been through the years of our mounting deficit with the EEC.

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Doing it our way

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 7th December 1988.

In your editorial (Dec. 2nd) you allude once again to that mysterious “influence” which we stand to win if we submerge our nationhood still further in the EEC.  What is this influence and what is it for?

To many British people it looks like nothing more than politicians’ ineradicable desire to participate in important-sounding international meetings and conferences, away from the boring job of grappling with Britain’s everlasting economic problems.  In any case, in what sense can we – that is, the nation of Britain – win anything if we no longer exist as an independent country?

What most British people want is to get back the real right to govern themselves: to set their own speed limits, daylight saving time, blood alcohol limits, taxes and weights and measures – in fact to do what even the tiniest of the 139 non-EEC countries of the UN can do – without having to ask some outside body for permission.

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United States of Europe

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 29th July 1988.

What makes your correspondent Jenny Rees (letter, July 26th) attach such perjorative phrases as “lagging behind”, “insular” and “not come out of it very well” to her fellow countrymen and women simply because they decline to be dragooned into a United States of Europe?  There is nothing “good” about tamely surrendering your nationhood at the behest of Continental Europeans and their allies in this country; the mean and women we honour around November 11th certainly did not give their lives for that outcome.

The debate on our future relations with Continental Europe which you rightly call for, needs to confront one basic fact at the outset.  This is that Continental Europeans of all classes and nationalities, but especially the professional classes who decide matters to a much greater extent than they do in this country, have a reverential semi-mystical view of European culture, an attitude which provides a natural basis for their European loyalty, but which has no echo in this country outside a few unrepresentative political circles.  For this reason the leaders of Continental states which are anyway mainly of recent creation, are determined to install a full-blown European State with its own president, government, laws, flag, army, capital and anthem.

Despite the Prime Minister’s view, there is thus no fudging, middle way for Britain to choose: either we opt for independence from the EEC with the type of relationship enjoyed by our neighbours across the North Sea, Norway and Sweden, or we accept the subordination of our nation and its ancient monarchy to Continental, increasingly Mediterranean, power – reversing in fact decisions achieved by our forebears in 1534, 1588, 1690, 1815, 1918 and 1940.

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Authentic voice of defeatism

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 20th June 1986.

Following the publication of this letter, Stephen Bush’s son James (16 years-old at the time) wrote to the Prime Minister about the effects of the Single European Act if it were to be passed. The response from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 13th August follows after the Telegraph letter.

Caroline Jackson asked (letter June 13th) plaintively what viable alternative there is to our membership of the EEC.  This is the authentic voice of what may be termed the defeatist tendency, which has dominated British political life since Suez.  The answer is to resume our path as a sovereign independent country, taking our chances among the nations of the world, certainly participating in the free trade area which embraces all countries in Western Europe, not just the EEC, but also being free to negotiate trade agreements with other countries, to serve purely British not Continental interests.

It is a deception to represent the Single European Act as merely another stage in completing the internal market.  It is in fact a tactic adopted by the European federalists to achieve by stealth what would be rejected by the British people if they were ever given the chance to vote on it.

The so-called White Paper from the EEC Commission on Completing the Internal Market is written in fact as if the authors were talking about a federal state.  Its proposals (paragraph 27) to abolish all controls at what it tendentiously refers to as the internal frontiers in the EEC, for example those between Britain and France, when taken with the imminent introduction by the British authorities of passports from which the very word British has been removed, are deliberately aimed at gutting both the sense and reality of our nationhood.

When Mrs Jackson talks about parliamentary democracy she should understand that the British prople want to be governed by their own British parliament, not by some European assembly in which they have a 15 per cent voice.  Frankly I do not see how MPs can square their parliamentary oath, with all that implies for the untrammelled sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament, with voting for the SEA, any more than I can understand their spiritless acceptance of a foreign court repeatedly over-ruling what is supposed to be the highest court in the land.

Personally speaking and opposed as I would be it its programme in almost every other respect, if the Labour party adopted a policy of withdrawal from the EEC, I would vote for it and I suspect many other former Conservative voters would do the same.  It is the supreme issue for our country from which the political establishment have so far successfully excluded the British people.

Reply to James Bush’s letter from F J Marshall, European Community Department (Internal) dated 13th August 1986.

Thank you for your letter of 25 July, addressed to the Prime Minister, about the Single European Act. I have been asked to reply.

You seem to be concerned that the Single European Act, for which the Government is seeking Parliament’s approval through the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, will result, in some way or other, in the powers of Parliament being transferred to the European Community. This most certainly not the case. The Single European Act does not represent a fundamental change in the structure of the European Community or in our relationship with it.

Nor is it the case that “groups of foreign officials from other EC countries can impose laws on the UK by ganging together.” The Luxembourg Compromise (veto) is unaffected by the agreement. The Single European Act will extend the scope for majority voting (which is already possible under more than 40 Articles of the Treaty of Rome) especially for measures to complete the internal market for goods and services. This will help advance Britain’s longstanding objective in the Community. Our special interests are protected by a number of explicit safeguards in the new texts. For example, there is a clear provision that unanimity will be maintained for fiscal provisions, those relating to the free movement of persons and those affecting the rights and interests of employees. There is also a provision for us to maintain our high levels of health and safety.

I hope you will find these explanations reassuring.

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Why they wish Europe’s Union

A letter to the Daily Telegraph which was published on 9th July 1985.

Your leaders on June 27th and July 1st once again implicitly accept the fundamental differences between Britain and the two key EEC countries, France and West Germany, yet refuse to draw the obvious conclusion that we should withdraw from that organisation.

However much you may wish to believe that the Continental countries are not really serious about a European union, the fact is for different reasons they are.  For France, the EEC is seen as a vehicle to promote French concepts and projects – Ariane, Airbus and now Eureka; for Germany, the EEC is a stage on which to regain political pride.

Britain figures absolutely nowhere in their thinking except as a country to be alternately despised, exploited or envied.

France and Germany can, and will, advocate the abrogation of the veto, confident that no proposal will command majority support which will really damage their ambitions.  Britain, however, would look forward to a sequence of decisions which will damage us individually as people and collectively as a nation.  The GAP, the fishing and budget settlements and now the car vehicle emission standards agreement are all immensely damaging to our interests, and this is soon to be followed by pressure to remove immigration controls on arrivals from EEC locations.

The tragedy for Britain is that we endure all this for absolutely nothing.  The ritual incantation by politicians like Mr David Steel (June 27th) who have no practical industrial experience, about the benefits of the EEC’s 320 million common market, doubly miss the point; first all European countries whether in the EEC or not are already linkined within an industrial free trade are; second the benefits of such a market are unquantifiable and, in any case, overshadowed by other factors which lie entirely within the competence of individual natios.

West Germany’s economic success owes absolutely nothing to the EEC’s exisence and everything to having a resolute, technically competent managerial class backed by a trained disciplined work force and a banking system which sees its first duty to support its own manufacturing industry.  The extent to which the British economy has improved of late is the extent to which these three factors have become more widespread.

Again, the technological benefits of large units are vastly overstared by politicians eager for roles to play.  With the possible exception of a moon-shot and certain nuclear missile projects, there are probably no technological goals outside the competence of an industrial nation of 60 million people.

As a recent visitor to centres in the USA engaged in the Eureka technologies, I can say that Americans certainly do not regard their size as conferring any particular advantage.  On the contrary, in the vital computer field for instance, the world’s most powerful commercial computers and the best work stations are both supplied by relatively small firms staffed by gifted individuals.

Sooner or later the political establishment, which long ago lost faith in Britain, will have to allow the British people to confront a stark choice: cease being an independent nation, or let the EEC go its own way to union without Britain.  When the present British passport, which for millions of people is the symbol of our nationhood, is suppressed in about 18 months’ time, just before the next General Election, the present Government will find that in the interests of yet another damaging Euro-compromise it has grievously offended another large section of its natural support.


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