Following his election to Parliament in 1992, Mr. lain Duncan Smith made his political reputation as a principled opponent of the Maastricht Treaty; his election as Leader of the Conservative Party bodes well, as the Euro, and Britain's general relationship with the European Union, will remain defining issues in British politics.
Britain was taken into the European Economic Community by a Conservative government. (It is probable, however, that no Conservative Prime Minister other than Edward Heath would have accepted such abysmal terms of entry, so desperate was he to join come what may.) Likewise, it was Conservative administrations that signed up to the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty. On all three occasions, however, there was considerable opposition within the Conservative Party.
It was only after Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech in 1988, and the experience of ERM (Exchange Rate Mechanism) membership, that this opposition began to gather the momentum and publicity which had previously eluded it. Keeping the Pound, and restoration to Westminster of some powers already ceded to Brussels, are now part of the settled will of the Conservative Party.
Earlier this year the electorate, despite being resolutely opposed to joining the Euro, re-elected Labour. Labour succeeded in kicking the issue into the long grass by deploying the referendum gambit, and the Conservatives committed a tactical error by trying to turn the poll into a "Save the Pound" election. But the issue will return whether there is to be a referendum or not.
In addition to Conservative opponents, there are also many strong anti-marketeers in the Labour Party, from whom we can now expect to hear more as New Labour's grip on the party begins to weaken. Many rank-and-file Liberal Democrats also disagree with their party on this issue. The essential rightness of our cause is becoming ever harder for the political elite to gainsay.
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Had Britain not joined the EEC in 1973, Denmark and the Irish Republic would not have joined either, and the European Free Trade Association would not have been seriously weakened. In this situation, it is quite likely that European politics would have developed along international rather than supranational lines (with the Council of Europe also playing a leading role). Many people have, of course, been deceived by propaganda into believing that this is indeed what is happening.
Similarly, many in the former Warsaw Pact countries, seeing their salvation in hitching themselves to the rich men's club, fail to see that the European Union shares many characteristics of the Soviet system from which they have lately escaped.
In both cases people may feel a vague unease about "Brussels", but manage to turn a blind eye to the way in which the EU and its Commission are acquiring more and more of the attributes of a state: a flag; an anthem; a president and infrastructure of government; a currency and central bank; a system of law and legislative powers. Our task is to expose the truth and show people that internationalism is a realistic and preferable alternative to supranationalism.
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One consequence of people's misconceptions about the true nature of the European Union is that it enables a Brussels-friendly government to push major legislation through a largely compliant House of Commons, while maintaining that nothing very significant is happening. This is exactly what is taking place at the moment in respect of the Treaty of Nice.
The Nice Treaty would transfer substantial powers from the member states to Brussels; the Government is not offering a referendum on this major constitutional question; the Treaty is in any case legally defunct as the Irish people voted against it in a referendum and it would be an outrage against democracy to make them vote again.
In an attempt to counteract all this, a major lobby of Parliament is being planned for Wednesday 17th October, and we urge all our readers to support it. We would also encourage those unable to attend to write to their Member of Parliament, urging him or her not to vote for the Nice Treaty legislation.
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The Anti-Common Market League established the Reginald Simmerson Memorial Prize in memory of Reg Simmerson, a devoted and long-standing supporter of our cause, who died in 1998.
Reg was active in many ways, and was particularly known for writing letters to the press. His letters, always pithy and to the point, appeared frequently in many newspapers and other publications. After he died, one of his local papers mourned that "our letters page will never be the same again".
The prize, of £25, is awarded annually and goes to the writer of the published letter which, in the opinion of the Chairman of the League and the Editor of Britain has done most to promote the Anti-Common Market cause. For the year 2000, the prize has been awarded to Mr. Nonnan Henry of Cardiff, for his letter which appeared in the South Wales Echo on 22nd November, 2000, and which we reproduce below. Mr. Henry is also a regular letter-writer.
I agree with Dan O'Neill's objections (November 7) to America telling us what to do, but they don't make our laws - Europe does.
America has not imposed metrication on us, Brussels has, and we don't pay billions into the US treasury then get some back and be told what we may spend it on.
A lot of red tape now strangling our farmers and small businesses originates in Brussels.
There is much more in the pipeline, as Sir Julian Hodge said in Viewpoints on October 31. Those who complain about him writing from Jersey overlook the fact that he has probably paid more in British taxes than the lot of them put together and was opposed to our membership of the then Common Market when he was living here.
And if they want to moan about non-residents trying to influence our views they should target the numerous foreign politicians and bureaucrats who do precisely that.
However, those who wish to criticise the EU had better do so while they still can for, according to a letter in the Daily Telegraph on October 30, an opinion issued by the Advocate General at the European Court of Justice said that: "Criticism of the European Union is akin to blasphemy and could be restricted without violating freedom of speech."
Another letter that day said: "There are precedents for such action. In Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, criticism of the State was punished by imprisonment or death"
Nonnan Henry Inglefield Avenue, Heath, Cardiff
If you wish to submit a letter for the 2001 prize, please send a copy of the letter as published to the Editor of Britain, including date and place of publication.
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A Guide to Customary Weights and Measures compiled and edited by Vivian Linacre 75pp.
1 copy £7.00; 3 copies £18.00; 6 copies £30.00; 12 copies £48.00 from the publishers: British Weights and Measures Association, 45 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5JX
The question of compulsory metrication has gained a high profile following the prosecution of Sunderland greengrocer Steve Thoburn (currently the subject of an appeal), for selling a bunch of bananas in pounds and ounces to an agent provocateur of the local trading standards office. With a handful of exceptions, other councils have held back from following in the footsteps of Sunderland, and it remains to be seen what the consequences will be for our liberties and powers of self-government.
In a free society, one should be free to buy and sell in either pounds and ounces, according to one's preference; to impose one and suppress the other, whichever way round, is indicative of an authoritarian and undemocratic system.
One organisation which has done much to expose the iniquity of all this is the British Weights and Measures Association, for whom Vivian Linacre has compiled and edited this splendid volume. It gives details of a remarkable range of measurements and their origins, comparing the theory-derived origins of the metric system with the way in which traditional measures grew organically out of everyday usage and practical experience. Counting in tens has its uses, particularly in written work, but with two eyes and two hands most people seem to count more instinctively in pairs and multiples of pairs, as musical notation and the binary system in computers also seem to suggest.
This book also contains some fascinating historical accounts, including details of the remarkable measurement known as "The King's Girth" (no, it's nothing to do with Henry VIII's waistline!).
A Guide to Customary Weights and Measures would make an excellent Christmas present for the discerning reader.
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NO POUND: NO INDEPENDENCE?
May we remind readers of this new publication, commissioned by the League? Written by Dr. Brian Burkitt of the University of Bradford, it continues to be available to readers of Britain at the reduced price of £3.00 inc. postage.
Orders should be sent to the Anti-Common Market League at 28 Highdown, Worcester Park, Surrey KT4 7HZ. We strongly recommend this pamphlet as an informative and highly readable critique of EMU and the Euro.