Bernard Ingham: Stop the defeatism – and let’s vote to leave the EU

Sir Bernard Ingham and Margaret Thatcher.
Sir Bernard Ingham and Margaret Thatcher.
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FOR years I have claimed that Margaret Thatcher defeated British defeatism. Now I fear the victory was, at best, temporary. Defeatism choreographs the charade that passes for this week’s re-negotiation of our membership of the EU.

The Establishment has no inclination to create a new Great Britain as a greater force for good in the world. It has settled for the shelter of a club that will kill whatever sovereignty we retain as it enfolds us in a new federal state of 27 nations which is home to 500m souls.

The defeatists believe there is safety in numbers.

For confirmation of this, look no further than Barack Obama’s intervention in our domestic affairs urging us to stay in the EU.

It followed the claim by Charles Powell, Thatcher’s foreign affairs private secretary, that she would vote to remain a EU member on the basis of whatever piece of paper David Cameron brings back from Europe this week.

I worked closely with Powell over her last eight years in No 10 and my first thought was that the poor chap had had a brainstorm. Then the penny dropped.

As a renegade diplomat with Thatcher, Powell caused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office no end of angst over Europe.

Now they have recaptured him and exacted atonement.

From the moment that the EU reneged on one of the provisions in the Single European Act that Thatcher signed in 1986 to try to speed British entry into French and German financial markets, her European heart hardened.

She indicated in her Bruges speech of 1988 that she thought the institution was taking the wrong – federal – route.

And we now know that she wrote to Sir Bill Cash MP, arch-Eurosceptic, in 1993 that the Maastricht Treaty was “contrary to British interests and damaging to our Parliamentary Democracy”.

It is presumptuous to claim what a PM would do now, three years into her grave and with her retirement ruined by nearly 10 years of dementia.

All you can do is to offer evidence from her life. It makes Powell look pathetic. I feel sorry for him. But the “remain” camp is desperate and desperation demands desperate measures.

I do not feel sorrow for Cameron; only despair. He is damaging himself, his government, his party and the profession of politics as he tries to manipulate the case for staying in the EU. It is, however, no more than I feared.

As 130 Tory councillors have pointed out, he has not even won the minimal demands set out in the 2015 Tory manifesto.

His demands reflect Establishment defeatism.

He was beaten before he started because he knew he would get very little change out of the EU.

This raises the question as to what the Establishment can cite as reasons for staying in. It cannot be:

Influence; we have only eight per cent of the EU vote and not even Thatcher in full cry could turn the federal fanatics from their purpose.

Trade; we buy more from the EU than they do from us – and the fools talk of EU retaliation.

Democracy; the EU is a corrupt, expensive and unelected bureaucracy always seeking to extend its interfering power at the expense of member states – the latest advocating taxes on dustbin collections and urban driving.

Success; the EU is a failure whether as a force in the world, its economy, with the southern half ruined by the single currency, and Angela Merkel’s leading incompetence in handling the migration crisis.

The need to control Germany; far from curbing the Fatherland, it has made it the lord of the single currency.

So what is there left apart from frightening the electorate?

It cannot be security. We shall still be the most reliable European member of Nato if we come out and a leading scourge of terrorists. Vladimir Putin has his eye more on Nato than the EU.

We should start an avalanche of exits? I doubt it, though some nations who stay might usefully become more forceful towards France and Germany.

It cannot be our reduced influence in the world.

As internationalists, we would be free agents outside the EU, deploying all our vast experience of and reliability in international affairs.

The Americans would learn to love 
our muscular independence. They 
are an engaging lot but very insular 
and naïve and their governments 
like to deal with tidy packages, such 
as the EU, until they realise who is a reliable ally.

Let’s show that Thatcher did after all defeat some defeatism. Down with the fainthearts.