David Davis, whose political savvy and pleasantries once earned him the name of “the charming b*****d” among his European counterparts, believes those whos signed Britain up to the EU were blinded by free market Tory ideals.
The Yorkshire MP reflected on the European journey embarked upon by Margaret Thatcher in an interview with the Yorkshire Post which was first published in June this year.
He claimed that Mrs Thatcher would have never voted for the single market if she could have foreseen its catastrophic consequences.
He believes those at the heart of the Conservative Government at the time had no idea of the consequences of what they were signing up to.
Now the man in charge of leaving the EU as Brexit Minister, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden told this newspaper how he believes the single market broke the European project and Britain should not be afraid to remove itself from an organisation that is not working in the country’s interest.
He said: “It was a mistake. There is no doubt in my mind that if Thatcher had known the consequences of the Single European Act that she signed and which was put through in 1993, she wouldn’t have done it.
“It sounded like a terribly Tory idea. A bigger free market was the way it was seen. Of course it isn’t a free market, it is a highly regulated market and that is the problem.”
Look back to 1992, and Mr Davis was a Government whip trying to shepherd dissenting Conservatives into backing the Maastrict Treaty, which would put the Single European Act into play.
Mr Davis maintained he personally never liked the ideas set out in Maastrict, but by the time he arrived in Government and to his whip role, it was already on the table.
He argues, however, that Maastricht ultimately prevented Britain from being taken into the Euro.
Mr Davis said: “The point about Maastrict is it gave Britain opt-outs on the social chapter and the Euro and if we had lost the Treaty the Government would have fallen and the Labour Party would have then won the ensuing election and they were in favour of joining up to the Euro and social chapter.
“In fact eventually they did join up to the social chapter, but by then it was beginning to be obvious that Europe was not such a good idea.”
Despite his own personal Euroscepticism, Mr Major asked him to become Europe Minister in 1994.
He said: “I tried to turn down the job of being a foreign office minister. I said to John Major I’m your most eurosceptic minister and after two hours he spent trying to find somebody else and eventually he said “no, you do it”.”
“People conflate being against the EU with being anti-European. One of my nicknames when I was Europe Minister was the “charming b******”. That was a headline of the Financial Times.
“That arose because the British press were trying to find division in the group that was doing the negotiating on the Treaty and I was the Brit on it.
“The press were going around and everybody was saying, “no, no, no I’m not going to criticize David” . It was a friend of mine, the ex-Portuguese foreign secretary and he’s a very mischievous character.
“He told the reporter: “Of course David is the master of constructive obstruction. He’s a charming b******!”
“But the point about it was I was friends with all of them. They were my mates.
“I consider myself a European citizen in the broadest sense in terms of European civilization but it doesn’t mean I want to sign up to European bureaucracy and people don’t make that distinction.”
Mr Davis points to two issues which convinced him that the Maastrict Treaty had not worked for Britain.
One was its apparent inability to make reforms, and the second was the decline in trade when the European Community became the European Union with a single market.
Mr Davis, who challenged David Cameron to lead the Tory Party in 2005, said: “There is no doubt in my mind that when we joined in 1973 and joined the Common Market that it worked.
“The common market did massively increase the exports we made to Europe.
“About four years ago when I started to look at the numbers, the proportion of trade that goes to Europe dropped from 61 per cent to 40 per cent over a 10 to 15-year period.
“So I said ‘what is going on here?’.
“Most Tories being free marketeers would think common market, good, single market, even better. Margaret Thatcher thought that.
“That’s how she gave up her sovereignty. She did it, her fault!
“I’m only joking because I am supposedly the great living Thatcherite, but what we thought was there was going to be more of a free market.
“But for lack of a better phrase, it is instead, a single regulatory space.”